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The Cosmological Argument Part 1: The Argument From Contingency

March 16, 2010

Hey y’all Cruz here,

This is all part of a three part post on the cosmological argument. I am writing a paper on it and I figured I might as well post it up on the blog for discussion. The paper is divided into three sections the first gives the cosmological argument from contingency, the second gives objections to this argument, and the third is my own (modest) cosmological argument that makes use of a modal premise to get the conclusion. I give this modal version of the cosmological argument and defend it in this last section. The paper is still in the works so please forgive the rough sketch of it that I will be posting on here. Here is the first section:

The first thing that cosmological arguments assume is that there are contingent things that exist. This seems to be an obvious truth, when we sit and reflect about the world there are many things that seem like they could have been otherwise. I could have not had my usual apple for breakfast. My parents could have failed to conceived me and I could have not existed. It seems as if that this could be true for most everything in the universe. The universe itself could have failed to exist. This is the starting place for all cosmological arguments. We can find examples of this in two of histories well known cosmological arguers. In fact St. Thomas Aquinas starts off his third way with just this point: “Certain of the things we find in the world are able to exist and able not to exist…”. From this we get our first premise to the cosmological argument:

(1) There are contingent things.

The next step in the cosmological argument is to move from (1) the fact that there are contingent things to there being a collection of all and only all of the contingent things that there are. This inference does not appear to be problematic when we are talking about all of the contingent things that there are we are making reference to something that isn’t just the contingent things but to a further thing, which is the group or the collection of all of the contingent things. There is an implicit principle that is made in most cosmological arguments that needs to be made explicit in order for the inference from the fact that there are contingent things to there being a collection of them. This principle gives us the second premise for the argument:

(2) For any X and Y such that X and Y are contingent, there is a collection Z such that X and Y members of Z.

From here on lets call this collection WORLD. The next step that is made in most cosmological arguments from contingency; is that because each of the members of WORLD are contingent then WORLD itself must be contingent.  At first glance it looks like the proponent of the cosmological argument from contingency is just committing the fallacy of composition. We can think of other things and their collections to see that this may be problematic. The collection of all humans surely isn’t itself human, just as the collection of all four-legged creatures does not itself have four legs. Russell points this out in his debate with Father Copleston when he says “Every man who exists has a mother, and it seems to me your argument is that therefore the human race must have a mother, but obviously the human race hasn’t a mother — that’s a different logical sphere.” But I am not sure that the proponent of this argument really is committing this fallacy. It seems that there is another implicit principle that cosmological arguers are accept like the one that gives us premise (2). Let’s make this principle the third premise of the argument:

(3) If all of the members of a collection are contingent then the collection itself is contingent.

Without (3) the cosmological argument would commit the fallacy of composition, but it seems that there is reason to believe that we should hold (3). It does seem that for any given collection, if the members of the collection do not exist, then the collection itself does not exist. If we have a collection ∆, whose members are P, R, and S and S failed to exist then ∆ would have failed to exist also. For WORLD, since all of its members are contingent it is true that any one of its members could have failed to exist, which means that WORLD could have failed to exist, but this is just to say that WORLD itself is contingent. So this gives us reason hold (3) to be true.

The next point that is assumed by cosmological arguers gives us our fourth premise to the argument from contingency:

(4) For any X such that x is contingent, there is a Y such that Y explains X’s existence.

(4) appears in varying strengths in different versions of this argument. Leibniz starts off his argument with a very strong version of this principle: “[T]here must also be be a sufficient reason in contingent truths, or truths of  fact…”. And St. Thomas seems to have a weaker version of it: “For what does not exist begins to exist only through something that does exist; therefore, if there were no beings, then it was impossible that anything should have begun to exist, and so nothing would exist now—which is obviously false.”

The last assumption, which normally goes without saying, but I would like to make explicit is:

(5) Explanation is an irreflexive, asymmetric, and transitive relation.

To say that explanation is reflexive is just to say that there is no A such that A explains A, asymmetric if and only if for any A and B such that if A explains B then it cannot be the case that B explains A, and transitive if and only if for any A, B, and C if A explains B and B explains C, then A explains C. We are now in a place to give the argument from contingency.

