Is Eternal Motion possible?

Thomas Aquinas’ first way begins as follows:

The first and more manifest way is the argument from motion. It is certain, and evident to our senses, that in the world some things are in motion. Now whatever is in motion is put in motion by another, for nothing can be in motion except it is in potentiality to that towards which it is in motion; whereas a thing moves inasmuch as it is in act. For motion is nothing else than the reduction of something from potentiality to actuality.

Now, is it possible that motion itself be eternal? One pre-socratic philosopher thinks so. Anaximenes believed that motion was eternal and thus that change can be explained through it. Now, Anaximenes does attribute the property of being eternally in motion to his ‘Principle’ or αρχη. We read the following about Anaximenes from Theophrastus quoted in Simplicius’ commentary on Aristotle’s Physics:

“He [Anaximenes] too makes motion to be eternal”

The interesting thing to note, however, about Anaximenes’ conception of motion belonging to air, is that air is actually divine, in the sense of having at least some of the classical attributes of God. Cicero says of him, for instance, that:

“Anaximenes determined that air is a god and that it comes to be and is without measure, infinite, and always in motion”
~Cicero, On The Nature of the Gods 1.10.26

Thus, Anaximenes proposed that motion was simply a divine attribute, and accepted a form of pantheism. I think if one wanted to agree with Anaximenes’ materialistic pantheism one could make an argument that motion is simply a divine attribute. However, Aquinas goes on just later to say:

But nothing can be reduced from potentiality to actuality, except by something in a state of actuality. Thus that which is actually hot, as fire, makes wood, which is potentially hot, to be actually hot, and thereby moves and changes it. Now it is not possible that the same thing should be at once in actuality and potentiality in the same respect, but only in different respects. For what is actually hot cannot simultaneously be potentially hot; but it is simultaneously potentially cold. It is therefore impossible that in the same respect and in the same way a thing should be both mover and moved, i.e. that it should move itself. Therefore, whatever is in motion must be put in motion by another. If that by which it is put in motion be itself put in motion, then this also must needs be put in motion by another, and that by another again. But this cannot go on to infinity, because then there would be no first mover, and, consequently, no other mover; seeing that subsequent movers move only inasmuch as they are put in motion by the first mover; as the staff moves only because it is put in motion by the hand. Therefore it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, put in motion by no other; and this everyone understands to be God.

To agree with Anaximenes it seems one would have to be committed to disagreeing with Aquinas when he says that a thing cannot move itself. I think that the notion of a thing moving itself is circular (viciously circular), and thus offers no sufficient explanation of motion in general.

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About tylerjourneaux

I am an aspiring Catholic theologian and philosopher, and I have a keen interest in apologetics. I am creating this blog both in order to practice and improve my writing and memory retention as I publish my thoughts, and in order to give evidence of my ability to understand and communicate thoughts on topics pertinent to Theology, Philosophy, philosophical theology, Catholic (Christian) Apologetics, philosophy of religion and textual criticism.
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