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Kelly, A. (2007). Resolving Aristotle's Antinomy of Creation. PHILICA.COM Article number 96.

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Resolving Aristotle’s Antinomy of Creation

Anthony Kellyconfirmed user (Faculty of Education, Humanities, Law and Theology, Flinders University)

Published in anthro.philica.com

I argue that Aristotle is correct in his apparently contradictory conclusions that God is necessary as the first mover to explain the existence of the world and that God is not able to be the cause of an entity that is significantly different from God.

I conclude that the cosmic process exists to make possible the self-creation of a communal entity with a nature that is not significantly different from God’s nature, resolving Aristotle’s antinomy. Humans are involved in this self-creating process, constructing relevant aspects of their individual natures and their cultures. This self-creative process can enable humans to become similar to God in knowledge, creativity and goodness.

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In "The Intelligent Design of the Cosmos" (2006) I argue that the Cosmos is an intelligent design, a freely operating process of material self-organisation and human self-creation. Homo sapiens become human by first developing a mind and then beginning to create their individual and communal moral and spiritual natures.


In "Resolving the Goldilocks Enigma" (2007) I argue that the Life-friendliness of the Universe is neither a chance occurrence in a Multiverse nor the result of intervention by a "hands-on" God. God is necessarily "hands-off" the world, which is Humanity's "do-it-yourself kit".


In this paper I resolve Aristotle's antinomy of creation, propose an explanation of God's motive for creation, and provide a solution to the problem of evil.


APOLOGIA In previous roles as a Criminal Investigator and as Police Prosecutor I found Criminals were seldom obliging enough to commit crimes in front of witnesses. I always had to construct a coherent case from the available evidence. When I turned to Philosophical Cosmology I discovered I was immersed in the evidence that supports the case I make in these papers.




There are four Emergent Stages to date: Matter, Life, Mind and the present Human Moral-cultural Stage. The cosmic process involves the free self-organisation of the Emergent Stages of Matter and Life, followed by the free self-creation of the Human Mind and of the Human Moral-cultural Emergent Stage. The Emergent Stages of Matter and Life develop from the energy of the Big Bang and some of the information provided by the mathematical constants that accompany the Big Bang. These mathematical constants "constitute a recipe for a universe." (Rees 2000, 4) They inform the laws of nature of the Emergent Stages of Matter and Life and of the natural Moral Law.


A new Emergent Stage begins when an existing Emergent Stage develops to a point where some product of the existing Stage becomes capable of expressing another aspect of the information provided by the mathematical constants. The first Emergent Stage, Matter, freely self-organises into Galaxies, Stars and Solar systems. At least one life-friendly planet, Earth, is eventually produced by this process.


The development of a life-friendly planet provides the opportunity for another aspect of the information provided by the mathematical constants to inform some appropriate terrestrial matter, enabling Life to emerge. Life then freely evolves, new forms of life developing in response to internal genetic processes and to changing environments. Life-forms tend to increase in complexity and animal life-forms tend to increase in cephalisation. From about one million years ago a series of large-brained Hominid species evolve. As with all life-forms, Hominids have the instinctive knowledge necessary for the species to survive in its environment. Homo sapiens, the most recent Hominid species, evolve some 160,000 years ago. This species is initially limited to the same pattern of instinctive activity as other earlier Hominids.


Eventually some Homo sapiens begin a process of self-creation, using their cognitive capacity to acquire and apply physical knowledge beyond the basic level of knowledge provided by instinct. The Human mind develops in this self-creative process. This development differentiates Homo sapiens from every other Hominid species. The development of a mind justifies the term "Human" being applied to Homo sapiens, but not to other Hominids. The first clear physical evidence of the development of the Human mind appears in the Upper Palaeolithic Revolution some 40,000 years ago.


