The Plurality of Unmoved Movers in Aristotle (2017)

In the opening lines of Met. XII.8 Aristotle strongly polemicizes with the Platonists for not giving a proper answer to the question of the number of unmoved, non-sensible and separable substances. In this paper I investigate why Aristotle was so
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  !"#$% '%(%) * CEU, Budapest (HUN), 1st Central European Graduate Workshop in Ancient Philosophy , March 25, 2017 - March 26, 2017  Abstract  : In the opening lines of  Met  . XII.8 Aristotle strongly polemicizes with the Platonists for not giving a proper answer to the question of the number of unmoved, non-sensible and separable substances. In this paper I will investigate why Aristotle was so determined to demonstrate the existence of many unmoved movers. By answering two questions – (1) how can we individuate unmoved movers? (2) how can there be many unmoved movers without disrupting the unity of the heaven? – I will argue he was eager to resolve the problem posited by Plato and discussed afterwards by numerous scholars: how to reconcile the rational structure of the heaven with apparent celestial variations and irregularities? The Plurality of Unmoved Movers in Aristotle  by Domagoj Polan !" ak (University of Zagreb, Croatia) I. In the opening lines of  Met  . XII.8 Aristotle polemically refers to unnamed agents of the theory of ideas in order to set out the questions that will govern his treatise on the plurality of unmoved movers. The introductory section of Ch . 8 advises us that Aristotle is not the only exponent of the substance he argued in the preceding chapters. 1  It is clear from Ch. 1 that certain thinkers likewise recognize the existence of unmoved, non-sensible and separable substance: 2  (a) some identify it with ideas and mathematical objects as two different kinds of the substance; (b) some identify it with ideas and mathematical objects as two identical substances; (c) some identify it only with the objects of mathematics. 3  Furthermore, Aristotle says: «Those who speak of Ideas say the Ideas are numbers» 4 . However, there is no unitary notion of ideas and numbers among the Platonists, though Aristotle is not clear about this in the introduction of Ch . 8. But this does not imply that he is unacquainted with the discrepancy, because in Book  Zeta  he emphasises the essential distinction as follows: 5  (a) Plato posites three different kinds of substance – ideas, objects of mathematics, sensible bodies; (b) Speusippus lays down four kinds of substance: the One, numbers, spatial magnitudes, soul; (c) some philosophers (presumably Xenocrates) 6  say ideas and numbers have the same nature. Therefore, in  Met  . XII.8, 1073a18 Aristotle is not refering to all Platonists, but some particular agents of the theory of ideas, i.e. Xenocrates and his followers. Since he established the polemic ground by regarding the Platonic view on ideas and numbers, Aristotle unfolds the problem that will lead to the central issue of Ch . 8. The matter of concern in Ch . 8 is to investigate whether there is one unmoved, non-sensible and separable substance or a plurality of them. Subsequent to this we must eventually search for the exact 1  Necessary existence of the unmoved mover(s) is the highlight of Aristotle’s attempt to explain motion in the framework of the aristotelian world. Guthrie distinguishes three stages in the development of Aristotle’s reasoning on srcin of motion: (1) motion of celestial bodies, regarding Plato (cf.  Laws , X), is explained by beholding the  bodies as animate beings that posses power of self-motion ( On Philosophy , cf. Cicero,  De natura deorum II.15.42.); (2) motion of celestial bodies is explained by aether – the fifth element – which is their constituent and moves continuously in a circle (cf.  DC   I.2, 268b15-3.270b30); (3) motion of moved supstances is explained by the unmoved mover(s) (cf.  Phys.  VII.1, 241b21-243a1, VIII.1-6, 250b5-260a15, VIII.10, 266a10-267b25; cf.  Met.  XII.6, 1071b4-22).   [cf. Guthrie 1933, 162-171]. In  Metaphysics  Aristotle retains the argumentation introduced in  Physics , with regard to the existence of unmoved mover, but he expands it by answering two additional questions: 1) how does an unmoved mover impart motion? (cf.  Met  . XII.7, 1072a26-37); 2) what are the properties of an unmoved mover? (cf.  Met  . XII.7, 1072b15-1073a14). 2  Cf.  Met  . XII.1, 1069a33-37. 3  The three doctrines argued by Plato, Xenocrates and Speusippus. (cf. Ross / Comm. 1924, 350) 4    Met  . XII.8, 1073a18. 5  Cf.  Met  . VII.2, 1028b20-28.   6  According to Asclepius' commentary Aristotle is referring to Xenocrates. (cf. Dancy 2003, last revision: Jan 11th, 2017)  !"#$% '%(%) + number of these substances. Aristotle seems to criticize the Platonists because they «have said nothing about the number of substances that can even be clearly stated» 7 . They did not deliver any treatise on this topic, 8  what they said is not   unambiguously carried out and it is stated without any «demonstrative exactness» 9 . Consequently, there is no place for a detailed polemic exposition for Aristotle to undertake. