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In Aquinas’ work, Summa Theologica, he begins each article with a question. One of these articles is over-arched by the question “Whether God Exists?” and is followed by five arguments that God does exist. Aquinas’ first argument for God’s existence is the first mover argument. This argument states that everything which is moved from a potential to an actual state must be moved by something in a state of actuality. However, in order for this to be true, there must be a first mover, and Aquinas states that this first mover is God.
Because it is impossible for a feature something to be simultaneously in actuality and potentiality, there must be a first mover, or a god (BonJour).
Actuality is the existence of a condition whereas potentiality is the possibility of the existence of a condition. For something to move or change, it must be moved by something in an actual state. One thing is unable to be both potential and actual in the same regard.
So an ice cube has the potential to be water, but it is unable to actually be water unless something that is actually warm heats it up The ice cube is unable to heat itself up since it is not actually warm. This is paralleled to scientific findings, that everything is linked by dependency. Isaac Newton’s first law of motion is that an object will always be at rest (or move in the same way it always has, without change) unless an external force acts on it, which corroborates the position that a first mover is required in order for the universe to begin to exist as it does, with constant movement and changes, enhancing the proof that God probably exists on this account (Hall).
As in any argument, there are objections to this position. One is that if it is true that something must be moved in order to move something else to actuality, then the idea of an unmoved mover, God, would conflict with that position. It is also argued that if God is in a state of pure actuality, he has no potential to do anything, or move anything (Thomas). However, rebutting this claim is simple. Aquinas writes that “the lower element [the one being moved] depends upon a higher element [the mover]” so because God is higher in the hierarchy, the actuality limitations do not apply to him.
An important thing to note about the first mover argument as it proves God’s existence is that the whole argument is based on the assumption that a mover must be moved in order to move something else. Some might deny this claim but it is important to note that this argument is à posterior, meaning it is not stated that the conclusion follows with “absolute necessity” (Thomas). Some may argue that the first cause (another of Aquinas’ arguments for the existence of God) of movement would be the big bang theory or other such theories provided by modern science, but this is easily refuted, as this big bang would need to be moved into actuality by something, and it is argued that that something is God or a higher creator.
Although there are multiple objections against this philosophical stance and the reasons for it, Aquinas’ argument from motion holds itself up in the face of any argument. The only way for which it would be possible for the string of dependency of potential states on actual states to have begun is if there was one original, first, unmoved mover. Because this mover is not allowed to be limited to the rules of dependency and actuality, it must be a higher power, and therefore God must exist.
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