Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Cosmological argument - some notes

Cosmological argument

Text from today's slides



       Cosmological Argument
       Stephen Law
       Cosmological arguments
       Cosmological arguments attempt to establish the existence of God by noting:
       (i) that the universe exists, and
       (ii) inferring that it must depend for its existence on something else, that something else being God.
       There are many versions.

 
       Aquinas
THE ARGUMENT FROM CAUSATION
       Some things are caused.
       Everything that is caused is caused by something else.
       An infinite regress of causation is impossible.
       Therefore, there must be an uncaused first cause of all that is caused.
       This cause is what we call God.
       The ancient Hindus
       All unsupported things fall.
       But the Earth does not fall.
       Therefore the Earth must be supported.
       Therefore, there must exist a cosmic elephant that supports the Earth.
       The ancient Hindus
       But what supports the Elephant?
       The ancient Hindus
       A cosmic turtle!
       But what supports the turtle?
       The ancient Hindus
       The Hindus made the turtle the exception to the rule that all unsupported things fall.
       Were the ancient Hindus justified in supposing there’s a cosmic elephant and cosmic turtle?
       The ancient Hindus
       The moral is: if we are going to play the exception to the rule card, we should play it as early as possible.
       You shouldn’t “bolt on” an elephant and a turtle and then play the exception card.
       So why “bolt on” God as first cause, and then stop there?
       Why not just make the universe the exception to the rule that everything has a cause?
       Perhaps we can fix the argument by showing that ONLY God can be the exception to the rule that everything has a cause – the universe itself can’t be the exception?
       Copleston – argument from contingency
       1) There are things in this world that are contingent – they might not have existed, and depend for their existence on something else e.g. I might not have existed (if my parents never met).
       2) All things in the world are like this – everything depends on something else for its existence.
       3) Therefore there must be a cause of everything in the universe that exists outside of it.
       4) This cause must be a necessary being – one which contains the reason for its existence inside itself.
       5) This necessary being is God.
       Copleston – argument from contingency
       This argument avoids making God an arbitrary, bolted-on stopping point by saying the chain of causes must terminate with a necessary being.
       Reason? Only a necessary being requires no independent cause.
       The universe is not a necessary being. But there must be one = God.
       Russell’s objections
       To Copleston’s argument, in 1947 radio debate.
       FALLACY OF COMPOSITION
       Russell rejects principle that if everything in universe contingent/has a cause then universe has a cause.
       Just because every human has a mother does not entail human race has a mother.
       The existence of the universe may be brute fact.
       Hume and Kant
       Hume too questions the jump from everything in the universe has a cause to the universe has a cause (again: FALLACY OF COMPOSITION).
       Kant too: concepts of cause and effect apply only within the spatio-temporal universe and cannot be coherently applied outside of it.
       Does the question: “Why is there something rather than nothing?” make sense?
       Cosmological arguments start with a mystery: “Why is there something (a universe) rather than nothing?”
       But does this question make sense?
       Does the question make sense?
       Some questions that seem to make sense turn out not to.
       Compare: “What is North of the North Pole?”
       Or Wittgenstein’s “What time is it on the sun?”
       They do NOT need ANSWERS. Rather we need  clarification, so see we can see the question does not make sense.
       A radical approach to dealing with philosophical questions! Don’t answer. Rather show they don’t need answers!
       Absolute Nothing
       This is a peculiar kind of nothing. Usually when we talk about “nothing” we mean an empty bit of space or period of time when nothing was going on.
       This is a much more radical “nothing” – absolute Nothing – in which there is no time or space.
       Can we make sense of this notion of absolute Nothing/Something?
       Try thinking of absolute nothing…
       Does the question make sense?
       What’s the difference between thinking of Nothing, and not thinking of anything? Is there a difference?
       “We arrive at idea of absolute Nothing by subtraction.”
       Can we do this? Can we mentally remove not only everything on the stage, but the stage itself – time and space?
       Bede Rundle: No! Absolute nothing is inconceivable.
       The radical approach to the question:
Why is there something rather than nothing?
       Me: Perhaps the question makes no sense.
       In which case do not need answer.
       In which case do not need God to be the answer.
       What is established?
       At most, only a first cause and/or necessary being.
       But why must it be, say, the Christian God? Or even a person/agent/god?
       And might not that particular God be ruled out e.g. on the basis of observation?
       Even if we cannot solve mystery, we may be able to rule out certain answers.
       Text from these slides will be posted tonite on www.stephenlaw.org
       Twitter: @stephenlaw60

6 comments:

Alexander Johannesen said...

Just a quick note; a lot hinges also on that the universe had a beginning, however there's a great misunderstanding to think the Big Bang *is* the beginning of the universe; the Big Bang is a great unknown cataclysmic event that certainly involves our universe, however we don't know if it's a beginning, or an event (the Big Bang could just be one of an endless stream of Big Bangs, or part of a pulsating universe, or ... many options). Truth is, we don't know what happens back to what many calls time 0; we can observe back to year 300.000 or so, and we postulate/project backwards, but not quite all the way to 0. And beyond that? We know nothing. And as long as we know nothing, it can't be a premise for an argument.

If nothing else, we need to get better at calling this the observable universe, and not simply the universe, which might be much bigger, weirder and stranger than we think.

Cheers!

Anonymous said...

What about the agv theorem that apologists like Craig cite? I agree with the big bang possibly being a transformative cause (via quantum fluctuations) but I know very little concerning these things.

Anonymous said...

Isn't that question essentially asking,Why is there existence rather than non-existence?" if so, then how can non-existence (meaning that which cannot possibly be existent) be expected to be existent?

Wouldn't it be more appropriate to ask why is this kind of existence real instead of some other kind of existence?

Anonymous said...

Please professor law, can you respond to my comment:
Isn't that question essentially asking,Why is there existence rather than non-existence?" if so, then how can non-existence (meaning that which cannot possibly be existent) be expected to be existent?

Wouldn't it be more appropriate to ask why is this kind of existence real instead of some other kind of existence?

mimpromptu said...

Hi Stephen, I'm going to ask Newsnight whether they'd be keen to interview in succession to last night's interview with David Abramovitz. Should this happen you could have an interesting chat with Jeremy Paxman before & after at the same time.

mimpromptu said...

Hi Stephen, I'm going to ask Newsnight whether they'd be keen to interview in succession to last night's interview with David Abramovitz. Should this happen you could have an interesting chat with Jeremy Paxman before & after at the same time.