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the Platonic claims about the number of substances are declarations without any support or reason. 10  Those who say the ideas are numbers speak of numbers as unlimited or limited by number 10. 11  Therefore the number of ideas, i.e. unmoved, non-sensible and separable substances, would be either unlimited or limited by number 10. But in both cases the number remains indefinite, whether this ambiguity is strongly supported by the notion of unlimited numbers or somewhat blunted by the specific numerical limitation. However, Aristotle is not directly disputing the accuracy of these numerical amplitudes, but the lack of reason that should sustain ostensible calculations. If numbers are unlimited, why are they unlimited? If numbers are limited by 10, why are they limited by 10? According to Aristotle no reasonable answer has  been given to these queries. Aristotle is obviously impelled by the shortfall of scientific approach to the questions already erected by his colleagues but never properly answered. Therefore, at the very beginning of Ch . 8 Aristotle is setting up a rigorous trace to follow in order to achieve scientific accomplishment of high value. We shall see that throughout   Ch . 8 he is being conscious about the certainty of the outcomes he is delivering due to contriving the number of unmoved movers. This indicates how essential it was for Aristotle to deal with the issue in a manner that will eliminate scepticism towards proposed solutions. The issue was not given a proper attention  before and Aristotle decided to change this: “We however must discuss the subject, starting from the presuppositions and distinctions we have mentioned.” 12  He wrote a particular treatise  provoked by Platonic insufficiencies and supported by a strong agenda. In this paper I will proceed as follows: (1) I will set forth some of the problems regarding the plurality of unmoved movers; (2) I will scrutinize the main arguments of Ch. 8; (3) I will use the outcomes of this scrutiny as a backbone for discussing some of the problems and for justifying the agenda emphasized by Aristotle in the introduction of Ch . 8 and carried out throughout the chapter. II.  We start with the thematic subdivison of the third section of  Lambda  (Ch. 6-10). Chapters six and seven demonstrate the existence of the unmoved mover, deliver its properties and explain how the unmoved mover causes motion. In chapter eight Aristotle seeks to answer the question of whether there is one unmoved mover or more. Chapter nine continues to discuss the nature of the unmoved mover, wheras the final chapter of Lambda examines the nature of the universe 7    Met  . XII.8, 1073a16. 8  Cf.  Met  . XII.8, 1073a17. 9    Met  . XII.8, 1073a22. 10  Cf.  Met  . XII.8, 1073a20. 11  Cf.  Met  . XII.8, 1073a18-20. It is not clear who of the Platonists advocates the unlimited number of ideal numbers, but presumably it is Xenocrates or some of his disciples (cf. Elders 1972, 209). However, we know Plato speaks of numbers as limited by the number 10 (cf.  Phys . III.6, 206b27), whereas Speusippus believes number 10 is “a sort of artistic form for the cosmic accomplishments” (Waterfield 1988, 112).  12    Met  . XII.8, 1073a22-24.  !"#$% '%(%) , and concludes the book with the words that suggest there should be only one supreme principle: «The rule of many is not good; one ruler let there be» 13 . This summary calls for some observations: (a) in Ch. 8 we read mostly about the unmoved movers (plural noun), whereas in other chapters we encounter the unmoved mover (singular noun); (b) Ch. 8 interrupts the discussion of unmoved mover's nature; (c) the notion of the unmoved movers, demonstrated in Ch. 8, questions the notion of one supreme principle, squarely favored in Ch. 10 and argued in Ch. 6, 7, 9. Observation (a) by itself does not imply doctrinal incoherence because the eventual incommensurability of this kind of plurality and singularity has yet to be demonstrated. The interruption (b) might imply that in Ch. 8 Aristotle is discussing the set of substances whose nature is somehow different from the nature of the unmoved mover (Ch. 6, 7, 9, 10). Observation (c) suggests that the plurality of unmoved movers eventually undermines the unitary nature of universe. Therefore, in order to preserve the unity of universe we must postulate one supreme principle, i.e. one supreme unmoved mover. It is important to notice three things regarding the last observation: (1) it does not exclude the very existence of many unmoved movers; (2) it introduces a hierarchy of unmoved movers; (3) it  presupposes some kind of difference between the supreme unmoved mover and the other 49 (or 55) unmoved movers. If we want to keep the notion of a plurality of unmoved movers, we must answer some questions: (1) if plurality includes matter, 14  and the unmoved movers are pure forms, 15  how can there be many unmoved movers?; (2) if differentiation includes matter, 16  and the unmoved movers are pure forms, how can