The Instigator
popculturepooka
Pro (for)
Winning
26 Points
The Contender
wiploc
Con (against)
Losing
12 Points

The Cosmological Argument

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 8/27/2011 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 4,269 times Debate No: 18066
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (33)
Votes (9)

 

popculturepooka

Pro

Thanks to wiploc for agreeing to debate me on this fascinating topic.

I will be advancing and defending a version of the cosmological argument for the existence of God. [1]

The argument is simply formulated as follows: [2]

(1) Every contingent fact has an explanation.
(2) There is a contingent fact that includes all other contingent facts.
(3) Therefore, there is an explanation of this fact.
(4) This explanation must involve a necessary being.
(5) This necessary being is God.

The argument itself is plainly logically valid in that the conclusion logically follows from the premises. Now I will give some preliminary considerations for thinking each premise is true and hence for thinking the argument is sound.

(1) The Principle of Sufficient Reason (hereafter the PSR) [3]

Premise (1) is merely just a particular formulation of the metaphysical PSR. There are several considerations for thinking the PSR is true.

(1a) A modal argument [4]

This argument starts from a weaker PSR (hereafter w-PSR) than the PSR that everyone should accept and goes on to show that the w-PSR entails the stronger principle - i.e. the PSR. So if one accepts the weaker principle one should accept the PSR. The w-PSR is this (slight modification by me): "every contingent fact possibly has a complete explanation." [5] There seems to be good reason to accept this is true and no reason to say it is false.

Given the following terms and assumptions:

p = a contingent fact that has no explanation.
p* = that p and there is no explanation for p.
z* = a possible world in which p* has a complete explanation.
a* = completely explains p*.

One can argue from the w-PSR as follows: in z* p* obtains (i.e. there is a complete explanation for p* in z*). Now say a* obtains as well. P* is really analogous to the BCCF is that it is a conjunction of contingent facts and so if something explains the conjunction than something has explained each conjunct. So a* explains p in z*. So in z* p has an explanation. A* also explains p* in z* and thus it follows that p has no explanation. It now comes out to a patent absurdity; it shows that in z* p both has an explanation and does not have an explanation. This shows that the very same fact does and does not have an explanation. This is an obvious and clear absurdity. To avoid this absurdity we have to avoid the posit that p has no explanation. But if we avoid that then we have to posit something like the PSR. The PSR comes out to be entailed by the very plausible w-PSR.

(1b) Mundane Explanations [6]

In our everyday, mundane dealings with reasons and explanations we seem to assume the PSR. If wiploc and I both hear a sound and I ask, "what was that?" and wiploc nonchalantly shrugs and answers, "nothing." I'm not the least bit inclined to accept that as an answer. Maybe he doesn't know or maybe he doesn't want to tell me or maybe...anything. I ,nor anybody, can credibly accept that literally nothing caused that sound. No one thinks that a mack truck is going to materialize in their living room for no reason or explanation at all. The best explanation for this would seem to be that the PSR is true as a matter of metaphysical necessity (meaning it is true in all possible worlds). And it surely seems that way for all contingent matters of fact. To say that the PSR only applies in mundane, everyday matters but doesn't apply to, say, the BCCF would seem wholly arbitrary because then one would have to explain why it only applies to certain situations but not to others. If the PSR isn't true that would mean that in some possible world a mack truck does materialize in your living room for no reason. This would also have devastating effects on scientific hypothesizing in matters of choosing amongst competing explanations. [7]

(1c) Scepticism [8]

If the PSR is false this seems to admit the possibility that your perceptions can happen for no reason at all. Given that objective/physical probabilities are given from observations of the laws of nature and the like, and since scientific matters are plausibly taken as contingent facts, it follows that if the PSR is not true then we could not ever know objective probabilities. [9] The kicker is that one couldn't even this scenario is implausible or improbable because one would be appealing to objective probabilities to say so.


(2) The Big Conjunctive Contingent Fact (hereafter the BCCF)

Premise (2) is simply just stating the conjunction of all contingent facts as the name suggests. Naturally, a fact that is the conjunct of all and only contingent facts can't itself be anything other than contingent.

(3) Explanation for the BCCF

Given premises (1) and (2) it follows, by metaphysical necessity, there has to be an explanation for the BCCF.

(4) A Necessary Being

If we plausibly suppose that a contingent fact cannot explain itself (if contingent facts could explain themselves them it would seem that they aren't contingent) then we are forced to conclude that a necessary being must explain the BCCF.

(5) Necessary Being = God

Given that we have good reasons for accepting the premises the argument we see we have good reasons to accept that there is a necessary being who is the explanation or causes of all contingent facts. What reasons are there to call this being God? Many of attributes of the first cause fall right in line with the traditional concept of God. [10]

For one, a necessary being that itself depends on nothing else for it's existence.

For two, there seems to be two types of explanation. Scientific and personal or agential. A scientific explanation to question "why is the PlayStation on?" would be something like "well, when I press the power button this activates the circuitry...etc". A personal explanation would be "because I wanted to play on it". Since a scientific explanation seems to be in principle impossible because scientific explanation to deal solely with contingent matters (in terms of laws and the like) we need to look elsewhere. If the only other explanatory cause is personal or agential we can say the first cause is an agent or personal. And given some data, like fine-tuning of the universe, it would seem to be plausible say that the necessary being is also immensely intelligent.

