How Does Aristotle Describe God in Metaphysics XII?


Vincent White

In Metaphysics XII, Aristotle discusses the concept of God as the first cause and unmoved mover of all things. He argues that God is a necessary being who transcends time and space, and is the source of all existence. Aristotle’s description of God is a fascinating insight into ancient Greek philosophy and continues to be a subject of interest for modern scholars.

The First Cause

According to Aristotle, everything in the universe has a cause. However, there must be an initial cause that sets everything else in motion.

This first cause, he argues, must be eternal and unchanging because if it were subject to change or decay, it would not be able to bring about change in other things. This first cause is what we call God.

The Unmoved Mover

Aristotle also describes God as the unmoved mover. This means that God is not affected by anything in the universe but instead acts as an external force that sets everything else in motion.

He argues that if something were to move itself, it would have to already possess the potential for movement within itself. Therefore, there must be an external force that initiates movement and this external force is what we call God.

Necessary Being

For Aristotle, God is a necessary being which means that His existence cannot be denied without contradiction. He argues that everything in the universe exists either necessarily or contingently.

Necessary beings exist because they must exist by their very nature while contingent beings rely on other things for their existence. Since everything cannot rely on something else for its existence indefinitely, there must be at least one necessary being which we call God.

Transcendent Being

Aristotle describes God as a transcendental being who exists beyond time and space. He argues that since time and space are properties of contingent beings they cannot apply to an eternal and necessary being like God. Therefore, God exists outside of time and space and is not subject to the limitations of the physical universe.


Aristotle’s description of God in Metaphysics XII provides us with a fascinating insight into ancient Greek philosophy. His arguments for the existence of God as the first cause, unmoved mover, necessary being, and transcendent being continue to be debated by scholars today. Regardless of one’s personal beliefs about God, Aristotle’s description provides us with a compelling philosophical perspective on the nature of existence itself.