Aristotle’s Views on God

In the philosophical system of Aristotle, God is not the Creator of the universe but the Cause of its motion. For a creator is a dreamer, and a dreamer is a dissatisfied personality, a soul that yearns for something that is not, an unhappy being who seeks for happiness—in short, an imperfect creature who aims at perfection. But God is perfect and since he is perfect he cannot be dissatisfied or unhappy. He is, therefore, not the Maker but the Mover of the universe. He is the unmoved mover of the universe.

Every other source of motion in the world, whether it be a person or a thing or a thought, is (according to Aristotle) a moved mover. Thus the plough moves the earth, the hand moves the plough, the brain moves the hand, the desire for food moves the brain, the instinct for life moves the desire for food and so on. In other words, the cause of every motion is the result of some other motion. The master, of every slave is the slave of some other master. Even the tyrant is the slave of his ambition. But God is the result of no action. He is the slave of no master. He is the source of all action, the master of all masters, the instigator of all thought and movement.

Furthermore, God is not interested in the world, though the world is interested in God. For to be interested in the world means to be subject to emotion, to be swayed by prayers or by criticism, to be capable of changing one’s mind as a result of somebody else’s actions or desires or thoughts— in short, to be imperfect. But God is passionless, changeless, perfect. He moves the world as a beloved object moves the lover.

The Aristotelian God, who is loved by all men, but who is indifferent to their fate, is a cold, impersonal and, from our modern religious standpoint, “perfectly” unsatisfactory type of Supreme Being. He resembles the Primal Energy of the scientists rather than the Heavenly Father of the poets.

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