Men As Aristotle’s God?

Aristotle described the deity as the “Unmoved Mover”, that is, an entity who acted upon others, but itself was never acted on. “First Cause” is another name for the same concept, a cause that is not itself caused by anything.

Now, it is a universal human predilection to explain one’s own less than admirable behaviour in situational terms, that is, as a sadly necessary response to the situation in which we find ourselves, while explaining the less than admirable behaviour of others, and in particular of any out-group, in dispositional terms, that is, as the natural unfolding of an intrinsically wicked and depraved inner nature.

This is a commonplace of modern social psychology, but I do not believe that anyone has pointed out the theological implication: that if you regard your own behaviour as caused by the actions of the other guy, but refuse to regard the actions of the other guy as reciprocally caused by your own behaviour, then you are assigning him a superior ontological reality as a First Cause.

When women, for example, treat their own lives as regrettably conditioned by male behaviour, that is, as consequent on the predicaments in which men place them, but resolutely refuse to consider men’s behaviour as a response to the predicaments in which women place them, they are in effect saying that their own behaviour is caused by external agents but that the behaviour of men is not caused by external agents. That is, they are considering men as the Unmoved Mover, for which another name is God. Somehow I do not think that this is what was intended.

Posted on March 5, 2013 at 12:18 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink

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  1. Written by The Ghost in the Machine
    on March 6, 2013 at 00:01

    If we take Aristotle’s understanding of God as the ‘Unmoved Mover’ quite literally, then is this not a radically different view of the deity than is found in many religions?

    For if God is “an entity who acts on other, but itself is never acted on”, does it not follow that imploring prayers and attempts at ‘negotiations’ cannot possibly have any effect?

    Indeed, Aristotle’s concept of God is light years removed from the idea of a rewarding or punishing Lord. For religious institutions to embrace it might well be tantamount to going out of business!

  2. Written by Grinebiter
    on March 6, 2013 at 08:51

    I was perhaps too elliptical; it might have been better to say that Aristotle formulated the concept of the First Cause, which was later hijacked by theists and identified with their psychotic king-in-the-sky. Well spotted that this doesn’t really work, because you cannot move the Unmoved Mover. I’m sure that Arry never even tried 🙂

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