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Critique of the cosmological argument for God

famousdebater
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10/24/2015 2:32:34 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
Throughout the ages, various forms of the Cosmological Argument have been formulated in an attempt to establish the origins of the universe. Aristotle is often acclaimed as having developed the first version of this theory. After analyzing the notions of causation and motion in the world, he concluded that there must be a 'prime mover' which set things in to motion, and this is God. However, it is important to recognize that Aristotle's God was not the God of classical theism which possesses divine qualities such as omnipotence and benevolence. It was theists such as St. Thomas Aquinas who took the key principles of the Aristotelian approach and argued that these could be used to prove the existence of the theistic God. Gottfried Leibniz's contingency argument is perhaps the most respected of these reformulations, and it is his argument that I will focus upon in this essay. I will first explain Leibniz's approach, and then I will attempt to show why his theory ultimately fails in proving the existence of God. I will do this by arguing that he is wrong to presuppose the Principle of Sufficient Reason and that even if we take this principle to be true it still raises the question, why must the sufficient reason for the Universe be the God of classical theism?

The seventeenth century philosopher and mathematician, Gottfried Leibniz once asked the question 'why is there something rather than nothing?'(Russell 2008: 31) This dilemma led him to develop his Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR) which states that all things have a sufficient explanation for their existence. It is the combination of this principle with the concept of contingency which distinguishes Leibniz's version of the Cosmological Argument from other variations, such as the Kalam argument. John Mackie condenses Leibniz's argument in The Miracle of Theism;

'Things must have a sufficient reason for their existence, and this must be found ultimately in a necessary being. There must be something free from the disease of contingency, even if it is infinite in past time' (Mackie 1982: 82).

This is obviously a succinct explanation of Leibniz's argument. However, for the purpose of this essay, this summary is not sufficient; therefore I will now outline the argument in simple terms, step-by-step.

The universe is made up of contingent things, meaning that they did not have to exist.
Therefore, each of these things must have a sufficient explanation, which is outside of the things themselves, for why they exist.
The universe, as the totality of these things, is therefore itself contingent.
Therefore, there must be a sufficient reason for the existence of the universe itself, which must be outside of the universe.
This must be a necessary being which contains within itself the sufficient reason for its own existence.
This necessary being is God.
Having established the fundamental premises behind Leibniz's argument, I will now attempt to show why this approach ultimately falls short of proving God's existence.

The most important question raised from Leibniz's theory is whether it is right to presuppose the Principle of Sufficient Reason. Leibniz believed that everything must have a sufficient reason for its existence, including the universe. Can Leibniz's assertion however be wholly justified? I will now attempt to show why it cannot.

Leibniz's conclusion is based on a posteriori reasoning. He is essentially arguing that through observation of existing things within the universe we can show the Principle of Sufficient Reason to be true and that as a result we must accept that this principle can be applied to the existence of the universe itself. This notion of unquestioned acceptance is where the problem in Leibniz's argument lies. Firstly, it seems particularly arbitrary on Leibniz's behalf to assume that, just because the Principle of Sufficient Reason can be observed within our universe, that the same principle must apply to the existence of the universe itself. It is indeed logically possible that the universe has a sufficient reason for its existence. However, it is wrong to say that it is logically necessary. It seems to me that we are equally justified in saying, as Bertrand Russell did, that the universe is a brute fact, it is 'just there, and that's all' (Russell 1964: 175). A theist may well respond with the claim that we have no experience of brute facts within the universe, whereas the Principle of Sufficient Reason can be observed universally. However, this claim once again relies on human understanding, which we know to be infallible. For example, it was once universally accepted that the earth was flat, yet this has since been debunked, illustrating how mistaken human observations can be. Therefore, we can see that Leibniz is wrong to presuppose a sufficient reason for the universe's existence, for as John Mackie puts it, 'we have no right to assume that the universe will comply with our intellectual preferences' (Mackie 1982: 87).

It has already been established that it is logically possible that a sufficient reason for the existence of the universe may exist. However, even if we were to accept this premise to be true, this still raises the question, why must this be the necessary being that is God? I will now illustrate why this doesn't have to be the case.

