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Sunday, May 01, 2011

The Unmoved Mover as Argument for God's Existence

I am trying to understand Aquinas's First Way of arguing for God's existence as explained by Edward Feser in TLS (p. 94–96 on "The Unmoved Mover"), and I think I'm close to understanding it. Suppose you are pressing down a key on your keyboard. Let us consider the chain of causes in that instant of time. What causes the key to go down? Your finger applying force. OK, let's continue to drill down into this instant of time. What causes your finger to apply force? Your muscles contracting.

What causes your muscles to contract? Your neurons firing.

What causes your neurons to fire? Interactions between neurotransmitter molecules.

What causes the neurotransmitter molecules to interact? Interactions between atoms.

What causes the atoms to interact? Interactions involving electromagnetism, the weak force, the strong force, etc.

And so forth. We continue looking down the chain of causes in this particular instant of time, looking at deeper and deeper levels of reality. This "vertical" chain of causes has to stop somewhere – it cannot be infinite (which is obvious if you think about it). And when it stops, it stops with an action that is not caused. This action-that-is-not-caused is what Aquinas calls God. An interesting implication is that this action-that-is-not-caused keeps the world in existence from moment to moment (p. 98).


  • Does extending the causality chain like that implicitly mean that humans have no free will and any "intention" (if it is not too imperfect to use "intention" interchangeably here with "cause") lies in that bottom layer of the system?

    By Anonymous David, at 5/02/2011 8:59 AM  

  • @David - Again, not an expert here, but I have heard this question discussed by the philosopher David Oderberg, and he sees no contradiction between free will and being part of a causality chain. But I can't remember the details. It came up in the Q&A in "Audio of talk on Aquinas's First Way" ( ). If I remember correctly, his thoughts were along the lines of the Unmoved Mover being able to influence the agent, but the agent still being able to exercise free will. Or something like that.

    By Blogger Jonathan, at 7/21/2011 7:26 PM  

  • Sounds really clear , Thanks jhonathan for replying david dudes , It help me a lot.

    By Anonymous juegos de ben 10, at 9/10/2011 5:36 PM  

  • Thanks jonathan for "Audio of talk on Aquinas's First Way" link.

    By Anonymous mensajes claro, at 10/03/2011 10:34 AM  

  • You're welcome!

    By Blogger Jonathan, at 10/03/2011 12:46 PM  

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