For three, given that there is a metaphysically necessary being that explains every contingent fact in every possible world that would seem to offer a consideration that this being immensely powerful, omnipotent even. If omnipotent, then it would not make sense to say there is more than one cause as there can't be two omnipotent beings. Or, making use of Occam's razor, that provides some support that there is only one cause.

The Leibnizian cosmological argument doesn't purport to prove all of the properties typically attributed to God but it certainly helps in the case. It is now seen that we have good reasons to think the argument sound.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
[1] http://plato.stanford.edu...
[2] Alexander Pruss, "The Leibnizian Cosmological Argument", The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology, pgs. 38-39
[3] http://plato.stanford.edu...
[4] Alexander Pruss, "Modal Arguments", The Principle of Sufficient Reason: A Reassessment, pg. 234
[5] ibid
[6] ibid, pg. 254
[7] ibid, pg. 280
[8] Same source as [2], pg. 41
[9] http://en.wikipedia.org...
[10] Same as [2], pg. 103
wiploc

Con

Thanks, popculturepooka, for this interesting debate. It's particularly interesting because it involves arguments, like the principle of sufficient reason, that I've never dealt with before.

Thanks also for your calm and articulate delivery.

:(1) Every contingent fact has an explanation.
:(2) There is a contingent fact that includes all other contingent facts.
:(3) Therefore, there is an explanation of this fact.
:(4) This explanation must involve a necessary being.
:(5) This necessary being is God.
:
:The argument itself is plainly logically valid in that the conclusion logically follows from the premises.

On its face, it is a series of wild leaps, not a valid argument. Perhaps there are unstated assumptions that would turn it into a valid argument. I almost regret that we're in a debate format, rather than an informal discussion without rules, so that we could work together to hammer out a valid version of whatever you're trying to say here.

In fact, if you want to work together in the comments area to refine your argument before your next post, I'd be pleased to help. I'd rather refute an argument that I understand, and point out its precise defects, than just say, "That wasn't persuasive because it wasn't clear." Of course, if the argument turns out to be persuasive, I will happily concede.

:(1) Every contingent fact has an explanation.

I know of no reason to believe this.

Quantum mechanics posits many uncaused events. Are those events not facts?

I'm assuming here, perhaps wrongly, that explanations are causes.

It seems an obvious attempt at special pleading.

Why doesn't (1) say that everything has an explanation? Why make an exception for gods. Wouldn't your argument be exactly as strong if the exception was for cheeseburgers?

(1') Everything without melted cheese on it has an explanation.

Yes, exactly as strong.

You say that you would be unsatisfied if I said that a Mac truck occurred for no reason. Why, then, are you satisfied if a god occurs for no reason? That's special pleading.

Likewise your argument that my cheeseburger must have an explanation if there is a possible world in which there is an explanation for its not having an explanation. Well, obviously, the same trick would prove that god has an explanation: all we need is a possible world in which there is an explanation for god lacking an explanation. So, again, this looks like special pleading.

[off topic]I'm new here. Can you explain, or give me a link to an explanation, of how to italicize and do block quotes?[/off topic]

Meanings Unclear

I need explanation of what is intended by "explanation" and "contingent." I can't come up with definitions that make your arguments work. For instance, what are you trying to convey when you say that god explains contingent facts in all possible worlds? He's not causing them, obviously. In fact, he caused them not to exist by not instantiating those worlds. I'm at a loss for meaning here, and you have the burden of communicating your argument rather than making me guess at what I'm trying to refute.

As for contingency and necessity, I've run across some confused people, not in agreement with each other, making arguments related to yours. (Though yours is definitely a new version to me, and thank you for that!)

Something contingent ought to depend on something else, it seems to me. But I'm told it's actually something that exists at one time but not another. Necessary things, then would always exist, from the beginning of time to the end. Is this what you mean by these words?

But you're also using modal language, possible worlds language. In that case, contingent things exist in more possible worlds than none, and possible fewer worlds than all. Necessary things would exist in all possible worlds, though not necessarily constantly thru all of time in those worlds.

You can see why I'm confused.

;Skepticism

Ironically, you argue that, "it follows that if the PSR is not true then we could not ever know objective probabilities." But you favor belief in a magic-throwing god, whose magical powers upset all rules, including the rules of probability. So, while there is no reason to accept your "skepticism" argument, you would gain nothing thereby.

;"(2) The Big Conjunctive Contingent Fact (hereafter the BCCF)
;(3) Explanation for the BCCF
;Given premises (1) and (2) it follows, by metaphysical necessity, there has to be an explanation for the BCCF."

The same logic proves there is an explanation for god too. The BCC is (big clump of (all) facts (including necessary facts, including, therefore, gods)) is obviously also a contingent fact. The whole could be different if any of the parts could be different, and you posit that the parts could be different. Therefore, the BCC could be different. Therefore there is an explanation for the whole ball of wax, including your god.