Leibniz's belief in a necessary being relies greatly on his observations of the principle of contingency. He believed that because all things within the universe are contingent, the universe as a collection of these things must itself be contingent. In order to resolve this problem of contingency, Leibniz believed that there must exist outside of the universe a necessary being that contains within itself the reason for its existence. It is this last premise that creates problems for Leibniz's argument. One could easily object to this by arguing that the universe itself could be necessary, and contain within itself the sufficient reason for its existence. Why go as far as God to find the sufficient reason, why not stop at the universe? Proponents of Leibniz's contingency argument may reply that there is nothing about the universe to suggest that it is necessary. Yet at least we can prove that the universe exists, and it is perfectly plausible that a time will come when science discovers something to suggest that the universe exists necessarily. Therefore, I would concede that if the universe does have a sufficient reason, this could be something which exists necessarily. However, this does not mean that this thing has to be God as it could just as easily be argued that the universe exists necessarily, containing within itself the sufficient reason for its existence.
"Life calls the tune, we dance."
John Galsworthy
famousdebater
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10/24/2015 2:34:25 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
Even if we were to accept that premise 5 of Leibniz's argument must be true, this still begs the question, how does Leibniz arrive at premise 6? In short, why must this necessary being, which exists outside of the universe, be the God of classical theism? Leibniz fails to explain this as there is nothing whatsoever about his argument that alludes to the divine qualities of this necessary being. To reconcile Leibniz's argument with the God of classical theism, it would require us to merge it with another theistic approach such as Anselm's ontological argument. However, this only adds to the contestability of Leibniz's claim because it requires us to presuppose the legitimacy of arguments which are highly debatable themselves or in the case of Anselm's, entirely discredited. Leibniz's argument, at best, infers the existence of a form of deistic God; one that explains the universe's existence but that does not possess all the divine qualities attributed to the theistic God.

Although Leibniz's approach has historically commanded much respect, for example Mackie has described it as the best philosophical argument for theism, it is clear that the argument ultimately fails in proving the existence of God (Mackie 1982: 81). This has been demonstrated through my two key criticisms. Most importantly, I have shown that Leibniz is wrong to assume that the universe itself has a sufficient reason for its existence. Moreover, I have illustrated that even if we take the Principle of Sufficient Reason to be true, this still raises important questions about Leibniz's necessary being. Firstly, it has been shown that there is no reason to suggest that the universe itself is not necessary. Thereby raising doubts over whether a necessary being has to actually exist outside of the universe. Finally, there are no grounds, whatsoever, on which to assume that a necessary being, external to the universe, must possess the divine qualities attributed to the theistic God.
"Life calls the tune, we dance."
John Galsworthy
SNP1
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10/24/2015 3:42:05 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
There are two types of cosmological arguments that I have seen.
1) Argues for a god via temporal ordering (KCA for example)
2) Argues for a god via a contingent universe (LCA for example)

The first one requires for the existence of tensed facts, thus my creation of the TCA to counter them.
The second one has, what I think, is a major flaw. It proposes necessary causal agents. The reason this is flawed is because the actions of a being is derived from its properties. The properties of a necessary being are necessary. This means that the actions of a necessary being are necessary. So, by saying god is a necessary creator of the contingent universe does not work. This is because god would exist in all possible worlds (making god necessary), but would also have to create the universe in all possible worlds. This means the universe exists in all possible worlds, thus making it necessary and not contingent.
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kp98
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10/24/2015 8:40:42 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
**My Own Arguments**
Tenseless Cosmological Argument
P1) If God created the universe, the universe has a cause.
P2) The universe can only have a cause if tensed facts exist.
P3) Tensed facts do not exist.
C1) The universe does not have a cause (follows from P2 and P3).
C2) God did not create the universe (follows from P1 and C1).


Or (more concisely), if the universe didn't begin, god sure didn't begin it!

Not sure about P3. It seems a shakey basis for an argument, and far too contentious to be a bald premise.

