Prima Via: Part I

The Prima Via seeks to demonstrate the existence of a Prime Mover, who itself does not exist in a state of motion, as derived from the plurality of motion that exists in the cosmos. The objection arises, however, when one considers the implicit assumption of the Prima Via; namely, that some thing cannot give what it does not already have (e.g., one cannot impart knowledge of a given subject without already possessing knowledge of the given subject).

This objection seeks to demonstrate the impossibility of a Prime Mover as such. Still, should we consider the aforementioned objection successful?

I don’t believe so and below you will find my attempt at responding to the aforementioned objection as inspired by my reading of Michael Augros’s article Ten Objections to the Prima Via (much of what I have written will be appear as a direct representation of Augros’s central responses).

Specifically, the process of motion must be considered imperfect insofar as the process of motion considered is incomplete. To illustrate my point, consider the example of eating. For insofar as it is true that I am about to finish my meal, still it is true that I have not yet finished my meal. Likewise, so long as it is true that I have finished my meal, still it is true that I am no longer finishing my meal. The examples given demonstrate that while the act of motion exists, the act of motion, nevertheless, must be considered as incomplete or imperfect.

Yet, what is required for a cause to transition some thing from potency to act is that the cause of the thing be perfectly actual relative to its effect and not the inverse (i.e., that the cause be just as imperfectly actual as the effect). Therefore, it is not categorically essential for every cause of motion to exist in a state of motion so as to impart some desired effect on another thing.

“A fire does not have to be increasing in temperature in order to increase the temperature of another thing—it needs only to have at least the same temperature to which it will heat up the other thing. Again, teachers do not need to be coming to know in order to cause their students to come to know—they need only to know, to have actual knowledge, since coming to know is like an imperfect possession of knowledge.” (p. 61-2, Ten Objections to the Prima Via)

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Prima Via: Preliminary Definitions

Aquinas’s First Way seeks to demonstrate the existence of God from the undeniable fact of motion (e.g., the bringing to be of some potency O into actuality P). Although, the First Way does not necessarily demonstrate the existence of the Trinitarian God of the Bible, Aquinas’s argument for the existence of God should not, nevertheless, be considered or confused with an attempt at doing so. Simply, the Prima Via is an a posteriori argument that proceeds from empirical evidence which seeks to demonstrate a general conception of God and His attributes. To return, attempts at describing the nature of this argument and process of movement should then begin with the Aristotelian principles of potency and act.

Below you will find my attempt at doing so. Please forgive me for any errors, as I am not a philosopher. I am simply a Seminarian who is fascinated with the thought of Thomas Aquinas.

That said, potency can be described as the possibility that a thing might have (e.g., the possibility of Socrates becoming a grammarian). Likewise, actuality might then be described as the fulfillment of that possibility (e.g., Socrates actually becoming a grammarian). For some potentiality to receive the principle of act, the potentiality must be acted upon by a thing that already exists in a state of act, as a potentiality cannot do anything of itself qua potentiality.

Now with respect to motion, what these principles describe is a process in which a thing that is in motion receives its act from another. That is, what is in motion (i.e., a thing’s transition from potentiality to act) must receive its movement from another mover, already in the state of act (i.e., the thing which imparts the principle of act upon some potency thus brings into being the fulfillment of some latent possibility inherent to the thing considered).

To end, motion might then be simply described as the process of the movement of a thing from potentiality into actuality. That is, the undergoing of a thing’s state of potentiality to act from its previous state of being. For what exists in a state of potentiality can do nothing of itself except by being acted upon by some extrinsic or intrinsic thing that already exists in a state of act.

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Topics of Consideration

When I have the free time I will be contributing to this blog (again). However, the content of this blog will differ from what has previously been written. Instead of discussing theological issues, I will be primarily addressing moral and apologetic issues (e.g., contemporary arguments for abortion, same-sex marriage and atheistic arguments against the existence of God).

Special emphasis will be placed on Aquinas’s Five Ways as a sound demonstration of a general conception of God. Further, literature published by Feser, Porter, and Lee (ad infinitum), will be considered in contrast to the arguments they present against same-sex marriage and abortion. 

I hope you enjoy what I choose to write about. And I hope that you find what I have to say readily accessible.

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