;"(4) A Necessary Being
;
;If we plausibly suppose that a contingent fact cannot explain itself (if contingent facts could explain themselves them ;it would seem that they aren't contingent) then we are forced to conclude that a necessary being must explain the ;BCCF.

I don't understand this at all. Are all facts now sentient people? Forgive my unfamiliarity with your argument.

Are you saying that any uncaused thing is a god? Why should anyone accept such a hypothesis?

;"(5) Necessary Being = God
;
;Given that we have good reasons for accepting the premises the argument we see we have good reasons to accept ;that there is a necessary being who is the explanation or causes of all contingent facts. "

I don't see the connection. If I say that everything without melted cheese has a cause, that doesn't prove that cheeseburgers created the rest of the world. It doesn't even suggest it. So (4) and (5) seem like a wild non-sequiturs.

I wish we had more rounds, more time for you to communicate the missing parts of your argument. Presumably you think they are implicit, but to me they are just mysterious.

I apologize for not knowing how to format posts on this website.
Debate Round No. 1
popculturepooka

Pro

Thanks to wiploc for agreeing to debate me on this.

Wiploc has many criticisms; I will attempt to take them in turn.

Worries about Premise (1)

Con says there is no reason to believe this yet I gave several reasons to believe it in my first round so this criticism would seem to miss the mark.

Con brings up the counterexample of quantum mechanical events that seemingly happen with no sufficient cause (i.e. they come out of nothing), and thus, it would seem, we have no reason to believe the PSR. Indeed, if these events truly come out of nothing they would have no explanation. Or, perhaps Con means since these particle are indeterministic and random they do not therefore have explanation. It's unclear. Plainly these events would be contingent facts so if he is right he has found a valid counterexample to the PSR on the first option but not on the second option due to reasons stated below.

Unfortunately, Con is mistaken.

For one, this counterexample runs afoul of the modal argument for the PSR. Even if quantum events don't have causes why they happen in the actual world it seems quite possible that they could have causes; there seems nothing metaphysically impossible about that notion. If so, utilizing the w-PSR as stated in my first round we can show that the w-PSR entails the PSR. It would not count as a genuine counterexample then.

For two, typically this objection is put that since these particles come into existence out of nothing they can't have a cause/explanation. Even putting aside my first consideration, it's not clear that these particles do come into existence out of nothing. However, as Paul Davies points out, these particles don't literally come into existence out of nothing. [1] They still occur in space which is definitely something. Furthermore, to deal with, perhaps, the second objection, these particles appearance can also be predicted with statistical probabilities and these events still happen in accordance to some physical laws. One could also appeal to the deterministic models of quantum mechanics in lieu of the the indeterministic models. [2]

Con asks why (1) doesn't say everything has an explanation? Simply it's because it's how explanations necessary facts even go. Necessary facts would be things like "if A is taller than B and B is taller than C than A is taller than C" and "nothing can be red and green all over". Or even say Godel's incompleteness theorem about mathematics. [3] That would be necessarily true but it's hard to see what explains it. These things hold as a matter of metaphysical necessity. It's unclear what an explanation would look like. It would seem many necessary truths explain themselves or we just don't know how to explain them. So (1) is not special pleading. God, being a necessary being wouldn't just "occur". That implies something dubious: That a metaphysically necessary fact can just pop into existence which seems incoherent. A Mack truck is obviously not necessary.


Meanings Unclear

By explanation I mean: "An explanation is a set of statements constructed to describe a set of facts which clarifies the causes, context, and consequences of those facts." [4]

By contingent I mean: "In philosophy and logic, contingency is the status of propositions that are neither true under every possible valuation (i.e. tautologies) nor false under every possible valuation (i.e. contradictions). A contingent proposition is neither necessarily true nor necessarily false"

By saying that God explains all contingent facts I mean since, due to the argument, God is the explainer of the BCCF, he is the very reason anything contingent exists or possibly exists. They all depend on him. A possible world is, simply, just the way things could have been. So say there is a world in which everything is the same except my pencil on my desk doesn't exist. In that world God would be the explainer of the BCCF. And so on for an infinite amount of various scenarios.

Technically speaking, something contingent can possibly exist forever as long as it could possibly have not existed.

Skepticism

This is nothing but rhetoric and is irrelevant. This does nothing to deal with one of my arguments for the PSR, there is no need to refute it.

The BCCF

Above I explained why the PSR is limited to contingent facts. It'd be nonsense to say that a necessary fact could 1) be include in the set of all contingent facts and 2) say that it could be different. A necessary fact by necessity cannot be possibly change.

Necessary being

No, all facts are not sentient people. Facts are just true states of affairs or states of affairs that obtain/exist. Obviously, a person can exist so in this sense a (human) person could be a contingent fact and a divine person could be a necessary fact.

I'm not saying any uncaused thing is God. For example, I believe 2 + 2 = 4 is a necessary fact and is uncaused yet it is not God.

Necessary being = God

I dealt with this objection in my first section.


I pass the torch back to wiploc.






--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
[1] http://www.puffin.creighton.edu...
[2] http://en.wikipedia.org...
[3] http://en.wikipedia.org...
[4] http://en.wikipedia.org...
[5] http://en.wikipedia.org...
wiploc

Con

Every Contingent Fact Has an Explanation

Popculturepooka (Pro) claims that every contingent fact has an explanation. From this beginning, he attempts to proove that there is one non-contingent fact which explains all contingent facts, and which is the Jewish god.

