Compare Aristotle’s idea of the Prime Mover, and the Judeo-Christian idea of God
- Pages: 8
- Word count: 1971
- Category: Aristotle
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Aristotle was very interested in the idea of motion, and said that “the world is in a constant state of motion and change” An example of how the world is always changing is the growth of trees and plants. Aristotle believed in a prime mover, which is the being which creates change in the world. Some people think this is the same as the Judeo-Christian idea of a creator God, although there are important differences. Aristotle’s had a theory known as the Four Causes, which are the things that make up everything on earth.
These were: The Material Cause, which refers to the substance that something is made from; The Formal Cause, which refers to what gives the thing it’s structure; The Efficient Cause, or the thing that caused it to exist; and the Final Cause, which is the ultimate reason something exists, and what purpose it serves. He rejected Plato’s Theory of Forms because he was more interested in explaining how things came to be and how they change, and he did not believe in dualism. He defined change as Potentiality and Actuality; the ability to change, and something which has reached its final cause.
Because the physical world is in a constant state of change, Aristotle believed something must exist that creates the changes. This being is described as “pure actuality” meaning it cannot change, and therefore Aristotle concluded it must exist outside the physical world. This being is the Prime Mover. The Judeo-Christian idea of God is similar to the Prime Mover as their God is responsible for creating the world. This is shown in the Bible when in the Creation story it says “In the beginning God created the heavens and the Earth.
The Second Way of Aquinas’ cosmological argument for God’s existence is that everything comes from something else, and so there must be a First Cause outside of this chain and therefore outside this Universe. He decided this must be God. However, Aristotle’s Prime Mover did not interact with the World because he had to exist outside of our world in order to be “pure actuality”, and this contradicts Judeo-Christian belief that God interacts with their lives and who created them all individually.
This is presented in the Bible through the quote “I knitted you together in your mothers womb “The Prime Mover is not implied to have directly created anything on earth, but is merely responsible for the changes that were necessary for them to exist. . Believers in a Judeo-Christian God believe He is transcendent and has lived on Earth through Christ. This means that they can feel close to a God which otherwise they could not relate to. They also believe that God continues to interact in the world today through miracles and that they can talk to Him through prayer.
It says in the Bible to “pray on all occasions” and so this is why Christians believe that God will listen to them. This is in contrast with Aristotle’s Prime Mover who is impersonal because it is not a physical being, and therefore cannot respond to prayer. Another part of the idea of God is the idea of Him as a Judge, who is responsible for what happens to everyone after death. Christians believe that God decides whether to send them to Heaven or to Hell, depending on how they have lived their life, this is shown in the Bible in the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats.
Aristotle believed that the Prime Mover was the Final Cause, and therefore all our actions are directed at him, another way of thinking about this is that everything in the universe is drawn to the Prime Mover like a magnet. However, he did not believe that the Prime Mover could decide and judge our morality. Aristotle believed that a human’s final cause was the be happy and virtuous, but it is not clear what the punishment would be if a human had not done these things, but it is not likely he believed in an afterlife, as he was more concerned with the things we could see around us.
In conclusion, although there are some similarities between the Prime Mover and the Judeo-Christian idea of God, there are some fundamental differences in the way they are involved in human’s lives and what this means for people who believe in them. People who believe in a Judeo-Christian God are ruled by their beliefs and live their lives according to what they think is right and wrong in God’s view, whereas Aristotle’s Theory tells us nothing about how to live our lives, and only how the universe came to be.
Considering that many Christians and Jews do not take the creation story to be literally true, the creator part of God is not what is important to them, and therefore they serve very different purposes for the people who believe in them and so I think that they are very different from each other. “The idea of a Judeo-Christian God is more convincing than Aristotle’s Prime Mover” Discuss Aristotle believed in an impersonal creator who is responsible for all change or “motion” in the World.
The Judeo-Christian concept of God is a much more personal one, who is in charge of what happens to us while alive and after death. Many people around the world believe in a Judeo-Christian idea of God, and therefore believe it is more convincing. The popularity of Jewish and Christian religions and how they have spread around the world could in themselves be evidence that God is convincing, because Aristotle’s Prime Mover has not founded western religion, and so it could be argued that if it was convincing, more people would believe in it.