we differentiate the unmoved movers, i.e. how can we detect the specific status of each of the unmoved movers? (3) if the heaven is one, 17  and there are many distinct unmoved movers and revolving spheres, how can there be many unmoved movers with their associated spheres, without disrupting the unity of heaven? This paper aims to answer the second and the third question, whereas the first question will be briefly discussed in the final section. III. Prior to searching for a feasible solution to some of the problems of plurality of unmoved movers, we bring an outline of Ch. 8 that will route the scrutiny: (a) polemic introduction regarding the Platonists' incompetence to serve a reasonable treatise on the number of unmoved, non-sensible and separable substances (1073a14-23); (b) demonstration of the existence of many unmoved movers (1073a24-40); (c) demonstration of the number of unmoved movers (1073b1-1074a17); (d) reinforcement of the demonstration of the number of unmoved movers (1074a18-31); (e) demonstration of the unity of universe (1074a32-40); (f) reflection on divine element being recognized in nature since the earliest times (1074b1-14). Since he rebuked the Platonists for not delivering a treatise on the subject with an argumentative accuracy, Aristotle starts his strongly demonstrative discussion. If we take a look at the demonstrative cycle of the chapter, we can easily infer which two sections are fundamental for discussing the problem of plurality of unmoved movers. Namely, prior to the investigation of the exact number of unmoved movers (1073b1-1074a17), we must argue the  plurality of the unmoved movers as such (1073a24-40). Following the polemical impetus of the chapter's introduction, the first demonstration is delivered with some noticeable statements that 13    Met  . XII.10, 1076a6; Cf. Homer,  Illiad   ii.204. 14  Cf.  Met  . XII.8, 1074a33-34. 15  Cf.  Met.  VII.7, 1032a22; VII.15, 1039b29; XII.1, 1069a3-1069b2; XII.6, 1071b19-20. 16  Cf.  Met.  VII.8, 1034a7; XII.2, 1069b29; XII.8, 1074a33-34. 17  Cf.  DC   I.8-9; Met. XII.8, 1074a30.  !"#$% '%(%) - are declared as necessary («must be» = !"#$%& ) and uncontested («evidently» = '(")*+" ). We bring the text of the first demonstration: The first principle or primary being is not movable either in itself or accidentally, but produces the primary eternal and single movement. And since that which is moved must be moved by something, and the first mover must be in itself unmovable, and eternal movement must be  produced by something eternal and a single movement by a single thing, and since we see that  besides the simple spatial movement of the universe, which we say the first and unmovable substance produces, there are other spatial movements—those of the planets—which are eternal (for the body which moves in a circle is eternal and unresting; we have proved these points in the  Physics ), each of these movements also must be caused by a substance unmovable in itself and eternal. For the nature of the stars is eternal, being a kind of substance, and the mover is eternal and prior to the moved, and that which is prior to a substance must be a substance. Evidently, then, there must be substances which are of the same number as the movements of the stars, and in their nature eternal, and in themselves unmovable, and without magnitude, for the reason before mentioned. (  Met  . XII.8.1073a23-40; Revised Oxford Translation) While some of the Platonists answered the question of plurality of unmoved, non-sensbile and separable substance on the ground of its identificiation with the numbers, Aristotle had to establish a completely different ground for his demonstration and he found it in the movements of the stars. However, I believe the final clause of the demonstration does not refer to all stars  but only the wandering stars, i.e. the planets, because we know all the fixed stars are carried by one single movement of the first heaven 18 . In addition, the first unmoved mover – the immediate cause of movement of the first heaven – is not included in the number of 49 (or 55) unmoved movers! The term «fixed stars» ( !,-(").    . /   !012*)/ ) is not used in this passage but it is covered  by the term «universe» ( ,3" ). This term is employed in the context 4*56)"   78   ,(*9   1:"   1;<   ,("1+/   1:"   =,->"   ';*#"  and we know  the movement of the first heaven that carries the fixed stars is designated by ';*# . 