From (1) and (2) we get:

(A)  WORLD exists.

From (A) and (3) we get that:

(B)  WORLD is contingent.

From (B) and (4) we get:

(C)  There is something that explains WORLD’s existence.

From (C) and (5) we get:

(D)  WORLD cannot explain WORLD’s existence.

From (D) we know that there must be something distinct from WORLD that explains WORLD’s existence. So, this leaves us with two options: (i) what explains WORLD’s existence is an contingent being, or (ii) what explains WORLD’s existence is a necessary being. If (II) then we have the conclusion that we are looking for: A necessary being exists. If (I) then what explains WORLD would also need to have something further to explain its existence. Now assume that this explanation of contingent beings goes onto infinity. Then what we have is an infinite series of contingent beings we can ask the same question of the infinite series of explanation of contingent beings explaining each other. The series must be contingent, because if one or more beings was taken out or replaced by another, then it would not be the same series. And because each of the explanans and explanandum could fail to exist the series could, which would make it contingent. Because the series is contingent from (4) that something that is not contingent must explain the existence of the series, which must be a necessary being.

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25 Comments leave one →
  1. Ash permalink
    March 16, 2010 5:09 am

    Hiya Cruz,

    For your consideration for part 2; objections to this argument…(and I’ll use your no./letter system so you can see where it’s relevant)

    (1) how are attributes and dispositions not contingent things? (leading from St. Thomas’ argument – for something to not be contingent it would have to be shown to be so).
    (2) if a God is made up of contingent attributes and dispositions then it itself has to be contingent; leading to (3). So;

    From (1) and (2) we get:

    (A) GOD exists.

    From (A) and (3) we get that:

    (B) GOD is contingent.

    From (B) and (4) we get:

    (C) There is something that explains GOD’s existence.

    From (C) and (5) we get:

    (D) GOD cannot explain GOD’s existence.

    which is where it turns into the old ‘turtles all the way down’ argument!

    Also, using ‘WORLD’ is a bad idea, ‘KNOWN UNIVERSE’ would be slightly better, but fails on the point of it being a collection of contingent truths; which given the fact that we can only be sure of our uncertainty of knowing all or most of these contingent truths, we cannot hold to certainty of labelling such unknowns as a collection, given if we presumed X was a necessary component and it turned out X was irrelevant, or actually W etc.

    I’ve also noticed by transplanting ‘GOD’ for ‘WORLD’ that you have failed to provide evidence for either’s existence, merely that because you used a label for unspecified collections this is assumed to therefore equal it’s own fact. I don’t get it – could you explain this bit of reasoning further?

  2. Knockgoats permalink
    March 16, 2010 5:14 am

    There are a number of problems with the argument as laid out, but I guess you’re going to raise at least some of them, so I’ll just mention the first and last:

    The first thing that cosmological arguments assume is that there are contingent things that exist.

    In modern philosophy of logic, “things” are neither contingent nor necessary: these properties apply only to facts. Of course one might maintain that this is erroneous, but at the least, “There are contingent things” has to be argued for.

    The last is not a problem with the argument as such, but with what it is (really) supposed to establish, which is not the existence of “a necessary being”, but that of God. The most obvious candidates for the status of “necessary being”, however, are mathematical objects – so the argument, if sound in any form, could just be proving that numbers exist.

  3. March 16, 2010 1:38 pm

    KG,

    I see you are using thing in a more specific sense than I am. Thing and entity go hand and hand here. So whether you want modal discourse to apply to facts or things really kind of depends on your ontology. But here is a well formed formula in modal logic:

    There is something that is identical with George Bush and it could have been the case that there is not something that is identical with George Bush.

    The name makes rigid that we are talking about a thing, so we are picking out some object and saying of it that it could not exist. This allows for necessary and contingent things. Which is not a controversial assumption in philosophy of modality.

    As for your second comment. No, the argument is supposed to establish the existence of a necessary being that is the explanation for the collection of contingent beings. This is called the ‘establishment’ stage in a theistic proof, there is an identification stage (which I am not concerned with in this paper) that tries to identify this being with God.

