Bruce Reichenbach has formulated a fairly typical version of the. Thomist cosmological argument based on the principle of efficient causality.1 More recently. be advanced against my version of the cosmological argument, 2 two of which 2 Bruce R. Reichenbach, The Cosmological Argument: A Reassessment. Cosmological Argument. Bruce Reichenbach. The cosmological argument is less a particular argument than an argument type. It uses a general pattern of.
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The cosmological argument is less a particular argument than an argument type. It uses a general pattern of argumentation logos that makes an inference from certain alleged facts about the world cosmos to the existence of dosmological unique being, generally identified with or referred to as God. Among these initial facts are that the world came into being, that the world is contingent in that it could have been other than it is, or that certain beings or events in the world are causally dependent or contingent.
From these facts philosophers infer either deductively or inductively that a first cause, a necessary being, an unmoved mover, or a personal being God exists.
The cosmological argument is part of classical natural theology, whose goal has been to provide some evidence for the claim that God exists. On the one hand, the argument arises from human curiosity as to why there is something rather than nothing.
It invokes a concern for some complete, ultimate, or best explanation of what exists contingently. In what follows we will first sketch out a reichenbzch brief history of the argument, note the two fundamental types of deductive cosmological arguments, and then provide a careful analysis of each, first the argument from contingency, then the argument from the impossibility of an infinite temporal regress of causes.
In the end we will consider an inductive version of the cosmological argument. Islamic philosophy enriches the cossmological, developing two types of arguments. The Arabic philosophers falasifa developed the atemporal argument from contingency, which is taken up by Thomas Aquinas —74 in his Summa Theologica I,q. The world is composed of temporal phenomena preceded by other temporally ordered phenomena. Since such a series of temporal phenomena cannot continue to infinity, the world bruec have had a beginning and a cause of its existence, namely, God Craigpart 1.
During the Enlightenment, writers such as Georg Wilhelm Leibniz and Samuel Clarke reaffirmed the cosmological argument. The principle of sufficient reason is likewise employed by Samuel Clark in his cosmological argument Rowechap. We could admit an infinite regress of causes if we had evidence for such, but lacking such evidence, God must exist as the non-dependent cause.
Many of the objections to the argument contend that God is an inappropriate cause because of God’s nature. For example, since God is immobile and has no body, he cannot properly be said to cause anything. The cosmological argument came under serious assault in the 18 th century, first by David Hume and reichenabch by Immanuel Kant. Hume attacks both the view of causation presupposed in the argument that causation is an objective, productive relation that holds between two things and the Causal Principle—every contingent being has a cause of its being—that lies at the heart of the argument.
Kant contends that the cosmological argument, in identifying the necessary being, relies on the ontological argument, which in turn is suspect. We will return to these criticisms below. Both theists and non-theists in the last part of the 20 th century generally have shown a healthy skepticism about the argument. Alvin Plantingareivhenbach. Similarly, Michael Martinchap. Yet dissenting voices can be heard. It is very unlikely that a universe would exist uncaused, but rather more likely that God would exist uncaused.
In short, contemporary philosophers continue to contribute detailed arguments on both sides of the debate. Craig distinguishes three types of cosmological arguments.
The first, advocated by Aquinas, is based on the impossibility of an essentially ordered infinite regress. Another way of distinguishing between versions of the argument is in terms of the relevance of time. In Aquinas’s version, reichenbah of the essential ordering of the causes or reasons proceeds independent of temporal concerns.
The relationship between cause and effect is treated as real but not temporal, so that the first cause is not a first cause in time but a sustaining cause.
Explanation and the Cosmological Argument
The distinction between these types of argument is important because the objections raised against one version may cosmologicql be relevant to the other versions. Thomas Aquinas held that among the things whose existence needs explanation are contingent beings that depend for their existence upon other beings.
Richard Taylor99— and others argue that the universe meaning everything that ever existedas contingent, needs explanation. The response of the cosmological argument is cosmologiccal what is contingent exists because of a necessary being.
The cosmological argument begins with a fact about experience, namely, that something exists. We might sketch out the argument as follows. Over the centuries philosophers have suggested various instantiations for the contingent being noted in premise 1.
In his Summa Theologica I, q. Whereas the contingency of particular existents is generally undisputed, the contingency of the universe deserves some defense see 3. Premise 2 invokes a version of the Principle of Causation or the Principle of Sufficient Reason; if something is contingent, there must be a cause of its existence or reichenbaach reason why it exists rather than not exists.
The point of 3 is simply that something cannot cause its own existence, for this would require it to already be in a logical if not a temporal sense.
Premise 4 is true by virtue of the Principle of Excluded Middle: Conclusions 6 and cosmolotical follow cpsmological from the respective premises.
For many critics, premise 5 holds the key to the argument’s success or failure. Whether 5 is true depends upon the requirements for an adequate explanation. According to the Principle of Sufficient Reason, what is required is an explanation that includes a causal argiment in terms of sufficient conditions and the reason why the cause had the effect it did.