19  Since he previously argued the srcin of movement of the fixed stars, 20  and briefly recalled this demonstration in the cited passage, Aristotle has yet to demonstrate the srcin of movements of the planets. It is important to notice this because it should indicate the demonstration regarding the first unmoved mover as the cause of movement of the fixed stars is somehow insufficient to explicate the srcin of movements of the planets. We will unfold this key remark in the final part of this paper. If we take a closer look at the passage, we'll see that the demonstration has two grounds: (1) on the empirical ground we acquire an observable fact («we see» = 4*56)" ) that along with the movement of the first heaven there are also the movements of the planets; (2) on the theoretical ground we know: (a) something that is moved must be moved by something; (b) movement with property X must be caused by a mover with property X; (c) that which is prior to a substance must be a substance; (d) the movements of the fixed stars are caused by an unmoved substance. On ground (2) we have to find something that is moving and the isusse can be raised and developed. Since it is obvious the planets are moving, we can ask a question about the mover. How can we answer the question? Apparently there are two things to be done successively: (1) investigate the properties of the movements; (2) apply  principles advanced in the passage. 18  Cf.  Met  . XII.7, 1072a20-25. 19  Cf. Elders 1972, 212. The term ';*#  most properly refers to things that don’t move themselves but it can also designate the motion of simple bodies. Cf. Phys . V.2, 226a34;  DC   I.2, 268b17.   20  Cf.  Met.  XII.7, 1072a20-25.  !"#$% '%(%) / Two properties of the planetary movements are important for the demonstration: (1) there are many movements and each movement is single; (2) there are many movements and each movement is eternal,    because the nature of each planet is eternal. When it comes to their property of being eternal, let us recall that according to Aristotle all changeable things are material but they possess different matter. 21  Since the sort of matter defines the sort of change, 22  the celestial bodies have matter (aether) that enables them to change only with regard to place (circular motion), unlike the matter of sublunary entities (fire, air, water, earth) which is the ground not only for their change of place (rectilinear motion) but for their generation, destruction, alteration, increase and diminution as well. 23  Furthermore, Aristotle argues the circular motion is eternal and continuous. 24  Namely, there is no contrary motion to the circular and it is on contraries that generation, destruction, alteration, increase and diminution depend. 25  Therefore, the movements of all the stars are eternal movements. In this respect there is no difference between the movement of the fixed stars and the movements of the planets, for they are all eternal and single. However, according to the first demonstration, the movement of the fixed stars could be called the primary movement because it is caused by the primary being, i.e. the first principle or the first unmoved mover. So, the set of movements of the planets could be called a set of secondary movements. In order not to make this distinction self-sufficient, we have to see what underlies it conceptually. It is said the movement of the fixed stars is single ( 6?( ) and simple ( =,-;</ ), unlike the movements of the  planets that are only single. In Ch.7 Aristotle argues the necessary existence of the first unmoved mover and because of this necessity it is called the (first) principle ( !*@A ). 26  How should we understand this necessity? Aristotle continues by distinguishing three kinds of necessity: (1) necessary thing perforce because it is contrary to the natural impulse; (2) necessary thing is something without which the good is impossible; (3) necessary thing exists only in a simple ( =,-;</ )  way. 27  The third kind of necessity is explicated in Book  Delta  and we believe it indicates the difference between the movement of the stars and the movements of the planets: Therefore, the necessary in the primary and strict sense is the simple; for this does not admit of more states than one, so that it does not admit even of one state and another; for it would thereby admit of more than one. If, then, there are certain eternal and unmovable things, nothing compulsory or against their nature attaches to them. (  Met  . V.5.1015b12-15) Accordingly, if we say that something is necessary because it is simple, it means it cannot be in more than one state. In the context of Book  Delta  this kind of necessity is attributed to the eternal and unmovable substances. 28  Nevertheless, for the following reasons we believe it can  be also attributed to the movement of the fixed stars but not to the movement of the planets: (a) the movement of the fixed stars is simple because it is regular, i.e. it is even; (b) the movements of the planets cannot be simple in the sense we have just mentioned because 21  Cf.  Met.  XII.1.1069b24. 22  Cf.  Met.  XII.1.1069b25-28. 23  Cf.  DC   I.1-4; Gen. et Corr.  II.1-5. 24  Cf.  Met.  XII.6, 1071b7-12. 25  Cf.  DC   I.3, 270a13-34;  Phys . I.7-9. 26  Cf.  Met.  XII.7, 1072b10-16. 27  Cf.  Met.  XII.7, 1072b10-16. 28  In  Met.  XII.7, 1072b16 Ross translates #$%&'(  by using «single», whereas in the passage we are just discussing he translates it by using «simple» and the term «single» is used for 6?( . We believe it is better to translate #$%&'(   by using “simple” because it indicates more precisely the specific nature of the eternal and unmoved substance and the movements of the fixed stars as well.
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