Friday, April 14, 2006

The Cosmological Argument

The Cosmological Argument

  • The cosmological argument hinges on the idea that we live in a contingent universe, one where nothing is its own cause, but is the result of external influence alone.
  • The classical cosmological argument is also known as the first cause argument, as that is what it all revolves around: the first cause.
  • This theory is a posteriori, as all of it is based on personal experience.
    It goes a little like this:

  • Things come into existence because something has caused them to happen.
  • Things are caused to exist but they do not have to exist.
  • There is a chain of causes going back to the beginning of time.
  • Time began with the creation of the universe.
  • There must have been a first cause, which brought the universe into existence
    This first cause must have necessary existence to cause the contingent universe
    God has necessary existence.
  • Therefore God is the first cause of the contingent universe’s existence.

St. Thomas Aquinas

  • In Aquinas’ unfinished work “Summa Theologica”, Aquinas developed his Five Ways; five proofs for the existence of God. The first three of these form the cosmological argument.
    He very much liked the ideas of Aristotle and generally disbelieved the idea that God’s existence is self evident, he thought that the cosmological argument was a proof for God’s existence, but admitted that it is not possible for it to prove that it is the God of “Classical Theism”.
  • “God’s effects… are enough to prove that God exists, even if they may not be enough to help us comprehend what He is.”
  • The three ways that he supported the cosmological argument was arguing from:
  • Motion or change
  • Cause
  • Contingency


  • This refers to the broadest sense of motion, not just movement in the classical sense of space and time, but also movement in terms of any kind of alteration (be it quantitatively or qualitatively!)
  • He argues that any movement comes about by the application of external force.
  • These movements could not regress infinitely for all time; the must be a “prime mover”, unmoved in itself. This “unmoved mover” is argued to be God.
  • He carries on by saying that external influence is required to alter a things potentiality to its actuality, in the same way that when heat is applied to wood, the wood achieves its potential to become hot and burst into flame.
  • Without something to do this, for it to happen on its own, it’s potential and actual would be apparent all at once!
  • Aquinas considered this daft, as if things were like this all the time then surely wood would already be hot! (I think that’s a little daft. It can easily be argued that things are already their actual and potential in being what they are.)
  • This is where the external influence comes in, which cannot go on indefinitely.


  • Aquinas observes chains of cause and effect throughout the universe, bringing things into existence and out of it, so on and so on.
  • Aquinas said that nothing can be the cause of itself, otherwise it would have to have existed before it existed, which is logically silly.
  • There must have been a first cause. This, it appears, would have to be God.


  • Considering the idea of infinite time, things which are contingent, by definition, cannot exist forever, and thus there must have been a time when nothing existed.
  • If there was a time when there was nothing at all, then why are there things around now? Things cannot just bring themselves into existence.
  • So, the cause of the universe and it’s contingent contents must be external to the universe and must have always existed.
  • There must have been a necessary being to bring everything else into existence.
  • This is argued to be God.

Gottfriend Liebniz &
Sufficient Reason

  • He liked the cosmological argument, believing there had to be a “sufficient reason” for the universe to exist.
  • He dispelled the idea of an infinite universe as he believed there was no satisfactory explanation for it’s existence.


  • He believes that we are prone to embellishments of the imagination! We make rash judgements between cause and effect! He claims, in fact, that we cannot assume connections between cause and effect at all! Apparently, we see two events, in conjunction, and believe them to be linked by cause and effect, when in reality they are two separate events.
  • This is known as “induction”, and is a terrible offence in logical thinking.
  • Deduction is the preferred, logical method.
  • Hume accuses Aquinas of an inductive leap of logic, starting with familiar concepts and then barrelling onward into things far outside of our understanding.
  • Who is this God fellow anyway? We have no prior experience of God’s and Universes going hand in hand. If, for the whole of your life, you had seen things exist only as pairs then it may be fair to, on seeing one of a pair, be safe in the knowledge that it’s other half is somewhere close by. However, we have never had experience of Universe-God pairings before and thus it is unreasonable to simply assume that this is the case.
  • He also asked why the universe had to have a beginning.
  • “How can anything that exists from eternity have a cause, since that relation implies a priority in time and in a beginning of existence?”
  • Hume goes on to illustrate the fact that we have no direct experience of the creation of universes. As a result, we cannot speak meaningfully about it! He thought thusly that there was not sufficient evidence to prove the cause of the universe, or even that the universe was caused at all.


  • He believes that cause and event is only applicable to the world of sense experience, being inapplicable to something we have never experienced before.
  • So, it’s a bit daft to try and extend our own experience to things that we do not truly understand and transcend what we already know.
  • As God is believed to be causal and outside of space and time, any real inferences we make about him ultimately fall flat on their face.

Anthony Kenny

  • In his book “The Five Ways”, Kenny tells us that Aquinas principles overlook the very apparent fact that sentient creatures are quite capable of self propelled movement. He goes on to say that Newtonian Mechanics, and in particular, Newton’s first law of motion disproves this, as inertia constitutes a form of self motion, brought about by a bodies previous motions. Not to mention that objects are quite capable of moving without external influence, as an applied force only causes an acceleration on a mass. A mass remains at rest without a force being applied, or in a uniform state of motion.
  • Philosophers have pointed out that “movement” as meant by Aquinas, however, actually means any change of state whatsoever, not necessarily spatio-temporal movement.

We like science

  • Originally, the steady state theory was used scientifically to disprove the cosmological argument. This argues that “the universe is a huge, self-regulating, self-sustaining mechanism, with the capacity to self-organise ad infinitum” (Paul Davies, The Cosmic Blueprint).
  • This has been dropped, of late, to make way for the Big Bang Theory.
  • This supports that the universe had a beginning and is used by everyone to prove or disprove the cosmological argument!
  • The Big Bang shows us that the universe had a beginning as well as a development of a regularity and structure quite early on in its life. The debate rests on whether the cause of the big bang was natural or divine


My doctor says if I don't stop doing this I'll be dead before August!

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