    One last question. How could numbers be the most obvious candidate for an NB if objects can’t be necessary and contingent?

    Ash,

    I think my response given above about establishment and identification stages may clear up some of your worries about substituting God for WORLD. Let me know if they don’t.

  4. Knockgoats permalink
    March 16, 2010 3:38 pm

    One last question. How could numbers be the most obvious candidate for an NB if objects can’t be necessary and contingent? – Cruz

    Sorry, I wasn’t clear. I meant – if you can establish a sense in which objects can be necessary or contingent.

    I accept your other points.

  5. March 16, 2010 9:18 pm

    KG,

    A thing is contingent if it exists at some worlds but not all, or if you want to go with counterpart theory, it has counterparts in some worlds but not all.

    If it is possible that the earth exploded in 1000 AD and all of the relevant historical facts were the same up to that point, my car would not exist in this world. But my car exists in the actual world, this would make my car a contingent thing.

    A necessary thing would exist at or have counterparts in all worlds. As you said numbers seem to be a plausible candidate for this. Other entities like states of affairs, or propositions, or sets, or properties are probably also necessary existents.

    If you want any more motivation for (1) ask yourself about what the facts that you take to be necessary and contingent are, then ask what things must exist for these facts obtain.

    I hope that is sufficient.

  6. Knockgoats permalink
    March 17, 2010 2:05 pm

    No, the argument is supposed to establish the existence of a necessary being that is the explanation for the collection of contingent beings. – Cruz

    The phrase “is the explanation for” needs clarifying. If it means “is a necessary and sufficient condition for”, then, if I understand it correctly and it is correct, quantum mechanics implies there are many contingent entities that have no explanation, so premise (4) would be false. It’s certainly not obvious, in any case. If some weaker sense is intended, what is it?

  7. March 17, 2010 5:04 pm

    So, the numbers got screwed up in the copy and paste. Let me fix this problem.

  8. March 17, 2010 5:23 pm

    KG,

    It could be a necessary condition but not a sufficient one. Or it could be a primitive with some counterfactual conditional as a consequence.

  9. Knockgoats permalink
    March 17, 2010 5:58 pm

    Or it could be a primitive with some counterfactual conditional as a consequence. – Cruz

    I don’t know what that means! Please explain.

  10. March 17, 2010 6:02 pm

    It means the explanation relation could be undefinable, but if it holds some counterfactual conditional would also be true. So lets say A explains B. The If A were not the case then B would not be the case, though what it is for A to explain B is not reducible to this counterfactual.

  11. March 18, 2010 12:21 am

    Whoa, wait a minute there. I was following this all the way up through “There is something which explains WORLD’s existence.” Then a couple of lines later, “what explains WORLD’s existence is an contingent being.” … a BEING? Where did this BEING come from? Just a second ago, it was simply “something.”

    I know what you’ll say: “By ‘being’ I simply mean something which exists” – But this is still a common trick. Take a word with strong connotations and redefine it to mean something general. Prove your point with the new meaning attached, then slip back into using the common definition with the point “proven.” We all know that “being” sounds like a living, and generally intelligent, thing.

    If you just mean “something,” then let’s say that what explains WORLD’s existence is either a contingent or necessary SOMETHING. After all, it could be an event, or a state, or a logical law, right? None of those would seem to qualify as a “being.”

    As stated here, this argument sounds awfully close to those “Therefore, God” parodies of Proofs of God, many of which can be found here: http://unreasonablefaith.com/2008/06/16/hundreds-of-proofs-of-gods-existence/

  12. Alex permalink
    March 18, 2010 2:31 am

    “Explanation is an irreflexive, asymmetric, and transitive relation.”

    How strange that this rule applies to the origin of every object and process except God.

    Ironically, the only way this rule becomes universal is if God does not exist, except as a creation of something else (I’m guessing mankind.)

  13. March 19, 2010 10:25 pm

    Would you care to share more about the definition of contingency used here? It seems to rest on a sketchy foundation of other potentially problematic concepts (e.g. the notion of all “other worlds”).