A contingent fact is anything that could have been different. I might have had a hotdog for breakfast instead of cold cereal, so the fact that I had cereal is contingent. A non-contingent, or necessary, fact is anything that couldn't be different. That two plus two equals four is, in Popculturepooka's view, something that couldn't be different, a necessary fact.

Pro supports his claim that all contingent facts have explanations with something called the principle of sufficient reason (psr). I confess to not understanding the psr generally, but I now understand Pro's explanation of it well enough to realize that it doesn't work.

Pro is after one unexplained thing (a necessary Jewish god) that explains everything else. That's his goal. But his psr is incompatible with that goal.

Let's take two facts: Fact A is the fact that I had cereal for breakfast, a contingent fact. Fact B is the fact that two plus two equals four.

Now the conjunct of those two facts (fact C) is a contingent fact. C comprises A and B. A is contingent, so C is also contingent. Any conjunct of facts is contingent if any of the facts it conjoins is contingent. If I had a hotdog for breakfast, A would be different, and C would be different. C is a contingent fact.

Now, Pro claims that if C (or any conjunctive fact) has an explanation, then A and B (or any conjoined facts of a conjunctive fact) are also explained. Thus, not only is there an explanation of my having cereal for breakfast, but there is also an explanation of two plus two equalling four.

It follows, then, that all facts have explanations. The BCC (big conjunctive fact) conjoins all facts necessary and contingent. The BCC is itself a contingent fact, since some of its parts are contingent. The BCC would be different if I'd eaten that hotdog.

And all contingent facts have explanations, according to Pro's first premise.

And all the conjuncts of an explained fact are also explained.

Therefore, according to Pro's logic, all facts must have explanations.

Thus, if Pro's logic is correct, there can be no unexplained first cause, no god.



Pro's Modal Argument

Pro makes a modal argument involving possible and impossible worlds.

This seems to me a mistake, since there are possible worlds with no gods. That sinks his entire case right there. Since there are possible worlds without gods, it is possible that gods do not exist. Therefore, gods are not necessary. Therefore, this world was not created by a necessary god.

That should dispose of the Pro's modal argument, and his entire case. Anyone reading this now knows how to vote. But there are other problems I can point out.

Again, I don't understand the PSR, so I'm not saying anything bad about it generally. But Pro's modal proof of the PSR has problems.

He takes a hypothetical unexplained fact, puts it in an impossible world in which it is both explained and not explained, and concludes that it must therefore be explained in our possible world.

That doesn't make sense. You can't generalize from impossible worlds to possible worlds.

But suppose you could. Even Pro will admit, I assume, that there are impossible worlds in which gods do not exist. Will he generalize from those and conclude that there is no god in this world?

Pro's logic "proves" more than he wants it to. One little substitution, and we see that his first premise should be that all facts have explanations.

p = a necessary god that has no explanation.
p* = that p and there is no explanation for p.
z* = a possible world in which p* has a complete explanation.
a* = completely explains p*.

Thus, there is no reason to single out contingent facts as explainable. That is as arbitrary as singling out cheeseburgers because everything else is explainable, and then concluding that cheeseburgers must have created the universe.


Skepticism

In his first post, Pro argued something not-very-clear about probabilities. If god doesn't exist, we can't figure probabilities. I pointed out that this argument, such as it is, backfires on him. Las Vegas is full of Christians praying that god will adjust their odds. If a magic-throwing god existed, then we couldn't rely on probabilities.

P1: If god exists, then we can't calculate probabilities.
P2: We can calculate probabilities.
C: Therefore, god does not exist.

Pro now dismisses this as "nothing but rhetoric and is irrelevant." I agree that it's a silly argument, but Pro is the one who brought it up. He is the one, therefore, who is saddled with the argument's logical implications.


Necessary Being = God

There is no reason to think the world was created by an unexplained necessary fact. (Not that Pro tries to conflate facts with beings.) But if there were logical reasons to believe in a UNF, would we assume that the UNF and Jehovah are one and the same?

Obviously not. There is no logical reason to belive in an omnipotent, omniscient omnibenevolent god who coexists with sin. There is no logical reason to believe in a benevolent god who tortures people forever in Hellfire. There is no logical reason to believe in an omnipotent god who can't defeat iron chariots. There is no reason to believe in an all-knowing god who repents and changes his mind. There is no reason to believe in a god who both can and cannot be looked upon.

Jehovah, in short, is a collection of contradictions. As such, he is what Pro calls, "an obvious and clear absurdity." Jehovah then is comperable to something that is red and green all over, and pro stipulates that the nonexistence of such things is a necessary fact.

It is not logical, therefore, to believe in Jehovah. If there were logical reasons to believe in the UNF, then, clearly, the UNF would not be Jehovah.


Conclusion

Pro's argument is as follows:

(1) Every contingent fact has an explanation.
(2) There is a contingent fact that includes all other contingent facts.
(3) Therefore, there is an explanation of this fact.
(4) This explanation must involve a necessary being.
(5) This necessary being is God.

