Sunday, 13 January 2019

On Feser’s Argument for the Aristotelian Proof of God

Roman copy in marble of a
Greek bust of Aristotle by Lysippus
Edward Feser, in his essay, “The Aristotelian Proof,” (Chapter 1; Five Proofs of the Existence of God), argues that Aristotle’s First Cause is an argument for God. Here’s a brief summary of the argument that Feser is making for the Aristotelian proof:
We have seen that it cannot coherently be denied that change occurs, and we have noted that change can occur only if things have potentials which are actualized by something already actual. Hence, the hot coffee has the potential to be cooled, and that potential is actualized by the coolness in the surrounding air. We have also argued that while a linear series of changes and changers might in principle extend backward in time without beginning, the members of these series must depend at any moment at which they exist on a hierarchical series of actualizers, and that such a series must terminate in a purely actual cause or actualizer of their existence. And it has now been argued that any such cause must be one, immutable, eternal, immaterial, incorporeal, perfect, omnipotent, fully good, intelligent, and omniscient—that is to say, it must have the key divine attributes. In short, the things of our experience can exist at any moment only if sustained in existence by God. 
Feser breaks down this summary into a formal argument consisting of 50 points. He acknowledges that there are a number of problems in his argument and more than half of the essay is devoted to answering these problems. The essay ends with this assertion, “But so far we have seen that the objections that might be raised against a specifically Aristotelian argument for a divine First Cause will fail.” I liked this essay because Feser is not using faith or some kind of mystic revelations to prove the existence of God; he is using philosophical arguments.

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