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The Prime Mover of Metaphysics Lambda is the source, above all, of eternal motion in the first sphere. It may seem silly to ask 'What (according to Lambda) does the Prime Mover do?' The answer is obvious: 'He — or it — gives rise to the motion of the first sphere'. But according to a widely accepted interpretation, this is not what the Prime Mover does first and foremost; instead, the Mover essentially contemplates. This contemplative conception is my target here. I shall adduce reasons for suspecting that the contemplative Prime Mover is not an Aristotelian postulate in Lambda, but an exegetical construct. I shall simultaneously make a case for holding that the actual Prime Mover in Lambda should be viewed as a kinetic agent (which is how the Prime Mover is generally presented elsewhere in the corpus). These arguments are founded on conceptual as well as textual considerations, and on reasonable assumptions concerning Aristotle's aims in Lambda and his capacity for self-criticism especially in respect of absurdities for which he castigates other philosophers. I shall not, however, rely on debatable hypotheses about the development of his theology through several treatises, or about his journey towards or away from Platonism. I shall be concerned with the Prime Mover only in Metaphysics Lambda, and within Lambda I shall restrict the discussion to relations that may be thought to obtain between the Prime Mover, the first sphere, and the movement of that sphere. And as well as saying almost nothing about the other spheres and their movers, I shall touch only briefly on the celebrated doctrine in Ch. 9 that the Prime Mover's activity is a thinking of thinking.


Sarah Waterlow Broadie presented “What does Aristotle’s Prime Mover do?” to the Society for Ancient Greek Philosophy at its meeting with the Eastern Division of the American Philosophical Association in Boston, 1994. An alternative version was published (in French) in Revue Philosophique 2 (1993) 375-411.

For information about the author see Wikipedia "Sarah Broadie."