1. I have no idea whether (1) is true. But Pro has the burden of proof here, and his arguments fail. Not only do they fail, but if we accepted them anyway, then they would "prove" too much. We would have to conclude that all necessary facts have explanations, as well as all contingent facts. This is a defeater of Pro's argument.

2. The second premise is clearly true. But, again, logic doesn't stop where Pro would have it do. Not only is it true that there is a contingent fact that includes all other contingent facts, but, undeniably, there is a contingent fact includes all other facts, including all necessary facts. This, again, is a fatal flaw; it destroys Pro's case.

3. This depends on (1) which is uncertain and unproven, and (2) which has implications beyond what Pro would wish. If we know that the BCCF has an explaination, then we know also that the BCF (including all necessary facts) has an explanation. Again, this defeats Pro's case.

4. This seems a huge unexplained leap. Even if we stipulated that contingent facts have explanations, why must the explanation be a necessary fact?

And, in any case, for reasons explained above, if we accept Pro's reasons for thinking contingent facts have explanations, then the same logic proves that even necessary facts have explanations. Therefore, there there can be no unexplained fact to explain all the other facts.

Thus, Pro's case fails either way, either because (4) is unproven, or because (4) proves too much, denying him his unexplained first cause.

5. Even if there were an unexplained necessary fact, it would clearly not be the contradiction-filled god of the bible.







Debate Round No. 2
popculturepooka

Pro

Thanks to wiploc for the debate, but, unfortunately I shall show that all of his arguments fail.

Every Contingent Fact Has an Explanation

Con attempts something like a reductio ad absurdum but it fails from the get go starting with this:

"Let's take two facts: Fact A is the fact that I had cereal for breakfast, a contingent fact. Fact B is the fact that two plus two equals four.

Now the conjunct of those two facts (fact C) is a contingent fact."

No, it isn't. If the fact is itself a conjunctive fact but contains necessary facts the fact itself can't be contingent. If every conjunct in a Big Conjunctive Fact (BCF) is contingent, naturally, the BCF will be contingent. Similarly, if every conjunct in a Big Conjunctive Fact is necessary, naturally, the BCF will be necessary. If the BCF the is a mixed compilation of necessary and contingent facts then all that follows is that the BCF itself has some components that are contingent and some that are necessary. Robert Koons explains:

"Lemma 2 Every contingent fact has a wholly contingent part.

Proof. Let a* be a contingent fact. If a* is wholly contingent, we are through, since a* is a part of itself. Otherwise, a* has a necessary part. By Axiom 2, (Pro's note: Axiom 2 is the assumption that any set of facts can be aggregated or conjoined together like I assumed with the BCCF) there exists a fact x* that consists of the aggregate of all the necessary parts of a*. Since a* is contingent, a* itself is not a part of x*. By Axiom 1, there is an b* that overlaps a* but not x*, hence there is a part of a*, say c*, that is not a part of x*. We can show that c* is wholly contingent. Suppose that d* is a part of c*. Then d* is part of a* but d* does not overlap x*. Hence, d* is not necessary. Since d* was an arbitrary part of c*, c* is wholly contingent." (Edits adding asterisks and removing the symbolic logic are mine). [1]

The above argument proves that every contingent fact has a wholly contingent part and since the PSR only concerns wholly contingent facts Con's addition of a necessary fact to his BCF fails to proves his attempted reductio ad absurdum. What the above argument essentially does is it groups the necessary part(s) of a* (in this instance 2 + 2= 4) and separates them from the contingent parts of a* which are, in this instance, that Con ate a hot dog.

Modal argument

Again, Con's arguments are just confused. Supposing we accept that God is a necessary fact (as Con has done) and exists it follows that God exists in all possible worlds. That's simply what just follows from the concept God being a metaphysically necessary being. At most, all Con is doing here is conflating metaphysical possibility with epistemic possibility. For instance, it seems epistemically possible to me that Goldbach's conjecture could be true or it could be false. [2] But Goldbach's conjecture is the type of statement that is either necessarily true or necessarily false. So the mere epistemic possibility of Con conceiving that God doesn't exist in some possible world does not really entail that God (the necessary being) does not exist in some possible world. Con to needs to actually argue for this point instead of just asserting it.

Con has further issues with the modal argument. He says I can't generalize from impossible worlds to possible worlds. Despite the the wording this seems to be mistaken because the argument form of proof by contradiction is a valid one. [3] I did exactly this in arguing that allowing that p* had no explanation results in an absurd contradiction so therefore p has an explanation.

No, I would not agree with Con that there are impossible worlds in which God does not exist for the main reason because I'm doubtful that there are impossible worlds. Suppose there is a world where something can both exist and not exit at the same time in the same sense. That would be an impossible world. It also seems to be incoherent to even think of it.

Con tries a substitution by replacing "contingent fact" for "necessary god" in p but that doesn't work but it is generally though that God, being necessary, explains himself. God exists by his very nature so the supposition that God has no explanation is unmotivated.