Bruce Reichenbach, Explanation and the Cosmological Argument – PhilPapers
Quinn argues that an adequate explanation need not provide a complete explanation, depending on the context. If the contingent being in premise 1 is the universe, then an adequate explanation would require something beyond the contingent factors that, as part of the universe, are to be explained. It requires the existence of a non-contingent or necessary being. That contingent or dependent things e.
Finally, it should be noted in 7 that if the contingent being identified in 1 is the universe, the argumdnt being cannot provide a natural explanation for it, for we know of no natural, non-contingent causes and laws or principles exist from which the existence of the universe follows. What is required is a personal explanation in terms of the intentional acts of some eternal supernatural being. Since the argument proceeds independent of temporal considerations, the argument does not propose a first cause in time, but rather a first or cpsmological sustaining cause of the universe.
As Aquinas noted, the philosophical arguments for God’s existence are compatible with the eternity of the universe On the Eternity of the World. That the first sustaining cause is God is not part of the cosmological argument per sealthough defenders of the argument sometimes create additional arguments to identify the first cause. O’Connor argues that being a necessary being cannot be a derivative emergent property, otherwise the being would be contingent. Likewise the connection between the essential properties must be necessary.
Hence, the universe cannot be the necessary being since it is mereologically complex. Similarly, the myriad elementary particles cannot be necessary beings either, for their distinguishing distributions are externally caused and hence contingent. Rather, he contends that a more viable account of the Necessary Being is as a purposive agent with desires, intentions, and beliefs, whose activity is guided but not determined by its goals.
All of these claims are challenged, as we shall see shortly. Koons is more willing to identify the necessary being as God, constructing corollaries regarding God’s nature that follow from his construction of the cosmological argument.
Oppy is rightly skeptical about the possibility of such a deductive move. Critics have objected to most of the premises in the argument.
We will consider the most important objections and responses. Interpreting the contingent being in premise 1 as the universe, Bertrand Russell denies that the universe needs an explanation; it just is. Russell, following Humecontends that since we derive the concept of cause from our observation of particular things, we cannot ask about the cause of something like the universe that we cannot experience.
But we don’t need to experience every possible referent of the class of contingent things to be able to conclude that a cos,ological thing needs a cause. Similarly, one does not need to experience a contingent cosmos to know it is caused. But why should we think that the cosmos is contingent?
Defenders of the argument contend argumetn if the components of the universe are contingent, the universe itself is contingent. Russell replies that the move from the contingency of the components of the universe to the contingency of the universe commits the Fallacy of Composition, which mistakenly concludes that since the parts coamological a certain property, the whole likewise has that property.
Hence, whereas we can ask for the cause of particular things, we cannot ask for the cause of the universe or the set of all contingent beings. Russell correctly notes that arguments of the part-whole type can commit the Fallacy of Composition. For example, the argument that since all the bricks in the wall are small, the wall is small, is fallacious.
Yet it is an informal fallacy of content, not a formal fallacy. Sometimes the totality has the same quality as the parts because reichenbzch the nature of the parts invoked—the wall is brick because it is built of bricks. The universe’s contingency, theists argue, resembles the second case.
If all the contingent things reichnebach the universe, including matter and energy, ceased to exist simultaneously, the universe itself, aryument the totality of these things, would cease to exist.
But if the universe can brufe to exist, it is contingent and requires an explanation for its existence Reichenbach, chap. Some reply that this argument for the contingency of the universe coxmological is fallacious, for even if every contingent being were to fail to exist in some possible world, it may be the case that there is no possible world that lacks a contingent being. Argumeng is, though no being would exist in geichenbach possible world, every world would possess at least one contingent being.
Rowe gives the example of a horse race. Rowe’s example, however, fails, for it is possible that all the horses break a leg and none finishes the race. That is, the necessity that some horse will win follows only if there is some reason to think that some horse must finish the race.
Similarly, his objection to the universe’s contingency will hold only if there is some reason to think that the existence of something is necessary. One argument given in defense of this thesis is that the existence of one contingent being may be necessary for the nonexistence of some other contingent being. But though the fact that something’s existence is necessary for the existence of something else holds for certain properties for example, the existence of children is necessary for someone to be a parentit is doubtful that something’s existence is necessary for something else’s nonexistence per sewhich is what is needed to support the arugment that denies the contingency of the universe.
Hence, given the contingency of everything in the universe, it remains that there is a possible world without any contingent beings. Whether reifhenbach argument for the contingency of the universe is similar to that advanced by Aquinas in the Third Way depends on how one interprets Aquinas’s argument. However, Haldane Smart and Haldane, defends the cogency of Aquinas’s reasoning on the grounds that Aquinas’s argument is fallacious only on a temporal reading, but Aquinas’s argument employs an atemporal ordering of contingent beings.
That is, Aquinas does not hold that over time there would be nothing, but that in the per se ordering of causes, if every contingent thing in that order did not exist, there would be nothing.
To avoid any hint of the Fallacy of Composition and to avoid these complications, Koons —99 formulates the argument for the contingency of the universe as a mereological argument.
If something is contingent, it contains a contingent part. The whole and part overlap, and by cosmologicaal of overlapping, have a common part. Since the part in virtue of which they overlap is wholly contingent, the whole likewise must be contingent.