    For example, if there was another world where nothing ever came into existence, or matter never existed, etc. — then wouldn’t everything be considered contingent?

  14. March 20, 2010 4:06 pm

    For example, if there was another world where nothing ever came into existence, or matter never existed, etc. — then wouldn’t everything be considered contingent?

    Yes everything would be contingent. But I seriously doubt that there aren’t any necessarily existent entities.

    To be contingent is to exist in some but not all possible worlds.

    “Explanation is an irreflexive, asymmetric, and transitive relation.”

    How strange that this rule applies to the origin of every object and process except God.

    No, if God’s existence was explained it would apply to Him too. So I fail to see what this is getting at.

    Whoa, wait a minute there. I was following this all the way up through “There is something which explains WORLD’s existence.” Then a couple of lines later, “what explains WORLD’s existence is an contingent being.” … a BEING? Where did this BEING come from? Just a second ago, it was simply “something.”

    I know what you’ll say: “By ‘being’ I simply mean something which exists” – But this is still a common trick. Take a word with strong connotations and redefine it to mean something general. Prove your point with the new meaning attached, then slip back into using the common definition with the point “proven.” We all know that “being” sounds like a living, and generally intelligent, thing.

    If you just mean “something,” then let’s say that what explains WORLD’s existence is either a contingent or necessary SOMETHING. After all, it could be an event, or a state, or a logical law, right? None of those would seem to qualify as a “being.”

    I explained to KG that ‘entity’ and ‘thing’ are just broad terms for existents. So is ‘being’. I may even use ‘object’ in the same way. These all just pick out the same class of items. Everything that one has in their ontology I may refer to in this way.

    I see ‘therefore God’ ABSOLUTELY NOWHERE in this argument. I also pointed out to KG the difference between the establishment and identification stages in theistic proofs and noted I am only concerned with the establishment stages. So, your comments really don’t come anywhere close to touching on my argument.

    Here is some leisure reading that may prove useful: http://philosophy.lander.edu/oriental/charity.html

  15. March 20, 2010 9:32 pm

    Yes everything would be contingent. But I seriously doubt that there aren’t any necessarily existent entities.

    My bad – I should have been more clear. I guess what I’m getting at here is that the notion of “contingent” (and thus “necessary”?) in this argument seem largely determined by this undescribed set of “all possible worlds.” I was just looking to clear up the ambiguity so I could better follow the criticisms in part II.

  16. March 20, 2010 10:45 pm

    Obsciguy,

    Sorry I hope this comment isn’t too brief. I can get you more later.

    I am using necessary and contingent with reference to all metaphysically possible worlds. Not just the set of natural worlds, or anything like that, but all possible worlds. I mean for the quantifier to be unrestricted.

    If you are curious by what it means to be ‘possible’ I don’t think one can give an account of that. The notion is indefinable.

    Other than that here are some places to get started into concerns with the metaphysics:

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/possible-objects/

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/actualism/

  17. Knockgoats permalink
    March 29, 2010 4:10 pm

    It means the explanation relation could be undefinable, but if it holds some counterfactual conditional would also be true. So lets say A explains B. The If A were not the case then B would not be the case, though what it is for A to explain B is not reducible to this counterfactual. – Cruz

    No, that doesn’t suffice as an elucidation of:

    “Or it could be a primitive with some counterfactual conditional as a consequence. ”

    What is the sense of “a primitive” here? I guess you mean “something undefinable”, but then you need to show that “undefinable” is a useful term. The existence of dictionaries would seem to indicate that all terms are definable – usually in many different ways: “!primitives” exist in formal languages, but it is not clear that they exist in natural languages – and AFAIK, no-one has yet succeeded in formalising the concept of explanation. More generally, you have not given a useful account of what counts as an explanation, and why – without that, the argument can’t get off the ground. Maybe you will do so in the next thread on this topic.

