Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary defines “unmoved”: “\Un*moved"\, a. Not moved; fixed; firm; unshaken; calm.” It is the duality of the semantics of the definition which best explains Aristotle’s dependency on an “Unmoved Mover” in order for the framework of his Metaphysics to stand on its own. Aristotle’s Mover is not an omniscient anthropomorphic god; Aristotle’s Mover is one of mathematical indivisibility, and experiential detachment. Aristotle’s Mover is refinement of the earlier axiom “All things desire God” – perfection is the ultimate attraction of form, but only in a specific and selective method. The infinite iterations of matter seeking perfection lead to the movement and cycles of the world around us.
Aristotle’s Unmoved Mover is one “whose very essence is actuality”. Debunking the preceding theoretical models of movement, creation, and divinity in Part 6 of Book XII, Aristotle dismisses vague ideas about the eternal nature of movement. Movement did not always exist, nor is it supported “by Empedocles in his doctrine of love and strife”, or the supposition of “potency prior to actuality”. All things in Aristotle’s creation strive towards the ultimate realization of their particular form; it is what drives living things to procreate, and nonliving things, like the seas or the cosmos to move. The Mover is a great pool of tranquility within the endless iterations of change and action it’s existence bring into play through the universe.
The Mover, as it comes to be defined, is an immaterial, indivisible entity – buttressed by the truth that matter is divisible, and matter is changeable, and therefore imperfect. This divinity is a far cry from the free willed, emotionally ruled gods of elder Hellenistic roots, as well as some of the later divine instantiations Aristotle was used to defend (i.e. the Christian Trinity). The Mover is eternal in the way that time is; it moves constantly, the past and future exist as evidence of this motion in “the now”, but, at the same time, that movement does not directly touch the physical, only cause change within the physical. The mover affects the physical, but, at the same time, is apart from it.
As Aristotle states in Part 8 “The first principle or primary being is not movable either in itself or accidentally, but produces the primary eternal and single movement.” The stars want to find their numeric substantial counterparts, and roam endlessly about the circumference of a great circular cosmos – always striving for a single point, yet constantly in motion, unable to attain it. The spheres of the cosmos rely on an infallible and immobile entity which they strive to achieve a likeness of in their particular form of perfection.
The first aspects of the opening definition have been firmly grounded – something which is immaterial cannot conform to the physical laws of movement, and its essence of perfection make it a fixed cause of the motion of all things in their desire to attain that perfection. However, the second half of the definition is the problematic one. How can a god who can be weighed down by the operation of self-consciousness still manage to provide a perfect model to move all things? How could this Mover, immaterial out of mathematical necessity in order to remain perfect, have a tactile knowledge of the physical world which revolves around it? Supposing it did, how would that affect its perfection?
The majority of Part 9 is spent dealing with these aforementioned potential paradoxes.
Aristotle dismisses the first concern raised easily – attributing self-consciousness to a function of common sense which an immaterial being could not have. Much more effort is spent on contemplation on what such a being could spend time pondering. The concept of the Mover constantly thinking of nothing is quickly addressed: “For if it thinks of nothing, what is there here of dignity? It is just like one who sleeps.” Aristotle’s observations about “the good in nature…present both as the leader and the order” suggest that perhaps the Mover contemplates the infinite web of the perfect forms. Whatever the specifics, Aristotle sums up by defining Divine thought as “thought thinking itself”.
The repercussions of the potential pratfalls of a god sheltered from his creation, which is likewise tied to the god’s existence - and at the same time shielded from it, is one of the strongest legacies born of this particular book of Metaphysics. Aristotle created a god which can be known by theoretical science, and those sciences are dependant on that god for their existence. The gulf between the two forms, the Divine, and the Natural (or Physical), however, prevent Science from ever discovering too much about that Mover. This philosophical conundrum led to the rise of three separate religions (Christianity, Mohammedanism, and Neoplatonism), which over time sought to better illuminate the mysterious relationship between the Mover and Matter. This change within thought, striving towards the perfection of its ideal, would probably have pleased, or at least amused Aristotle.
In summation, Aristotle’s Mover is an entity which lives up to both halves of the definition of “Unmoved”. Aristotle’s physical/mathematical structure of the material world required an immobile immaterial of infinite perfection entity as a centerpiece. The lack of self consciousness or sensory and transitory experiences on the part of this god removed it from the physical experiences of the world. The Mover is not affected by the inherent beauty or chaos of the near infinite changes of matter, in their myriads of attempts to attain their singular perfections of form. On both a physical and ethereal level, Aristotle’s Mover achieves the perfection of the form of “Unmoved”.