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Oderberg on the First Way


David Oderberg has just updated his website with several important papers, including his excellent new essay “’Whatever is Changing is Being Changed by Something Else’: A Reappraisal of Premise One of the First Way,” which appears in J. Cottingham and P. Hacker, eds., Mind, Method, and Morality: Essays in Honour of Anthony Kenny. Kenny is a fine philosopher and has written many valuable works on Aquinas, but his critique of the Five Ways in his book on the subject is (so some of us would argue) far less powerful than it is often given credit for. I explain some of what is wrong with it in my book Aquinas, and Oderberg responds to Kenny’s attack on the First Way in this new paper.

Comments (1)

The part about potency and act was good. The part dealing with inertia made some good points. The part dealing with how the soul moves and is moved, however, was somewhat weak.

That the soul moves the body is clear enough to all. Then Oderberg writes:

Yet what changes the soul? For Aquinas, there are many causes—for example bodily changes, objects of knowledge, and objects of perception. When it comes to human action, the main cause of change to the soul is the ‘appetible object’ (the object that is sought or desired)

Which is true enough, but it seems to send him done a blind ally. He uses as an example of an ‘appetible object’ a ‘pizza.’ So the pizza moves the soul. But what moves the pizza? According to Oderberg:

Yet it is evident that the external objects that move either souls or nervous systems are themselves changing. Pizzas are changing: what was the most common pizza to be found on menus ten years ago is not so now, for example. Individual pizzas change as well: the one Fred is looking at in the restaurant window is getting cooler and more stale as he looks.

Yes, pizzas change. But the pizza does not move the soul insofar as it changes, but insofar as it is a pizza, i.e., insofar as it doesn’t change. Therefore, it would appear that the pizza is an unmoved mover.

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