  18. March 29, 2010 8:42 pm

    KG,

    I fail to see how it doesn’t suffice. What I said is take the relation EXPLANATION to be primitive (more on this below). If we antecedently hold that xEXPLANATIONy then the following counterfactual claim would be true: If y would have failed to exist then x would have failed to exist also. This would make the existence of y a necessary condition for x’s existence. Not to commit myself to this view, but just that it is a possible option for an understanding of the explanation relation. If you want me to explain more, just ask and let me know where the confusion is arising, or how you find my response inadequate.

    For something to be a primitive it means that it cannot be analyzed in terms of anything else. There is no analysis that provides the jointly necessary and sufficient conditions for what it is for the given phenomena (in this case explanation) to obtain.

    There are plenty of other primitive notions in primitive notions in philosophy. The negation is a primitive operator, it cannot be analysed or defined in terms of anything else. Most people think that the modal operators are this way. There is controversy about this with tense operators. The dependence relation, and the causation relation have been understood as primitives. Individuation is sometimes taken to be primitive: Things have some primitive thisness that accounts for there individuality. I do not think any analysis can be given for the identity relation. The exemplification and instantiation relations have also been thought to be primitives, and I don’t know of anyone who has given an analysis of these notions. After the Gettier problems for the analysis of knowledge arose, knowledge also has been taken to be a primitive notion.

    The reason why I do not give an account what explanation is, is because the argument is compatible with most any account. It need not assume one or the other to succeed. The argument assumes that for contingent things there must be something that explains there existence. Need I go into what explanation amounts to? No. All I need to assume is just that the explanation relation is irreflexive, assymetric, and transitive.

    If you find some account of explanation that is inconsistent with the argument, then feel free to present it and show how it is inconsistent with the argument. And if you still feel an account must be given for the argument to work, let me know why I need this, because I do not see how this is necessary for the argument.

  19. Knockgoats permalink
    April 1, 2010 12:37 pm

    I made the distinction between formal and natural languages above. I’m not convinced “primitive” is a useful term with regard to the latter – at least, if it is, there are a vast number of “primitives” – do you really think you can give necessary and sufficient conditions for something to be a dog, a table, a shout, a disease…? For all of these, we can nevertheless convey what we mean by the term in a particular context, well enough for discussion to proceed with all parties at least believing they share a sufficient understanding. I was wanting a more complete account of what was meant by “Y explains the existence of X” because I like to know what the premises of an argument are. As it happens, you have yourself argued in Part 2 that the premise is unacceptable.

    From previous encounters with modal forms of the ontological argument, they all seem to depend on shifting the interpretation of the modal operators in the course of the argument, so I’m going to want this interpretation pinned down as firmly as possible when you develop your modal form of the cosmological argument! (There is for example an interpretation of some modal propositional logic, I think S5, where the operators are given a purely spatial interpretation – see J. Renz and B. Nebel “Spatial Reasoning with Topological Information”.)

  20. Cruz permalink
    April 5, 2010 12:23 am

    KG,

    I made the distinction between formal and natural languages above. I’m not convinced “primitive” is a useful term with regard to the latter – at least, if it is, there are a vast number of “primitives” – do you really think you can give necessary and sufficient conditions for something to be a dog, a table, a shout, a disease…?

    When working through arguments of these kinds I am not sure if any natural language would suffice to understand what is going on. We are working with theoretical notions and languages that are philosophical languages (so to speak). If this falls into the realm of formal languages then I would be happy to place my use of explanation as an artifact of formal languages and not one of natural languages. I am not sure that primitive applied to the former would make sense either. It may be a category mistake to call something in a natural language a primitive. So, I am fine with that.

    I think that there are probably many terms that are probably primitive terms. I am not sure how my stance whether or not I think an analysis of dog, etc. can be given is relevant. I do believe that unique necessary conditions can be given for all of these things. I gave a possible necessary condition for ‘explanation’, and other ways in which we can understand the term in the second post.

    For all of these, we can nevertheless convey what we mean by the term in a particular context, well enough for discussion to proceed with all parties at least believing they share a sufficient understanding. I was wanting a more complete account of what was meant by “Y explains the existence of X” because I like to know what the premises of an argument are. As it happens, you have yourself argued in Part 2 that the premise is unacceptable.