There are lots of accounts of religious experiences including God including miracles such as Lourdes or the stilling of the storm in the Bible, along with numinous experiences, and some people would say that this is evidence for the existence of God, and therefore that God is more convincing, however, the validity of these experiences is dubious, and there is no real empirical evidence. Empirical means that it can be verified with observation and proved scientifically.
There are scientific explanations for modern miracles and we cannot trust someone’s account of what happened to them as this cannot be verified. Ayer’s verification principle showed that the language of religion was “meaningless” because it could not be proved empirically. One argument for the Prime Mover is that belief in the Prime Mover is less problematic than belief in God, as this is harder to jistify. For example, if you believe in God you need to be able to justify how evil can exist in the world if God exists, otherwise known as the Problem of Evil.
I can be very hard to maintain a belief in God when you are aware of all of the wrong in the world, as if God loves humans he would want to stop suffering, and he has the power to do so. Many Christians disagree with this and try to solve the Problem of Evil in the following ways: Some believe in a “test of faith” theory which means they believe God makes us suffer to help us to believe in him more e. g the Story of Job in the Bible. Augustinian theodicy is the idea that because we are all born with sin (original sin) God made the world imperfect to punish us.
Irenaean theodicy is the idea that evil is put in the world by God to strengthen us and make us moral because we have to choose between what is right and wrong, this is known as the “soul-making” argument. Belief in God also means that humans are controlled by their beliefs, as they will live their lives to please God. Therefore they can never truly have free will, as God threatens to punish humans with hell if they do not do the right thing; this is shown in the Bible through the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats.
Belief in God doesn’t allow humans to explore the world for themselves and is often contradicted by new important scientific discoveries e. g. the Big Bang Theory. The Big Bang Theory has been proven and although there are still gaps in the knowledge, we know through evolution that the idea that God “made mankind in his image” is incorrect because science has proved that humans evolved from other animals, so therefore God could not have created animals like apes and humans separately. The Prime Mover can fill in the gaps of The Big Bang Theory without claiming to have created everything in the world how it is now, for example creating humans.
The Prime Mover is just the first cause and so is not contradicted by scientific knowledge. One argument for God is that he is convincing because he gives people’s lives meaning. The concept of a Judeo-Christian God is more appealing than an impersonal creator who cannot save us or interact with us in any way. The idea of an afterlife that is perfect is very comforting to people as it is natural for human beings to be afraid of death. There are many people who claim that their belief in God helped them through difficult times and even saved their lives.
On the other hand, the philosopher Bertrand Russell said that the Judeo-Christian concept of God is “wish-fulfilling” and just because it is more appealing to people does not necessarily mean it is any more correct or convincing. The Judeo-Christian God also tells people how to morally live their lives, through the teachings in the Bible, and some people would argue that we need moral guidance and the fact that God offers this to us means He is more relevant and important than the role of just a Creator. However, there are lots of problems with taking morals from God, and this problem is known as the Euthyphro Dilemma.
The Dilemma is that if you believe that things are moral because God says that they are, what if God orders someone to do something that is wrong, for example, God says murder is wrong, and then commands Abraham to kill his son. This is the problem of Abhorrent Commands. As well as this, if anything that God says is right, then as the philosopher Leibniz says “Why praise him if he would be equally as praiseworthy in doing the exact opposite” This is the Arbitrariness Problem. However, if you then say that things are morally right or wrong dependent of God, then there are also problems, because then what is the point of believing in God?
This is the Emptiness Problem. This means that it makes more sense to believe in a Prime Mover because he is not responsible for the way that humans behave. In conclusion, the arguments suggest that Aristotle’s Prime Mover is more convincing than the Judeo-Christian idea of God because a belief in God is difficult to justify and therefore is not convincing because there are too many problems with the idea of God. Although the issue of how the universe began will probably soon be completely resolved by science it makes more sense to fill the gaps of Science with the idea of a Prime Mover than God.
This is because the idea of having to have an uncaused cause that started off the chain of causes logically makes sense, but it is not then necessary to conclude this is God. The philosopher David Hume made this same argument when criticising Aquinas. It could just be “pure actuality” and a being completely separate from us who are not involved with the universe anymore. Although this idea is not comforting to some, it is better to seek out knowledge even if it makes us conclude there is no afterlife, than to live in ignorance just because it makes us happy.