So why doesn't the tensed fact 'Napoleon was Emperor of France' exist?
Illegalcombatant
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10/24/2015 11:52:29 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
As I understand it the PSR says if something exists there are only two options.......

1) It is contingent on something else

2) It exists because it can't not exist (necessary existence)

What about a third option, something exists that isn't contingent but could of not existed.
"Seems like another attempt to insert God into areas our knowledge has yet to penetrate. You figure God would be bigger than the gaps of our ignorance." Drafterman 19/5/12
popculturepooka
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10/25/2015 12:53:29 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 10/24/2015 11:52:29 PM, Illegalcombatant wrote:

What about a third option, something exists that isn't contingent but could of not existed.

...wut.
At 10/3/2016 11:49:13 PM, thett3 wrote:
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Illegalcombatant
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10/25/2015 1:04:31 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 10/25/2015 12:53:29 AM, popculturepooka wrote:
At 10/24/2015 11:52:29 PM, Illegalcombatant wrote:

What about a third option, something exists that isn't contingent but could of not existed.


...wut.

1) Contingent
2) Necessary
3) Neither contingent (that is to say dependent on something else for it's existence) or necessary
"Seems like another attempt to insert God into areas our knowledge has yet to penetrate. You figure God would be bigger than the gaps of our ignorance." Drafterman 19/5/12
famousdebater
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10/25/2015 8:55:33 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
P1) If God created the universe, the universe has a cause.
P2) The universe can only have a cause if tensed facts exist.
P3) Tensed facts do not exist.
C1) The universe does not have a cause (follows from P2 and P3).
C2) God did not create the universe (follows from P1 and C1).

I understand what you are trying to say however I agree that P3 needs some revision. As an Atheist, I understand this argument however a theist will question your 3rd premise. They aren't necessarily non-existent so I think you could rephrase that to have a better effect. I'll comment back here if I find a better way to phrase that. I'll have to think about it.
"Life calls the tune, we dance."
John Galsworthy
skipsaweirdo
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10/26/2015 1:07:44 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 10/25/2015 8:55:33 AM, famousdebater wrote:
P1) If God created the universe, the universe has a cause.
P2) The universe can only have a cause if tensed facts exist.
P3) Tensed facts do not exist.
C1) The universe does not have a cause (follows from P2 and P3).
C2) God did not create the universe (follows from P1 and C1).

I understand what you are trying to say however I agree that P3 needs some revision. As an Atheist, I understand this argument however a theist will question your 3rd premise. They aren't necessarily non-existent so I think you could rephrase that to have a better effect. I'll comment back here if I find a better way to phrase that. I'll have to think about it.
P1) actually should say...IF god created the universe, THEN the universe had a cause..
The purposeful ommission of the "then" in the first premise is understood as being a part of his TCA. The subject matter for his Syllogism isn't applicable to argue with, thus it is reduced to nothing more than a personal opinion fallacy. Only agreed upon facts are proper subject matter for a syllogism. Tensed facts existing or not isn't an agreed upon fact. God existing or not isn't an agreed upon fact. The universe having a cause or not isn't an agreed upon fact.
You will notice the KA doesn't use the "if then" syllogism because people with actual educations in logic know the subject matter isn't used in a syllogism. That's why it is based solely on reasoning.
"Everything that begins to exist has a cause". The reason why this isn't an "if then" premise is because it is actually observed through experience. The following subject matter in the argument is therefore connected via reasoning, not structural flow. No one has ever observed something beginning to exist without there being a cause. Not saying the reasoning or conclusion is proven(God) just pointing to the structure of the argument. The reasoning is consistent with how the concept of God is defined however.
Your advice that he revise anything in his syllogism exposes the fact you haven't went beyond a freshman logic class. The whole TCA itself is useless. And please don't respond because I'm not going to educate you. Do it yourself. Actually learn how to use a syllogism and what subjects are appropriate then dispose of your advice for what it is, the uneducated leading the uneducated. Hagd.
kp98
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10/26/2015 2:55:27 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
You're getting very worked up about it, Skips! Chill, bro!

