Graham Oppy recently published a paper in Religious Studies entitled, “On stage one of Feser’s ‘Aristotelian proof” (see here) which seeks to refute Feser’s defense of the First Way. Now I do not presume to have the intellectual expertise of either of them, but I would nevertheless like to write my initial thoughts and compare notes with Feser’s future response. What follows is my brief defense of the First Way.
Oppy’s central claim is this:
Potentials to remain unchanged do not require distinct actualizers; all they require is the absence of any preventers of the actualization of those potentials. In particular, things that have the potential to go on existing go on existing unless there are preventers – internal or external – that cause those things to cease to exist.
He uses the analogy that a chair that is red at t1 has the potential to continue to exist and be red at t2. This potential does not need to be actualized by something else; it just continues being actual as it was before. This idea is not new. It’s called existential inertia, which holds that once something is in existence, it naturally continues to exist without any cause. Let’s suppose that Oppy is right here. This is not change in the strict sense that Feser is talking about. The common person would never claim something that stays the same has changed. Change is when a red chair becomes a green chair. Or in more Aristotelian language, it’s when the red chair’s potential to be green is actualized. The First Way never says unchanged things need distinct actualizers, only that changed things need distinct actualizers. So it seems to me that Oppy’s objection is irrelevant.