    There are many different kinds of explanation that have been used in different versions of this argument, some use metaphysical explanation, some use causal explanation, others something more along the lines of scientific explanation. So I wanted to keep the use ambiguous amongst those options. You can go through and probably get different results about your intuitions for explanation in each sense. Since this is a gloss I did not want to go over each of the different types. I could probably fill a book with this discussion easily. And among the different kinds, there are different understandings of what each amounts to. For example there is a huge literature about what causation amounts to, and getting thorough on the very different ways in which the term is understood is just too big of a task for such a modest paper.

    All that said. What explanations have in common is that they answer ‘why’ questions. So going through different answers to why questions may be useful to getting at the notion I am using in my premises. I think there can be a two ways to answer a why question. One is to give a sufficient reason for a given state of affairs obtaining. The other is to give a necessary condition, or what must obtain if another given state of affairs obtains. But, this does not mean that this is what an explanation amounts to just giving any necessary or sufficient condition for the obtaining of a state of affairs.

    I do think that there are compelling arguments against the principle I gave. I personally hold something in the neighborhood of this principle, but I think that given these arguments against it the principle makes too strong of a claim to make for a compelling argument for the conclusion the cosmological arguer is arguing for. Which is why I think an argument that makes a weaker assumption would be much better. So, in other words, although I think that the argument is valid and sound, I do not think it is compelling.

    From previous encounters with modal forms of the ontological argument, they all seem to depend on shifting the interpretation of the modal operators in the course of the argument, so I’m going to want this interpretation pinned down as firmly as possible when you develop your modal form of the cosmological argument! (There is for example an interpretation of some modal propositional logic, I think S5, where the operators are given a purely spatial interpretation – see J. Renz and B. Nebel “Spatial Reasoning with Topological Information”.)

    Here is Plantinga’s Modal Ontological Argument:

    1. There is a possible world in which unsurpassable greatness is exemplified.
    2. In any world, an entity has unsurpassable greatness iff it has the world-indexed property of being-maximally-excellent-in-A for every world A.
    3. (Hence) Unsurpassable greatness is exemplified in every possible world–i.e. there actually exists a being who is omnipotent, omniscient, morally perfect, etc., and who has these properties in every world.

    and William Lane Craig states it as so:

    1. It is possible that a maximally great being (God) exists.
    2. If it is possible that a maximally great being exists, then a maximally great being exists in some possible world.
    3. If a maximally great being exists in some possible world, then it exists in every possible world.
    4. If a maximally great being exists in every possible world, then it exists in the actual world.
    5. Therefore, a maximally great being exists in the actual world.
    6. Therefore, a maximally great being exists.
    7. Therefore, God exists.

    You can find Plantinga’s argument in his Nature of Necessity and Craig’s version in this article: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2008/july/13.22.html?start

    I’m curious as to where the equivocation in modal operators is. They both depend on S5 modal logic. Which I don’t believe my proof depends on (I haven’t worked out that bit yet). I have found that article you were talking about, but haven’t read it yet. I’m not sure what you mean by a purely spatial interpretation of the operators. What the significant difference that you get between S5 and the weaker modal logics is that if X is possible then it is possible in every possible world. It makes all possible worlds accessible to us. But yeah if you could show me where the equivocation is that would be great.

  21. Mark Webster permalink
    April 5, 2010 9:38 pm

    Cruz, my biggest issue in reading this argument is that you still seem to commit the fallacy of composition by assuming (3).

    I am implying from your proof that you say X is contingent, Y is contingent, and Z is contingent, therefore they all are contingent together on ONE thing…but that isn’t necessarily true.

    From this statement all we can be sure of is that they are each individually contingent on something else…which, certainly, is necessarily true; however, it is not necessarily so that these contingencies eventually converge to a singularity–or for that matter converge at all (which is what, I think, you were aiming for)…especially not considering how you have constructed your premises.