The TCA seems very similar to the 'Argument from eternalism' that cropped up a few days ago. Indeed I think SNP1 used 'tensed facts' as a surrogate for eternalism and they are in fact identical. Both arguments reduce to pointing out the contradiction between a universe with no beginning and god beginning the universe.

I think that calling a simple contradiction in terms an 'argument' and even giving it a name is perhaps a little pretentious?
tejretics
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10/27/2015 12:33:34 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
Your attack is not on the PSR itself but on Leibniz's a posteriori justification of it, correct? But there are other justifications of the PSR that don't rely on inductive verification empirically, e.g. via modal logic. Alexander R. Pruss notably defends the PSR with separate, non-inductive justifications in The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology, ed. W.L. Craig and J.P. Moreland.
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tejretics
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10/27/2015 12:34:21 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
How do you justify the second premise of the Tenseless Cosmological Argument, SNP1?
"Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe." - Frederick Douglass
famousdebater
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10/27/2015 12:43:05 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 10/27/2015 12:34:21 PM, tejretics wrote:
How do you justify the second premise of the Tenseless Cosmological Argument, SNP1?

This is what it should be:

P1) If God created the universe, the universe has a cause.
P2) The universe can only have a supernatural cause if tensed facts exist.
P3) Tensed facts do not exist and cannot be proven.
C1) The universe does not have a supernatural cause (follows from P2 and P3).
C2) God did not create the universe (follows from P1 and C1).
"Life calls the tune, we dance."
John Galsworthy
kp98
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10/27/2015 4:51:19 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
What does 'Tensed facts do not exist' mean?

And P2 is a ridiculous thing to have as premise. Premises supposed to be obvious, or at least readily accepted. If you allow such a non-trivial proposition as a premise, why not just state the conclusion?
SNP1
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10/27/2015 5:14:32 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 10/27/2015 12:34:21 PM, tejretics wrote:
How do you justify the second premise of the Tenseless Cosmological Argument, SNP1?

Using the same points that are presupposed by the Kalam Cosmological Argument (as proposed by William Lane Craig) about what it means to begin to exist:
e comes into being at t if and only if:
(i) e exists at t
(ii) t is the first time at which e exists
(iii) there is no state of affairs in the actual world in which e exists timelessly
(iv) e"s existing at t is a tensed fact.

This works because if the universe was created then it must have a cause and a beginning. Either that or you can talk about it having a cause as in it is contingent upon a necessary being (not in temporal causality sense but in a "red is contingent on light" sense), but I addressed that as well.
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stealspell
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10/27/2015 5:16:35 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 10/27/2015 12:43:05 PM, famousdebater wrote:
P3) Tensed facts do not exist and cannot be proven.

Of course tensed facts exist. Past tense, present tense, future tense.
kp98
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10/27/2015 5:49:30 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
e"s existing at t is a tensed fact.

No it isn't! Whether e existing at t (t being some defined if unknown point of time) is true (or false) now, in the past and in the future. A tensed fact is one whose truth can change with the passing of time. So ' kp99 is 58 years old' is a tensed fact - it is true now, but it was not true last year and will not be true next year. 'kp's age in 2015 = 58' is untensed because it is true at all times, past present and future. To say the fact 'kp is 58' 'does not exist' requires 'exist' to be defined in some odd way, because it is most certainly true now.

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skipsaweirdo
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10/28/2015 9:49:09 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 10/26/2015 2:55:27 AM, kp98 wrote:
You're getting very worked up about it, Skips! Chill, bro!

The TCA seems very similar to the 'Argument from eternalism' that cropped up a few days ago. Indeed I think SNP1 used 'tensed facts' as a surrogate for eternalism and they are in fact identical. Both arguments reduce to pointing out the contradiction between a universe with no beginning and god beginning the universe.

