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The Cosmological Argument
Transcript of The Cosmological Argument
for the existence of a God
Zagzeski - pp.41-48
Philosophy of Religion
The cosmological argument is an argument for God's existence based on the existence of the universe and some of its basic features.
This means that, unlike the Teleological/Design Argument (which we'll be discussing in the coming days), Cosmological Arguments don't rely on controversial claims about physics or biology.
Some Historical Proponents of the Cosmological Argument
384BC - 322 BC
C. 980 - 1037
1225 - 1274
William Lane Craig
1949 - Present
Different Kinds of Cosmological Argument
The Kalam Cosmological Argument
Originally formulated by Islamic Scholar Al-Ghazali (1058 - 1111)
1. Whatever begins to exist is caused to exist by something else.
2. The universe began to exist.
3. Therefore, the universe was caused to exist by something else.
A Variant on the Kalam using the
Principle of Sufficient Reason
(PSR) For everything that exists, there must be some explanation for its existence.
2. The universe exists.
3. Therefore, the universe's existence must have some explanation.
Samuel Clarke's Modal Cosmological Argument
1. Every existent thing must be either contingent or necessary.
2. The fact that the world exists is contingent.
3. The fact that the world exists needs an explanation (by the PSR).
4. Anything that explains the world's existence is itself either contingent or necessary.
5a. If that further thing exists contingently, then it needs an explanation.
5b. If that further thing exists necessarily, then there is a necessarily existent being.
6. Therefore, there is a necessarily existent being.
Objections to the Cosmological Argument
David Hume (1711 - 1776)
Objection 1: Since something exists, and something can't come from nothing, premise 1 of the Kalam arguments (and PSR) must be false. Something must have come into existence uncaused.
Response 1: The objection misreads premise 1 of the Kalam arguments. The Kalam arguments only claim that every that begins has a cause. So the proper conclusion is that there must be some "Uncaused cause", or (in Aristotle's terminology) "Unmoved mover".
Objection 1a: Granting this point, the Cosmological Argument loses its force. Why should we think that the "Uncaused Cause" is God, rather than the Big Bang or some other natural event?
Response 1a: We know that the Big Bang, or any other natural, physical thing, cannot be the "Uncaused Cause" referred to in the conclusion of the argument, since we know that the Big Bang and other natural events are contingent. (In other words, we should look to Clarke's version of the argument.)
Objection 2: What reason do we have to believe that the Universe had a beginning?
Response 2a: Wasn't the Big Bang the beginning?
Response 2b: Craig's Argument against an Infinite Past.
Objection 2a: It was the beginning of our Universe, not of existence*:
Current state of the debate?
Objection 3a: Why think that the Principle of Sufficient Reason is true?
Response 3a: One route: Induction from the fact that everything we find in the world seems to have an explanation.
Objection 3b: The universe itself is an exceptional case, so the rules that apply to objects within the universe may not apply to the universe as a whole.
Response 3b: This would result in an infinite chain of explanations, which would be unacceptable. (Aquinas)
"When the existence of each member of a collection is explained by reference to some other member of that very same collection then it does not follow that the collection itself has an explanation. For it is one thing for there to be an explanation of the existence of each dependent being and quite another thing for there to be an explanation of why there are dependent beings at all." (Rowe 1975, 264)
Some Concluding Thoughts and Questions:
If one of the Cosmological Arguments discussed was successful, what would it show?
(Bede Rundle's Atheist Interpretation of the Cosmological Argument, Deism, Pantheism, Dead Creator, etc.)
Is the question of why there is something rather than nothing (a) Answerable by science, (b) Answerable by philosophical argument, or (c) Unanswerable?
Stanford Encyclopedia Article on the Cosmological Argument: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/cosmological-argument/
Why Accept the Principle of Sufficient Reason?
1. It's Self-Evident
Consider some phenomenon which needs to be explained, e.g. why bees have been mysteriously dying off. "But suppose we admit, contrary to the PSR, the possibility that the phenomenon has no explanation at all. What reason do we have to suppose that the best or the only explanation is likely to be true? To argue for that explanation, we compared it to its competitors. But the hypothesis the phenomenon has no explanation at all was not one of these competitors. Indeed, we do not know how to compare this hypothesis to the competitors. The hypothesis that there is no explanation is in one sense simpler than any explanatory explanation. On the other hand it altogether lacks explanatory power. Still, it is unfair to rule it out just because it lacks explanatory power unless one believes in the PSR." Pruss, 2012
Reductio ad Absurdum (Reduction to Absurdity) Arguments
A reductio ad absurdum, or reductio for short, attempts to show that a claim is true by showing that denying it commits us to believing things which are obviously false, or even contradictory.
A classic example:
"There is no single 'truth', only different people's equally good opinions."
1. Suppose (for reductio) that there is no single 'truth', only different people's equally good opinions.
2. Either 1 is true, or it is just an opinion.
3. If 1 is true, then it is false, since it would mean that there is a single truth.
4. If 1 is merely an opinion, then someone else's opinion to the contrary is equally good, so 1 isn't true.
5. Therefore, 1 is not true.
Three Understandings of Contingency
Philosophy of Religion: Some Background
Philosophy of religion is a branch of metaphysics, the investigation of the fundamental nature of reality.
Philosophy of religion focuses on the existence and nature of supernatural beings, the afterlife, and the nature of worship (amongst other things).
Because of time constraints, we will be focusing on arguments for and against the existence of a supernatural being or beings, conceived of in the Judeo-Christian tradition as God.
What are the characteristics of God?
God's Attributes, as Traditionally Conceived
Omnipotent: All-powerful, or capable of doing anything whatsoever.
Omniscient: All-knowing, or knows everything that is knowable to anyone.
Omnibenevolent: Completely morally perfect.
More controversial, but plausible:
Timeless, Disembodied, Immutable
Questions to Ask Yourself
What are the main premises?
Are the main premises true?
Does the argument contain any unsupported premises or assumptions?
Does the conclusion follow from the premises?
Do the premises have any strange or unexpected results?
A Quick Reminder and Recap of the Cosmological Argument
What would Hume say about this?
"In such a chain, too, or succession of objects, each part is caused by that which preceded it, and causes that which succeeds it. Where then is the difficulty? But the WHOLE, you say, wants a cause. I answer, that the uniting of these parts into a whole, like the uniting of several distinct countries into one kingdom, or several distinct members into one body, is performed merely by an arbitrary act of the mind, and has no influence on the nature of things. Did I shew you the particular causes of each individual in a collection of twenty particles of matter, I should think it very unreasonable, should you afterwards ask me, what was the cause of the whole twenty. This is sufficiently explained in explaining the cause of the parts." --David Hume, Dialogues on Natural Religion