  22. April 5, 2010 11:37 pm

    Mark,

    I am not sure what you mean by ‘contingent on something’. What I meant by contingent, is exists in some world(s) but not all worlds. My argument for (3) does not commit the fallacy of composition. From (1) and (2) I get that there is a collection (call it ∑) of all contingent things are a member of. Now we ask whether or not ∑ is itself contingent. I argue that since a collection essentially contains or depends on the members it has (the members it has define its essence, or roughly the existence of the collection entails the existence of its members) that if one of ∑’s members doesn’t exist then ∑ doesn’t exist. Since its members are all contingent then there is a world where some member X that is in ∑ does not exist. But if X does not exist then ∑ cannot exist, since ∑ requires the existence of all of its members in order to exist. But this means that worlds that don’t contain X don’t contain ∑. Since there are worlds that don’t contain X there are worlds that don’t contain ∑ and since there are worlds that contain all of ∑’s members, there are worlds that contain ∑. But this is sufficient to show that ∑ is contingent.

    To commit the fallacy of composition, I would need to infer directly from (a) for every X such that X is a member of ∑, X is contingent, that (b) ∑ is contingent. But I did not do this in my motivation for (3). So my argument for (3) does not commit the fallacy of composition. Maybe what you want to go after instead is (2).

  23. April 5, 2010 11:41 pm

    Mark,

    Let me throw one more thing at you.

    I am implying from your proof that you say X is contingent, Y is contingent, and Z is contingent, therefore they all are contingent together on ONE thing…but that isn’t necessarily true.

    The argument doesn’t make this claim. The argument claims that X is contingent Y is contingent, Z…, etc. Therefore there is a collection ∑ that has X,Y,Z,…, etc. as its members. Then argues ∑ is contingent. Then argues ∑ has an explanation for its existence.

  24. Josh permalink
    October 15, 2010 1:52 pm

    You might consider focusing on a particular category of contingent facts–those contingent facts that specify the existence of some contingent things. You can argue that any such fact has an explanation. (This principle is itself is arguably the best explanation of the many known cases of such facts having an explanation and of there being no known counter-examples.) I think this will simplify your argument.

  25. Allen permalink
    October 15, 2010 7:27 pm

    MP said: “Whoa, wait a minute there. I was following this all the way up through “There is something which explains WORLD’s existence.” Then a couple of lines later, “what explains WORLD’s existence is an contingent being.” … a BEING? Where did this BEING come from? Just a second ago, it was simply “something.”

    I know what you’ll say: “By ‘being’ I simply mean something which exists” – But this is still a common trick. Take a word with strong connotations and redefine it to mean something general. Prove your point with the new meaning attached, then slip back into using the common definition with the point “proven.” We all know that “being” sounds like a living, and generally intelligent, thing.

    If you just mean “something,” then let’s say that what explains WORLD’s existence is either a contingent or necessary SOMETHING. After all, it could be an event, or a state, or a logical law, right? None of those would seem to qualify as a “being.”

    As stated here, this argument sounds awfully close to those “Therefore, God” parodies of Proofs of God, many of which can be found here: http://unreasonablefaith.com/2008/06/16/hundreds-of-proofs-of-gods-existence/

    I think this is right. You can’t infer that the necessary cause is personal simply by the connotations of the word BEING. That would be to commit the fallacy of equivocation. That the first cause is personal, is implied by the fact that no necessary thing can be the sufficient condition for a contingent thing. If A is necessary, then it is true in all possible circumstances. (This means that it is eternal, although I should point out that this doesn’t work the other way around – just because something is eternal does not necessarily mean that it is necessary). If A is true in all possible circumstances (and is eternal), and if A is sufficient for B (i.e., B follows from A), then B is true in all possible circumstances. B is therefore just as necessary as A. However, given that (1) the universe is contingent, and (2) this means there must be some cause which itself is necessary, we seem to have an irresolvable dilemma. Something necessary must be the cause of something contingent, and something necessary cannot be sufficient for something contingent. It is usually held that this dilemma implies agency of will on the part of the necessary first cause. If the necessary first cause is capable of making free choices, and actions then it is not it’s mere existence that is alone sufficient for the existence of the world, but it’s choice to bring the world into existence is. The argument from contingency needs to be supplemented by theories from the part of metaphysics that deals with agency, will, and causation.
    Cheers!

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