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PHILOSOPHY OF RELIGION
The Cosmological Argument for the Existence of God

 

A. General Characteristics

Major historical developments: 13th and 18th centuries

St Thomas Aquinas (c.1225-74)            
G. W. Leibniz (1646-1716)
Samuel Clarke (1675-1729)

A posteriori argument: based on empirical, observable or experiential premises
Argues from observable traits of the cosmos to nonobservable being of God
God as an explanatory hypothesis
Argues that God is a metaphysical necessity needed to explain motion, causality and contingency
Basic question: Why does the cosmos exists as it is and not otherwise?

B. Versions
1. Argument from change or motion (God as Unmoved mover)
2. Argument from causality (God as First cause)
3. Argument from contingency (God as necessary, self-existent being)

C. Cosmological Argument from Contingency: Concepts and Distinctions

(PSR): principle of sufficient reason (Leibniz, 1646-1716): Nothing is without a reason for its being, and for being as it is.
Vicious infinite regress (circularity): Supposed explanation includes the same feature (contingency) that it was designed to explain.
Modes of Possibility: contingent/necessary
Metaphysical contingency: derivative or dependent being; may or may not exist (non-necessary); possible to be or not be; causal or temporal dependence for its existence on other entities or events.
Metaphysical necessity: self-existent being, not metaphysically derived or dependent, absolute causal independence, uncaused eternal existence; causa sui (Latin, self-caused)
Postulates God as metaphysical hypothesis for explaining contingent beings
Logical fallacy: an erroneous, illogical, incorrect form of reasoning
Fallacy of composition: what is true of all members of a class is attributed to the entire class
Brute fact: no further facts serve to explain it
Models of explanations: naturalistic/intentional   

C.1 Objections
1. Unrealistic or unreasonable standard of sufficient explanation. Series of why questions reach its limit with brute fact(s), i.e., fact(s) that are not in need of further explanation.

2. Inconsistent application of PSR by theistic proponents of cosmological argument. For example, why does God exist as He is and not otherwise?

3. Alternative naturalistic hypotheses to God as a metaphysically necessary being (Big bang theory, eternal cosmos of indestructible and uncreated matter-energy, brute fact(s), etc.)

4. Fallacy of composition (Russell-Copleston debate): logical mistake of attributing a property that is true of members of a class to the entire class. Russell example: All men have a mother; therefore the human race has a mother.

C.2 Theistic Replies
1. Scientific, naturalistic account arbitrarily cuts off the series of why questions with brute fact(s) which are still contingent (vicious or circular infinite regress).

2. God already affirmed as necessary and self-existent (causa sui), so PSR is consistently applied insofar as God is self-explanatory.

3. Alternative naturalistic hypotheses (Big bang, indestructible and uncreated matter-energy, etc.) are still too similar (contingent) to what they are supposed to explain to count as an explanation.

4. Attributing a property true of all members to the entire class is not always a logical mistake.
Example: All my Philosophy of Religion students are brilliant; therefore my Philosophy of Religion class is brilliant


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