Lecture 05 Notes

The Cosmological Argument: Background

  1. Aquinas: 1225-1274; Clarke: 1675-1729
  2. Sources of Explanations: Three Options
    1. Explained by Other
    2. Explained by Nothing
    3. Explained by Self
  3. Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR):
    1. Individual things and events need an explanation.
    2. Positive facts need an explanation.

 

The Cosmological Argument: First Version (Aquinas)

  1. Things are moved/changed/caused by something else.
    1. The causal series that Aquinas has in mind is not a temporal series.  He is concerned with sustaining causes.  For example, consider a chain with several links that is hanging from a hook.  For any link in the chain, the immediate sustaining cause of its being suspended from the ground is the link immediately above it.
    2. This premise assumes PSRa.  Things require an explanation (i.e., a mover, a changer, or a cause).
    3. Note--This premise rules out "nothing" as a source of explanation.
  2. This cannot go on forever.
    1. Problems with an infinite regress--it violates PSRb.  
    2. There would be no explanation for the positive fact that there is this infinite series of moving/changing/causing.
  3. Therefore, there must be a first mover/changer/cause.
  4. This is God.

 

The Cosmological Argument: Second Version (Clarke)

  1. Every being is either dependent or self-existent.
    1. Dependent Being = Explained by other
    2. Self-existent Being = Explained by self
    3. Note--This premise rules out "nothing" as a source of explanation.
    4. This premise assumes PSRa.  Things require an explanation (either self or other).
  2. Not every being can be dependent.
    1. Problem with an infinite series of dependent beings--it violates PSRb. 
    2. There would be no explanation for the positive fact that there is this infinite series of dependent beings.
  3. Therefore, there must be a self-existent being.
  4. This is God.

 

The Cosmological Argument: Objections and Replies

  1. Attacks on First Version
    1. Why must uncaused event be God?
      • Reply: Misunderstanding Point of Argument
      • The proponent of the argument does not think that he has given an argument for the full picuture of God given by a particular religion. 
      • However, he has given an argument for the existence of a being with one of the key features of the western conception of God, namely, first cause.  Agreeing that there is such a being would be a major concession on the part of the atheist.
    2. What's wrong with infinite regress, where individual events are explained by another, ad infinitum?
      • Reply: But What Explains the Series of Events?  Appealing to the second part of PSR (PSRb), the proponent of the argument would note that the positive fact of the existence of an infinite series of events would be left unexplained if the series were in fact infinite.
  2. Attacks on Second Version
    1. Fallacy of Composition--Just because the members of set need explanation, the set itself does not.
      • This attack assumes the following reasoning behind premise 2--(1) Every being of the series of dependent beings needs an explanation.  (2) The series itself must have every feature that its members have.  (3) Therefore, the series itself must have an explanation.  But this is to commit the fallacy of thinking that a set must have the same features as its parts.
      • Reply: Again, Second Part of PSR.  This attack misunderstands the reasoning behind premise 2.  The proponent of the argument thinks that the series itself needs an explanation because he holds to PSRb.
    2. But why accept PSR???
      • Against PSR--It seems that there are brute facts; facts for which there is no explanation (e.g., the speed of light).  But if there are brute facts, then PSR is false.
      • Defense of PSR--(1) Intuitive; (2) Presupposition of Reason--the very act of reasoning is the search for an explanation.
    3. Why doesn't PSR apply to God?
      • Reply: Appeal to Self-Existence.  PSR does apply to God.  God explains himself (appeal here to the Ontological argument?).
      • Rebuttal: But What Explains the Positive Fact That God is Self-Explaining?!?
Citation: Ramsey, W. (2006, September 19). Lecture 05 Notes. Retrieved October 23, 2014, from Notre Dame OpenCourseWare Web site: http://ocw.nd.edu/philosophy/introduction-to-philosophy-1/lectures/lecture-05-notes.
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