The next Emergent Stage, the Human Moral-cultural Emergent Stage, begins some 3,000 years ago. Prior to this, human cultures had developed customs that appeared to be appropriate to their situation, but these were other than moral. Eventually some humans began to realise that actions can have a moral dimension, in the Kantian sense of relating to a natural Moral Law. Bruno Snell charts the development of the idea of the moral in the Ancient Greek world. In Chapter 8 of "The Discovery of the Mind" he notes, for example,  that "goodness" in Homer's time related to either utility or profit, rather than to moral goodness, and that to possess virtue, or to be good, related to realising one's nature or one's wishes, again without any moral dimension.  (1982, 158-9). The moral law is still perceived, understood or applied by individual humans to a widely variable extent. Most people get their idea of morality from what is considered acceptable practice in their culture. As Lawrence Kohlberg has shown, only a minority of people are yet capable of making principled moral decisions.  The Human Moral-cultural Emergent Stage clearly has much further to develop.


All these developments occur freely and take time. The development of Matter after the Big Bang is a freely operating process of material self-organisation. The Evolution of Life is also a freely operating  process of self-organisation, as is the development of human cultures. The Human Moral-cultural Stage also develops freely, being dependent on the influence of individual moral insights. Humans enjoy total freedom in relation to the moral law, which can command but cannot compel. The freedom of the cosmic process of Emergent Evolution provides us with evidence relevant to the motive for creation.




Consideration of the motive for creation begins with Aristotle. In his "Christian Revelation and the Completion of the Aristotelian Revolution" (1988) Patrick Madigan outlines the discussion of God's motive for creation from Aristotle to Aquinas and beyond. None of the explanations of God's motive considered by Madigan ultimately prove to be satisfactory.


Aristotle begins the discussion of motive by establishing two apparently contradictory conclusions. (1) God is necessary, as first mover, to explain the existence of the world, and (2) God is not able to cause an entity that is significantly different from God. As Madigan puts it: "Aristotle establishes simultaneously two very strong points: first, that God must exist as a necessary first cause to explain the world, and secondly that God, if he exists, could not cause a world significantly distinct from himself. Both conclusions are demonstrated as necessarily true, and the one contradicts the other". (1988, 16)  Aristotle's conclusion that God could not cause a world significantly different from God also appeared to be contradicted by his empirical knowledge of the world. He ultimately concludes that God could only be engaged in contemplation directed back to God, the world not being worthy of God's concern.


Subsequent discussion of God's motive for creation has sought to avoid Aristotle's antinomy, rather than to confront or resolve it. Plotinus, for example, argues that the world is "produced necessarily but unconsciously as an automatic emanation from God's nature". (Madigan 1988, 62) Madigan's own explanation of the existence of the world, its generation by an expansion of the circuit of divine self-love (1988, 118) is similar to Plotinus' device of an emanation of the world from God's goodness. Both these explanations make God directly responsible for evil.




Any satisfactory explanation of the world has to account for the existence of evil. Evil could no more derive from an expansion of God's self-love than it could derive from an emanation from God's nature. Whether a satisfactory accounting for evil could ever be given has been doubted. John Courtney Murray asks how the world can be a place of manifold evil and an arena of human misery if an all-mighty God exists. He maintains that the problem of evil utterly defeats philosophy. (1964, 104) I challenge this view.


The potential of evil is an unavoidable consequence of the freedom of every stage of the process of Emergent Evolution. Natural evil is a product of the self-organising nature of developments at the Emergent Stages of Matter and Life. Moral evil is an unavoidable consequence of the complete freedom of the Human Moral-cultural Emergent Stage of the process. This complete freedom is the essence of the processes of self-organisation and self-creation.




The explanations of the production of the world surveyed by Madigan, and Madigan's own explanation, all seek to avoid the force of Aristotle's conclusion that God could only be the cause of an entity that is similar to God. They seek to provide some other way to connect God to the world, in order to avoid Aristotle's conclusion.