Skepticism

Con is tilting at strawmen. I never argued that if God doesn't exist we can't figure out probabilities. What I did argue, however, is that if the PSR doesn't obtain then we have to accept the skeptical scenario that our perceptions (which are surely contingent states of affair) can happen for no reason at all. One could not even argue that this is an implausible scenario since the way we would use to determine that would be to factor in objective probabilities with appeal to the laws of the nature and other scientific matters (which are also contingent). If the PSR holds we have to accept this absurd scenario. So, yes, my original assessment holds - Con's argument here is "not but rhetoric and is irrelevant".

Necessary Being = God

Con objects that there is no reason to believe the world was created by a necessary fact - which is a strange objection considering I presented an argument for that claim that Con has not refuted. (Note that Con doesn't seem to understand that beings are indeed facts. I could say that I am a contingent being and a contingent fact and nothing would be lost in translation.)

An aside: Con that presents a litany of charges that simply, again, are irrelevant to the conversation at hand. Although, one charge did particularly and amusingly jump out at me because of how misguided it is. "There is no logical reason to believe in a benevolent god who tortures people forever in Hellfire." Con seems to think I am arguing for a God like that that even though I've explicitly argued against that proposition. [4] Con also alludes to some other scripture based contradictions. The answer would be - so what? This isn't a debate about biblical inerrantism or anything of the like. That my argument entails the existence of God doesn't entail anything about scripture should be read.

Conclusion

1. Con has u failed here. Even if my modal argument fails for the PSR (which it doesn't, or, at least Con hasn't shown so) I presented two other arguments for the PSR. Con completely just ignored my "mundane explanations" argument for the PSR and his response to my skepticism argument amounts to Con attacking something other than the actual argument I gave.

2. Con thinks that, somehow, a contingent fact (the BCCF) can "contain" a necessary fact which literally makes no sense at all. As shown by Koons the argument is only concerned with wholly contingent facts - i.e. facts that only have contingent parts. Otherwise, this amounts to saying that a contingent fact can be a necessary fact. This amounts to saying that there is a fact that can both obtain and not obtain in different possible worlds and at the same time obtain in all possible worlds. This is just plain incoherence. It wouldn't be a contingent fact if it contained necessary facts.

3. See above point.

4. Because of the PSR and because contingent facts don't explain themselves or have no explanation. If the conjunction of all contingent facts can't explain itself and can't have no explanation then a necessary fact is needed to explain the BCCF.

5. Again, pure rhetoric and another attempt to distract from the issue.

Thanks for the debate!

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[1] http://www.arn.org...
[2] http://en.wikipedia.org...
[3] http://en.wikipedia.org...
[4] http://www.debate.org...
wiploc

Con

Thanks, Popculturepooka, for this interesting and challenging debate. And thanks to any readers for entertaining our discussion.

Pro argues as follows.

(1) Every contingent fact has an explanation.
(2) There is a contingent fact that includes all other contingent facts.
(3) Therefore, there is an explanation of this fact.
(4) This explanation must involve a necessary being.
(5) This necessary being is God.

Number 2 is true, though self-servingly arbitrary. Obviously there is a contingent fact that contains all facts, contingent or otherwise.

Numbers 4 and 5 are wildly non-sequitur. Pro's attempt to plaster over the cracks have overtly failed.

Numbers 1 and 3 are dubious, and not effectively supported.

Therefore, none of Pro's contentions withstand inspection.


Let's take them one at a time.

(1) Every contingent fact has an explanation.

I take this to mean that all contingent facts have causes.

That's using the principle of charity. What pro actually said is that all contingent facts are explained by propositions, which clearly isn't true. Some contingent facts have never been discovered or imagined. No one has thought about them. No one has explained them. No one has made any propositions about them. Therefore, if we held Pro to his own definition, (1) would be clearly false.

That's a trivial objection, voiced only to make the point that I'm trying to understand Pro's point of view; I'm not striking for a weak spot to score rhetorical points. When I take "explanations" to be causes, I'm putting the best face of Pro's argument that I know how to.

If Pro believes that all facts have causes, then he is going in the teeth of what we know about quantum mechanics, which posits many uncaused events. Pro responds to that observation by pointing out that the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics is not the only possible interpretation.

Yes, there are other possible interpretations, but they do not have the support of the scientific community. Pro has pitted his own authority against that of the scientific consensus. Yet he has offered us no credentials, no scientific reasoning. His opinion can have no weight.

As laymen, the responsible thing to do is to either accept the opinion of science, or have no opinion at all.

Thus, we must take (1) as either wrong or not established.

--

Pro also has another angle; he attempts to support (1) with a modal argument. He says that we can ignore the scientific consensus because of his modal proof.

But does Pro's modal proof actually persuade? No. He posits thusly:
  1. There is a world with an unexplained fact.
  2. There is, in this world, annother fact.
  3. Further, there is an explanation for the conjunction of those two facts.
  4. And---at least in this world---if a conjunctive fact is explained, then the facts conjoined in it are also explained.

Now Pro is correct in saying that this is contradiction. Those four cannot all be true.


Obviously, if Pro is right about this being a possible world, if (1) and (2) are true, then (3) or (4) is false.

