Hi there,
I am wondering if you might be able to clear up something about Aquinas' Cosmological Argument: as I understand it he doesn't argue God is like a prime mover in a temporal sense (that he is the first person to literally make the Universe) but rather Aquinas is the source from which all else depends on (e.g. it is only thanks to him that there is the potential to move), my question is how would Aquinas argue in response to people who argue things have no need to be given the 'potential' to move since arguably they already have it?

Jim Taddeo

Hello --

I think that in your first sentence, rather than "...Aquinas is the source from which all else depends.." you meant, "...God is the source from which all else depends..."

If so, here we go: It's important to remember when dealing with Aquinas that he is working very hard to reconcile the Greek philosopher Aristotle with Christian (in his time, = Roman Catholic) belief. St. Augustine had argued that God preceded time and space and was the creator of both, that it was improper to call God "eternal" because that is a temporal concept and God exists outside time; he created it. So this led to a type of theology called the "via negativa" -- the negative way -- in which it was hoped that we could learn what God is by exploring what He is not.

Since God is the creator of all things, these thing in themselves (which Aristotle called "substances") and their observed properties (which Aristotle called "accidents") are all due to God. To say that things do not need to be given the potential to move because they already have it would probably elicit one (or more) of the following responses from Aquinas:

(1) The potential to move is a property of created things; since God created all, he had to create the things that have this property, and well as the property itself. ANYTHING that move, or can move, has been given the potential to do so by God. Nothing "already" has the potential to move.


(2) The ability to move is an accident which God attaches to certain substances as He wills.


(3) Actually moving is an accident which God attaches to certain substances as he wills.

Hope this helps.




All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Charles K. MacKay


I can answer a number of questions in philosophy; my academic concentrations (graduate school at Cornell) are ethics, political philosophy, and 19th-century German philosophy (Marx, Hegel, and hangers-on.)



BA, New College, 1971, Philosophy and Religion
Awarded four graduate fellowships upon graduation

MA, Cornell University, 1974
Social and Political Philosophy, Danforth Fellowship

All course work and dissertation drafts completed for Ph.D. Cornell University, 1971-1975, Social and Political Philosophy, Danforth Fellowship

Courses in statistics and microeconomics, George Washington University and The American University, 1976-1978

EXPERIENCE: Health Insurance Specialist 2005 - Present
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service
US Department of Health and Human Services

Allentown Business School Instructor (Computer Science) 2003 - 2005

Northampton Community College
Adjunct Professor of Philosophy 2003 -2005

Lehigh County Community College
Adjunct Professor of Philosophy and Computer Science


Medicare Made Easy (with Charles B. Inlander) Addison-Wesley, 1989

Good Operations, Bad Operations (with Charles B. Inlander) Viking Press, 1993

Health Rebooted: Information Changes Everything (in press), 2008

Bachelor of Arts, Philosphy and Religion, New College, 1971 Master of Arts, Social and Political Philosophy, Cornell University, 1975

Awards and Honors
Danforth Fellowship, Woodrow Wilson Fellowship

©2016 All rights reserved.