-Daniel James Hole
With modern day skepticism many of the classical proofs of God’s existence have been unfairly dismissed without any real engagement. And this is no truer than with the 5 ways of Thomas Aquinas which have been thoroughly dismissed by people such as Dawkins and Russel without any good reason. And so many of these proofs have in a sense therefore been thrown into the shadows in the Atheist community. And so in light of this I will seek to briefly present the strength of the case of Aquinas’s forgotten first way.
Aquinas begins by acknowledging a truth already discovered by Aristotle and deeply engrained into the surrounding culture of his time, as to the nature of motion. That when we talk of something in motion, we are describing something going from a potential, to an actual. Dr. Edward Feser, a Thomistic scholar explains this by the analogy of a cup of tea. When the cup of tea is hot it has the potential, that is the possibility to be, cold. And if the cup were to become cold, then it would become actually cold. And in this way we understand motion, as the actualization of a potential.
But some of the sceptics say, surely motion does not have to exist! But this is just absurdity. Can the person say that not in motion? Or can they think on what they are going to say without motion? Or even read the text in front of them? I think not, and if you think otherwise then you have proven the existence of motion. And so Aquinas starts on the firm ground to the existence of Motion and proceeds from there.
Continuing Aquinas questions to how anything is in motion. He points out how something just with the possibility to be cannot itself become actual. As the mere possibility to be does nothing on its own. A dog may have the possibility to run, sleep or lie down, however that does not causally tell you what becomes actual. And so their must exist something that is itself not potential that causes things to become actual, as no potential alone has that ability.
And so we are led inevitably to the question of what this thing must be that is not itself potential, but instead actualizes the potential. What we may call a ‘purely actual actualizer’, or as Aristotle called it, a ‘Unmoved Mover’. But the sceptics call out, this is not God! And to an extent they are correct, but only in the sense that we have not yet done a conceptual analysis as to the nature of this being.
So let us consider 4 qualities that this ‘unmoved mover’ must possess.
And so we come to conclude from Aquinas’s first way that this purely actual, unmoved mover must be a timeless, transcendent, all powerful being with at least one intellect. Something one may say sounds quite similar to God.