Might (3) or (4) be false? It seems to me that the only reason Pro has for believing that (3) is true is that he believes in principle of sufficient reason. He has used the PSR as a premise in order to prove the PSR as his conclusion. His argument is circular.

If Pro wants a possible world in which a given fact is unexplained, then he doesn't get to say that any fact conjoined with the unexplained fact can thereby explain it.

--

Pro says contingent facts have explanations. And he says an explained conjuntive fact explains their conjuncts. I pointed out that if this is true, then all facts, not just contingent facts, have explanations.


My example was my breakfast cereal (contingent fact) and 2+2=4 (necessary fact). The conjunction ...

  • I ate cereal for breakfast, and two plus two is four.

is a contingent fact. We know this because Pro defined contingent facts for us. If they could be different, if they aren't the same in all possible worlds, then they are contingent.


Well, there are possible worlds in which I ate a hotdog for breakfast and two plus two is four. So, that fact conjunctive fact is, by Pro's own definition, contingent.

Pro's response is that he wasn't talking about that. Suddenly, in the final round of the debate, the PSR is only about purely contingent facts, those with no necessary componants.

Does this mean, according to Pro's logic, that the creator of the world may be a mixed conjunctive fact?


Next, Pro quotes Robert Koons, who, when handed a Lemma, tried to make lemmanaid. Koons argued that mixed facts (facts conjoining both necessary and contingent facts) will have a subset of purely contingent facts. True, but this helps Pro not at all. Koon did not say that mixed facts are not contingent.

--

I pointed out that there are possible worlds with no gods, so therefore it is obvious that there can be no necessary gods in this world.

Pro says I should support my claim that there are possible worlds without gods, which is a bit like asking why two plus two equals four. That's what the words mean. A possible world is one without logical contradictions, by definition. No square triangles, no married bachelors.


Is godlessness contradictory? No. I believe the actual world to be godless. Even if I'm wrong about that, I cannot be wrong about there being godless possible worlds. Such a world would not necessarily involve a contradiction, therefore it is possible. By definition.

And since there are godless possible worlds, no gods in this world are necessary. It therefore cannot be that this world was created by a necessary god.

This argument is dispositive. Pro set out to prove that our world was created by a necessary god. Not only is that unproven, but it cannot be true.

Skepticsm

Pro claimed that if the PSR isn't true, then we can't figure probabilities. Something like that. He doesn't like how I restate his point. Well, I'm doing the best I can. If he stated his case more clearly, then I could refute it more clearly.


In the meantime:


a) Pro overstates his case. The PSR fails if any single contingent fact lacks explanation. That fact wouldn't have to have to be anything to do with probabilities. And,


b) If there is a magic-throwing god around, that could screw up probabilities as much as a failure of the PSR.

Necessary Being = God


Pro thinks some one individual necessary fact caused all contingent facts. He thinks we should believe that this necessary fact is the Jewish god. His reason? His fact is powerful (he says), and tradition says the Jewish god is powerful. There are, he says, other similarities between his fact and the traditonal Jewish god. Therefore, he says, we should believe they are one and the same.


It's like arguing that I must be the president because I favor universal health care.

I pointed contradictions among traditional beliefs about the Jewish god. Pro dismissed them because they come from the bible. He wants us to focus on non-biblical traditions about god? Our fundamental traditional belief about the Jewish god is that he is described in the bible.

Any non-biblical god would be non-traditional.

Conclusion:

Thanks to, Popculturepooka, and thanks to all (any) readers.

Pro's argument was interesting, and he was unfailingly polite. Nonetheless, he never persuasively supported his premeses. Nor was he able to bridge the outlandish gaps between his premises and his conclusions.


Please vote Con.










Debate Round No. 3
33 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Meatros 5 years ago
Meatros
So a necessary being is something that cannot be different, right?

It seems to me that "God" doesn't fall under this, since God could be very different. There could be a good god or an evil god, for instance.

I feel I'm off base here, but I'm not sure why - anyone want to help me here?
Posted by Raisor 5 years ago
Raisor
popculture,

Its been too long for me to be able to answer your specific questions, I simply dont remember. The best I can say is it may not have been clear to me that your "3 arguments" were independent of the point in question. I really dont remember my process of thinking.

Anyways, as you say: 'The lemma claims " Every contingent fact has a wholly contingent part."'

This is enough for Koons version of the argument, but your version requires that "Every contingent fact is necessarily wholly contingent" or some sort of claim that facts with necessary parts arent contingent, you need to exclude necessary facts from anything you could call contingent..The lemma you cited alone doesnt do this, you need additional argument to support that claim. Maybe you feel you provided the additional arguments in round, my impression as a judge was you felt the lemma alone was sufficient and that you overstated what the lemma showed.
Posted by tvellalott 5 years ago
tvellalott
Arguments: Ah yeah, the awful Cosmological argument, as presented by the excellent PCP. It's a terrifying thing, really. I personally strongly disagree with 4 and 5, but wouldn't feel confident about debating them with pooka. He is... very intelligent. Con's rebuttals failed, though I found the cheeseburger thing in his first rebuttal to 5 quite amusing. You were simply outclassed by superior opponent.
Sources: Obviously.
Posted by Thrasymachus 5 years ago
Thrasymachus
I will try and map this over the week.
Posted by popculturepooka 5 years ago
popculturepooka
You're kidding me, right, NewCreature?

