The philosophers that support the cosmological argument for the existence of God
We are going to look at the well known argument for the existence of God - the Cosmological Argument. The word ‘cosmological’ comes from the Greek word ‘kosmos’ which refers to something of the world. In these arguments, we move from observable facts to the existence of ‘God’. We look at the world around us, look at creation and how things function within, and then conclude from this that there must be something which brought that world about. The key feature of the world is CONTINGINTY, that is to say, that everything relies on something else for either its movements or its own existence.
THOMAS AQUINAS' COSMOLOGICAL ARGUMENTS –
Thomas Aquinas (who takes his arguments from the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle) has 5 arguments for the existence of God. The first 3 are cosmological arguments. The Arguments are:
Ex Motu - From Movement. (1) Nothing can move itself. (2) If every object in motion had a mover, then the first object in motion needed a mover. (3) Movement cannot go on for infinity. (4) This first mover is the Unmoved Mover, called God.
Ex ratione causae efficientis – From the Cause of Existence. (1) There exist things that are caused (created) by other things. (2) Nothing can be the cause of itself (nothing can create itself.) (3) There cannot be an endless string of objects causing other objects to exist. (4) Therefore, there must be an uncaused first cause called God.
Ex possibili et necessario – From Possible and Necessary Existence. (1) Contingent beings are caused. (2) Not every being can be contingent. (3) There must exist a being which is necessary to cause contingent beings. (4) This necessary being is God.
AQUINAS' "THIRD WAY"
It's worth looking in more detail at Aquinas' third argument, or "Third Way" as it is called. The version above is very simplistic. Aquinas' actual argument breaks down like this:
In nature, everything can either exist or not-exist
Given infinite time, eventually everything will not-exist
If there was once nothing, nothing could come from it
You can't have an infinite series of necessary things causing each other, because then there'd be no explanation for the series itself
Therefore there must be some Being which has "its own necessity" and this, says Aquinas, is what everyone calls 'God'
Firstly, a common misunderstanding. Aquinas is not trying to work backwards through time to a creator-god who set the whole show in motion. Instead he's teasing out the idea of DEPENDENCY. Everything we know about in the universe is either non-existent, coming into existence, existing or being destroyed. Nothing seems to exist "for itself" or "in its own right". But Aquinas realises that if everything was utterly dependent for its existence on something outside itself, pretty soon we'd reach a state of affairs where nothing existed at all. Clearly that hasn't happened, because here we are! So Aquinas suggests that there must be something that exists NECESSARILY, that cannot not-exist, and which everything else depends on.
Look, I was a monk so I had loads of time on my hands which meant I gave real thought to these things – hours and hours of thought! I didn’t have X-Boxes or PlayStations, the Internet or 6th form parties to distract me. So good luck revising my thoughts for your Philosophy exam – you never know, maybe in a thousand years, students could be studying your philosophical thoughts......but then again!!
LEIBNIZ & THE PRINCIPLE OF SUFFICIENT REASON -
We now turn to Gottfried Leibniz (1646-1716), who was a very important German philosopher and mathematician, who had his own version of the cosmological argument. He supports the argument. Leibniz thought that there should be a complete or total explanation for everything. The world demands an ultimate explanation. This is Leibniz's "Principle of Sufficient Reason" (PSR). Leibniz uses the example of an imaginary book:
‘Suppose the book of the elements of geometry to have been eternal, one copy always having been written down from an earlier one. It is evident that even though a reason can be given for the present book out of a past one, we should never come to a full reason. What is true of the books is also true of the states of the world. If you suppose the world eternal you will suppose nothing but a succession of states and will not find any of them a sufficient reason.’
Leibniz is asking us to imagine a book with accurate mathematics in it. If we ask "Where did it come from?" we can be given a proximate reason for the book's existence: it's a reprint of an earlier edition. We can keep on seeking proximate reasons: the first print of the book was copied from a medieval manuscript; the manuscript was copied from a Roman scroll; the scroll was copied from a clay tablet in ancient Egypt; the tablet was copied from cave paintings; and so on and so on. Leibniz points out that the proximate reasons never really answer our question, no matter how far back we go, because the question "Where did it come from?" is looking for a SUFFICIENT REASON - we want to know why this body of knowledge exists, how all of these books came to be, why the sequence of copying-and-recopying as a whole exists.
Using the PSR, Leibniz suggests the following cosmological argument for the existence of God:
Every existing thing has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause (this is the PSR)
If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God.
The universe is an existing thing.
Therefore the explanation of the universe is God.
For Leibniz, scientific explanations are proximate reasons for the way the world is; they explain the universe by referring to its earlier states. The religious question is why the-Whole-Show exists, which is looking for a Sufficient Reason. And of course, the only sufficient reason is God.
Hi, my name is Mr Leibniz and I am German and like to wear BIG wigs! Do you think I look cool?
Things in themselves do not explain or give a reason for their own existence.
Nothing in the world has in itself a reason for its own existence
Therefore the reason must be external to the universe.
The explanation must be a Being which is self-explanatory: a necessary Being, which cannot not-exist. This we call God.
Note that, just like Aquinas' Third Way, the argument emphasises DEPENDENCY. The strength of Copleston’s argument is that it doesn’t get bogged down in whether there is an infinite series or not and certainly doesn't ponder choirs of angels or the gods of Mount Olympus. His key question is: whether, since things clearly depend on other things, you have to look outside the universe to find something that everything depends on.
Copleston is also incorporating Leibniz's idea of a Sufficient Reason, since he's looking for a reason for the existence of the universe as a whole that goes beyond just the proximate reasons that explain all the individual things in the universe - people and plants and planets and plankton. Copleston is asking, why does the Whole Show exist? Why is there something, rather than nothing?
I love History and Jesus and my hobbies include smoking my pipe – which I don’t recommend as smoking makes you smell. I am a really interesting guy though.....promise
“A may be explained by B, and B by C, but in the end there will be someone object on whom all other objects depend.” Swinburne 1996
Swinburne also argued: “There could be no simpler explanation that one which postulates only one cause. Theism is simpler than polytheism.”
You need to get into the habit of evaluating the points if view of these philosophers (especially those wanting to achieve A grade answers in the exam). Start practicing now in the space provided: ___________________________________________________