Short and sweet to save you time. ONLY agreed upon facts can be injected into the form known as a syllogism. Tensed facts existing or not, not agreed upon fact. God existing or not, not agreed upon fact. Beginning of time or even how time is defined, not agreed upon fact. Eternalism being true, not an agreed upon fact. To even address one premise in the TCA is to be ignorant of the FACT that it is useless. Since it violates the rules set forth in regards to proper subject matter to be argued in the form of a syllogism, it is reduced to nothing but a personal opinion fallacy.
I think that calling a simple contradiction in terms an 'argument' and even giving it a name is perhaps a little pretentious?
Where did I do this?
kp98
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10/28/2015 10:44:02 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
I copied the 'argument' from the signature on SNP's post... where he dubbed it the TCA - presumably for 'Temporal Cosmological Argument' - at least that is what I thought. I am easily confused. Apologies all round if I have mis-attributed anything or got the wrong end of any sticks.

I agree the TCA isn't the ultimate in formal logic, but there's no point being so aggressively negative about it. This is a public forum, not a closed shop for professional (or wannabe) philosophers. I think well-meaning contributors should be encouraged and criticised constructively. SNP might not be Socrates, but he/she doesn't strike me as a 'troll'.
Balacafa
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10/28/2015 12:25:56 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
Of course tensed facts exist. Past tense, present tense, future tense.

I don't think that's what he meant.
stealspell
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10/28/2015 6:00:19 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 10/28/2015 12:25:56 PM, Balacafa wrote:
Of course tensed facts exist. Past tense, present tense, future tense.

I don't think that's what he meant.

What did he mean then?
Balacafa
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10/28/2015 6:10:53 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 10/28/2015 6:00:19 PM, stealspell wrote:
At 10/28/2015 12:25:56 PM, Balacafa wrote:
Of course tensed facts exist. Past tense, present tense, future tense.

I don't think that's what he meant.

What did he mean then?

I believe that a tensed fact is a fact that can be known for a fact from the past, present and future. A bit like omniscience. Knowing the past, present and future for a fact.
stealspell
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10/28/2015 6:28:45 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 10/28/2015 6:10:53 PM, Balacafa wrote:
At 10/28/2015 6:00:19 PM, stealspell wrote:
At 10/28/2015 12:25:56 PM, Balacafa wrote:
Of course tensed facts exist. Past tense, present tense, future tense.

I don't think that's what he meant.

What did he mean then?

I believe that a tensed fact is a fact that can be known for a fact from the past, present and future. A bit like omniscience. Knowing the past, present and future for a fact.

Don't we have facts about the present?
kp98
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10/28/2015 7:26:16 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
A tensed fact is one that is depends on the current time or date. For example 'it is raining here now' is true as I type it (I looked out of the window to check), but it might not be true when you read it because it might not be raining here then. On the other hand a untensed fact is 'It rained here at 8pm, 29th october 2015'. That is true as I type it and whenever you read it and at any other time too.

As I said before, I am sure the use of the phrase 'tensed fact' is a mistake due to thinking it is equivalent to asserting eternalism (ie that the universe has existed forever and had no beginning), but I'm not quite sure - it's all very confusing!
stealspell
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10/28/2015 8:48:48 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
It seems funny to me that someone would subscribe to eternalism simply because the sentence "it is raining now" is not the case some time later. Well, it doesn't the negate the fact that it was the case some time ago. To claim there are no tensed facts is a language error, not a fact of reality.
kp98
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10/29/2015 6:26:39 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
To claim there are no tensed facts is a language error, not a fact of reality

Scratches head... what is a language error? 'There are no tensed facts' is perfectly good English - it just happens to be wrong. Surely 'London is the capital of France' isn't a language error, is it?
stealspell
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10/29/2015 6:56:20 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 10/29/2015 6:26:39 PM, kp98 wrote:
To claim there are no tensed facts is a language error, not a fact of reality

Scratches head... what is a language error? 'There are no tensed facts' is perfectly good English - it just happens to be wrong. Surely 'London is the capital of France' isn't a language error, is it?

The claim accuses a proposition of not doing something that the proposition grammatically cannot do. "It is raining" is in the present tense. The meaning, as time passes, changes to past tense. An b-theoriest would look at the same sentence and claim that it is no longer true. Thus, an error in language.