“Like oil and water,” Part 2
It seems that I was not the only person who took issue with Peterson and Hamblin’s last Deseret News piece. Peterson just posted a response to a critic of the piece, whom Peterson describes as a member of a primarily atheistic message board where he is regularly defamed. Now I don’t know the nature of this critic’s arguments, but Peterson sent his piece to a friend who is an expert in Aristotle just to see what the expert would say. The expert confirmed that Aristotle’s Unmoved Mover only contemplates itself and does not “love” its creation or the rest of the universe.
Now I did admit that Aristotle’s Unmoved Mover was like this, but my objection to the article (which I tried to post on Peterson’s blog, but my comment hasn’t gone up yet – perhaps Peterson just lumped my criticism in with his harsh atheistic critics, or perhaps he doesn’t allow critical comments on his site at all, or perhaps he simply overlooked it) was not that his portrayal of Aristotle’s Unmoved Mover was incorrect, but that he was mis-portraying the role of the Unmoved Mover in the larger classical theistic tradition. Aristotle, of course, had no need to reconcile his Unmoved Mover with the Biblical God, but later Christian thinkers did.
So for instance, Aquinas’ conception of God was more dynamic than Aristotle’s, responds to prayers (in a qualified Thomistic sense), loves his creation (again, in a Thomistic sense, and not necessarily in the common sense way), and was even incarnated into Jesus. Now Peterson and Hamblin are still free to argue against this conception of the Unmoved Mover, but it doesn’t serve much purpose to simply state that every attempt in history to reconcile Aristotle’s Unmoved Mover with the Biblical God was unsuccessful. It would make more sense to show why they were all unsuccessful.
Now perhaps that might be expecting too much of the article – maybe they were just pointing out that specifically Aristotle’s – and only Aristotle’s – conception of the Unmoved Mover cannot be reconciled with the Biblical God. But when they invoke later Jewish, Muslim, and Christian thinkers – and even Aquinas specifically – it seems uncharitable to overlook any interaction with their formulations of the Unmoved Mover. If anything, it simply gives the impression that every philosopher in the Aristotelian tradition held the exact same views as Aristotle about the Unmoved Mover, which is misleading at best.