Aquinas arrives at a similar conclusion to Aristotle. Madigan summarises Aquinas' conclusion that God will, as far as able, create another "God", the closest approximation to himself, as like produces like. Later Theologians proposed that the motive for God's creation had to be the production of a perfect creature, which they argued had been realised in the person of Jesus Christ, "the creature that uniquely justifies the enterprise of creation". (Madigan, 1988, 111)  These theologians sought to avoid the uncomfortable reality of man in general by focussing on Christ as the one person who justifies creation, reasoning that the world was created as the only way to produce Jesus.


Commenting on this tactic Madigan recognises that Christ "is the proleptic anticipation of the life-form that should eventually characterise the world as a whole." (1988, 124, Note 6). Madigan does not suggest how this transition to a new life-form might occur, but a further development of the present Human Moral-cultural Emergent Stage could possibly provide such a transition. This would depend upon significant further human self-development, in particular on moral development. The moral law could even become inherent in humanity.


None of the arguments considered by Madigan confront Aristotle's conclusions that God is necessary as a first cause to explain the existence of the world, and that God could not cause a world which is significantly different from God.  Aquinas' argument is more specific than Aristotle's, as he speaks of another "god" both as created, and as being the closest possible approximation of the original.  These descriptions appear at first sight to be self-contradictory.  There can be no "close approximation" between a creator God and a created entity.  The difference between creator and created is perhaps the most significant difference which could exist between two entities.


However the extent of the difference between creator and created could depend on who does the creating. If Aquinas' "other god" is self-created, in those aspects of its being that make it similar to God, it could well become the closest possible approximation to the original. There cannot be another self-existent being, but there could possibly be a communal entity that is self-created in those aspects of its being that make it similar to God. Understanding God's causal activity as restricted to direct creation has hindered us from recognising that God could initiate a process that could enable the self-creation of new aspects of the being of a created entity.


Aristotle's original position that God could not cause a world which was significantly different from God is worth further consideration. Our adoption of the Hebrew concept of mankind as a special creation "in the image of God" may have contributed to our failure to resolve the Aristotelian antinomy. Man is only a special creation to the extent that he is self-created in those aspects of his being that make him similar to God.




The contradiction between Aristotle's conclusions that God is necessary as a first cause to explain the existence of the world and that God cannot cause a world that is significantly different from God, is more apparent than real. The contradiction rests upon the unstated assumption that the world is a finished product rather than a stage in a continuing process.


We are in a much better position than Aristotle to appreciate the extent of the changes in the cosmos since the Big Bang, the changes in life since it first evolved and the changes in Homo sapiens since the species first evolved. It is now commonplace to understand the world as evolving or in process.


The old idea of a completed world was reinforced by the Biblical idea of a completed creation.  Clifford notes the effect Mesopotamian myths had upon biblical cosmogonies. He provides an example of the belief in Mesopotamia that everything was fixed permanently on the day of creation. (1988, 151-2) That assumption is untenable in the light of what is now known of the development of the cosmos since the Big Bang. 




I accept Aristotle's conclusions that God is the necessary first cause and that God could not cause an entity that is significantly different from God. It is also clear that God can not create another self-existent entity. God can only create creatures. So what course could God adopt to resolve this problem?

God could initiate a freely operating cosmic process of Emergent Evolution. Once big-brained animal species appear within the evolutionary process, the possibility becomes open to members of such species to begin a process of self-creation, utilising their cognitive capacity to generate a mind that could operate beyond the limitations of instinct. Homo sapiens appear to be the only species to successfully begin this process, despite an earlier species, Homo neanderthalis, having a larger brain. There has also a suggestion by Helmut Ziegert, of the Institute of Archaeology at Hamburg University, that some Homo erectus had begun a form of self-development by living in settled communities before Homo sapiens evolved.

It appears that the purpose of the process of Emergent Evolution is to enable the ultimate self-creation of a communal entity that is not significantly different from God. When the  process is understood in this way, the contradiction between Aristotle's conclusions disappears. If the purpose of the process is eventually achieved God, by creating this freely operating Cosmos, will be the ultimate cause of another entity that is similar to God.