*sigh*
Posted by popculturepooka 5 years ago
popculturepooka
The lemma claims " Every contingent fact has a wholly contingent part."

And, obviously, a fact has to be apart of itself and obviously it overlaps with itself. Once the lemma shows that necessary parts are factored out all that is left is the part of the contingent fact that is not necessary (i.e. contingent) and the PSR doesn't have anything to say about necessary facts - only contingent ones. That koons goes on to use his lemma in a different version of the argument is irrelevant to the point being made.

"If you read Koons' paper you will see that his argument is constructed differently from the one you presented in round."

I have read his paper. Multiple times. I'm quite aware that he makes a different sort of cosmological argument. I'm also aware that his point still works for the argument I presented. I'm frankly baffled that you think that since he is making a different argument that his point still isn't salient to the argument I presented.

But, anyways, I find it strange that you judge that I somehow lose the debate if one of my arguments for (1) fail when I specifically presented 3 for (1) and you said nothing about the rebuttals of the other two. So even if one of my arguments for (1) fails how does that merit me losing an entire debate when I presented two more that weren't even close to being adequately addressed?
Posted by Raisor 5 years ago
Raisor
"Uh, what? The lemma shows that the necessary parts of a contingent fact can be factored out leaving you with a contingent fact with all WHOLLY contingent parts. Once all the necessary facts have been factored out your left with the BCCF."

This is not what the lemma shows. This can be seen if you draw out the lemma graphically (in a Venn diagram type fashion). The first time I read the lemma I thought to myself "well that doesnt show what it claims to at all," so I drew it out to make sure I hadnt made a mistake, confirming my original judgment. Then I reread the proof and saw that I (as you have) misinterpreted what the lemma claimed to show.

The lemma claims " Every contingent fact has a wholly contingent part." This is not the same as 'Every contingent fact is made ONLY of wholly contingent parts.'

If you read the entirety of Koons' argument, you will see that the lemma in the context of the paper does not serve the purpose you use it for, but instead uses it as a stepping stone to the claim that there is some fact C (defined as the aggregate of all "wholly contingent facts") for which "Every contingent fact overlaps C." If you look at the paper you will see that "lemma 2" appears exactly twice. The first is when it defined, the second is in proving lemma 5, which I just now quoted in its entirety.

If you read Koons' paper you will see that his argument is constructed differently from the one you presented in round.
Posted by wiploc 5 years ago
wiploc
: That's ridiculous. By saying something is contingent it's assumed that it doesn't have any necessary parts. Providing a proof of that is easy but it kind of just follows from the idea of contingency.

But you defined "contingent" in a way that includes contingent things with non-contingent parts. You didn't try to restrict your claim to purely contingent things until later in the debate; and by so doing, you were effectively abandoning your original claim, abandoning your resolution.
Posted by popculturepooka 5 years ago
popculturepooka
Uh, what? The lemma shows that the necessary parts of a contingent fact can be factored out leaving you with a contingent fact with all WHOLLY contingent parts. Once all the necessary facts have been factored out your left with the BCCF.
Posted by Raisor 5 years ago
Raisor
I believe your lemma 2 was supposed to prove what you are claiming, but the lemma only shows that a contingent idea must contain a PART that is wholly contingent: "Every contingent fact has a wholly contingent part." The proof doesnt even claim to do more than that.

And claiming " it's assumed that it doesn't have any necessary parts " is unfair, since Con makes a huge stink about how your explanation allows for contingent ideas with necessary parts. He makes the point, so you have to refute it. You did not refute it.

Its sort of irrelevent that "providing a proof is easy." All that matters is what you actually proved in round.

I actually totally agree the whole thing is ridiculous. But I still think you mishandled the issue and so couldnt vote for you.
9 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 9 records.
Vote Placed by Rational_Thinker9119 3 years ago
Rational_Thinker9119
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro had a richer variety of sources, and had a deeper and more intricate argument which wiploc seemed to misunderstand. The argument from contingency presented by Pro is a tough cookie to crack, however, it does crumble, and I found many problems with Pro's argument. Con himself did not actually raise the necessary objections required to actually defeat this argument however, thus the points Pro made that went uncontested; stood.
Vote Placed by logicrules 5 years ago
logicrules
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Reasons for voting decision: Not sure that con actually ever grasped the "contingent facts" construct, his fact a,b,c indicates he didn't. The argument is a long standing one, basing existence on cause and identifiable effects.
Vote Placed by Mr.Infidel 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: No he didn't. Counter.
Vote Placed by Willoweed 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: COn used a lot of logical fallacies
Vote Placed by tvellalott 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: See comments.
Vote Placed by NewCreature 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro failed to prove that God is the necessary being for every contingent fact, and the very firs premie that every contingent fact has an explanation is assumed from the beginning. This is the problem with the cosmological argument.
Vote Placed by Raisor 5 years ago
Raisor
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Reasons for voting decision: RFD in comments
Vote Placed by Grape 5 years ago
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Vote Placed by CD-Host 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: See comments for discussion of convincing. Sources is clear.