18 May 2006

That It Might Imitate

Let us start by distinguishing two types of noetic activity, one contemplative, the other kinetic. The difference is one of intrinsic character or form. For the moment it is enough to specify contemplative activity by contrast with kinetic. Contemplation is noesis that is not in itself geared to bring about any change in or of the physical universe.
That's how Broadie opens her paper. But now a question and an objection. Question: Why should we presume that, for Aristotle, things that are distinct 'in intrinsic form' when they are found in us, are similarly distinct as they are found in the First Cause? Perhaps he thinks that contemplative and kinetic thought somehow converge and are indistinguishable in the First Cause (as he apparently thinks that essence and actualization converge). Objection: Broadie seems to define the one as the contradictory opposite of the other, thus guaranteeing that the two sorts of thought cannot be reconciled.

This objection takes on prominence later, when Broadie writes:
It is embarrassing for [the traditional] interpretation that Lambda never mentions a spritual agency that both moves the sphere and is other than the Prime Mover. Equally embarrassing, too, that Aristotle begins by speaking of the Prime Mover as final cause, but soon presents it as also efficient. In general, nothing stands in the way of applying the notions efficient and final cause to what is in some sense the same entity, even in respect of the same movement or change (cf. DA 415b9ff.). But there is a problem in this case, since we are assuming ... that the Prime Mover's activity is contemplative. How, in one and the same being, can contemplation give rise to motion as an efficient cause? Should we then say that the Prime Mover has an efficient-causal activity that is other than contemplation? If so, how are two such different activities related to the one being?
Doesn't this difficulty arise simply from Broadie's definition of the terms? Why, otherwise, should there be a difficulty of 'how two such different activities are related in the one being'?

Broadie, as we have seen, holds that the Prime Mover is an intellectual being, which understands its causing movement in the outer sphere as its bringing about the cycles of generation and change in the cosmos. The Prime Mover, she furthermore holds, 'means' or intends to produce the cosmos.

But Aristotle additionally holds (as we know) that these cycles of generation, in turn, are imitations of the Prime Mover: Aristotle accepts the Symposium view that mortal creatures imitate immortality in the way available to them, through generation.

But, if these things are so, then why shouldn't we say (even admitting that there is a real distinction between contemplative and kinetic thought in the Prime Mover), that the Prime Mover (i) moves the cosmos with kinetic thought, and that (ii) it intends to do so, so that (i.e. with the end that) the cosmos imitates its own activity of contemplative thought? That is: its aim or goal in initiating the movement of the universe is its own contemplative activity.

I see nothing standing in the way of such a resolution except Broadie's definition of terms.