The process of human self-creation begins with the self-creation of the human mind. This is followed by the development of human cultures, as evidenced by the Upper Palaeolithic Revolution. The Human Moral-cultural Stage begins about 3,000 years ago. Within the Jewish culture there is a critical focus on the imperative of moral action for up to a millennium before Jesus.  Within the Greek culture the capacity to reason critically appears with the Pre-Socratics. Bruno Snell notes in "The Discovery of the Mind": "the rise of critical thinking among the Greeks was nothing less than a revolution. They did not, by means of   mental equipment already at their disposal, merely map out new subjects for discussion, such as the sciences and philosophy. They discovered the human mind." (1982, v) In this passage Snell is not addressing the self-creation of the human mind, as I have done, but the initial recognition by a group of humans that they had developed a mind which they could apply to matters that were beyond the prevailing pre-critical paradigm.


The Jewish and Greek cultures were subsequently linked as a result of Alexander's efforts to take Greek culture to the rest of the world. (Weigall, 1933, Chapter 8) Socrates is a product of the Greek cultural process of human self-creation. Jesus is a product of both the Jewish and Hellenistic processes of human self-creation. Both Jesus and Socrates result from concentrated processes of individual and cultural self-creation, within the processes of Human Moral-cultural self-creation. They both indicate that the probable goal of the present Moral-cultural Emergent Stage is the emergence of humans in whom the Moral law is inherent.


In Jesus' case the Jewish emphasis on acting morally, which had been maintained for up to one millennium prior to his birth, enabled him to develop as a proleptic example of the next Emergent Stage. The Moral law appeared to be inherent in Jesus' nature, rather than merely being perceived to some limited extent, as occurs with most humans. Whether this Jewish Moral-cultural process could continue to produce such people was not tested. The Romans sacked Jerusalem soon after Jesus' death, destroying the Jewish culture and dispersing the Jews among other cultures.


Apart from his inherently moral nature Jesus was a person of his own time and place. He could only understand himself within the categories of the understanding that were available in his time. Being learned in the Jewish Scriptures he considered himself, and was considered by others, to be the Messiah.  He discovered otherwise, hence the anguished "Why have you abandoned me?"  




The cosmic process exists to make possible the production of a communal entity that is not significantly different from God, resolving Aristotle's antinomy. Humans are involved in a process of self-creation that could result in humans becoming similar to God in knowledge, creativity and goodness.


Homo sapiens have already developed themselves from being animals in a habitat to becoming persons in a community, through the process of Human Moral-cultural self-creation. This occurred without their having any understanding of the overall process in which they are engaged.  They can now consciously engage in making themselves and their cultures similar to God in knowledge, creativity and goodness. The example of both Socrates and Jesus would suggest that morality is the most important characteristic to develop.


To make the process of self-creation possible God initiates the "Big Bang", providing the Time, the Energy and the Mathematical Constants that begin the process of Emergent Evolution. This process ensures the development of life-forms with the cognitive capacity to develop a mind and to begin to become similar to God. The rest was, and still is, up to us.




Clifford R.J.   (1988)  "Creation in the Hebrew Bible"   in   Physics, Philosophy and Theology

                                      Vatican, Vatican Observatory


Kelly A.          (2006)  "The Intelligent Design of the Cosmos"   PHILICA.COM Article No. 50           


Kelly A.           (2007)  "Resolving the Goldilocks Enigma - An Evidence Based Approach"

                                        PHILICA.COM Article Number 87


Madigan P.       (1988)   Christian Revelation and the Completion of the Aristotelian  Revolution

                                       Lanham U.P. America


Murray J.C.      (1964)    The Problem of God New Haven, Yale University Press


Rees Martin      (2000)    Just Six Numbers,  London, Phoenix


Snell Bruno       (1982)    The Discovery of the Mind  Dover Publications, New York.


Weigall  A.        (1933)     Alexander the Great London,   Thornton Butterworth

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Kelly, A. (2007). Resolving Aristotle’s Antinomy of Creation. PHILICA.COM Article number 96.

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