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Leibnizian Cosmological Argument

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Parvinder

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« on: May 19, 2007, 02:45:43 pm »
Just to mention up front, I am a Christian, but I have an issues with the LCA that some atheist brought up to me. The first premise of the LCA goes like this:

1) Every existing thing has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause.

Now my questions based on this premise is

1) "Since God exist what is the explanation of His existense?

2) Wouldn't it be question begging to say that the universe could not come into existence in the necessity of its own nature?


Thanks!
:)

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Harvey

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« Reply #1 on: May 20, 2007, 11:28:28 am »
Parvinder wrote: "Since God exist what is the explanation of His existense?


In my view, God exists because whatever exists or doesn't exist, is an external reality. This external reality has propositions that are true of this external reality. However, propositions require a mind to exist because they are propositions (mind interpreted statements). Hence, in all possible worlds God must necessarily exist alongside an undefined reality. God interprets the propositions that are true of this uncertain reality (and of the divine nature itself), and as a result God brings "light" into the darkened world that exists.

Parvinder wrote: 1) Every existing thing has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause... Wouldn't it be question begging to say that the universe could not come into existence in the necessity of its own nature?


I don't think so. The "universe" in this account would be undefined, and if for some reason God couldn't exist in such a primordial world, then the universe would remain in an undefined state. The only reason that an undefined world could become defined is if propositions (or Word) were decreed to the world that brought the undefined creation where "the Spirit of God flutters above the waters" to bring light into the darkness. Since we obviously don't live in such an undefined world, we live in world of the Christian Trinity.

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Bill Maloney

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« Reply #2 on: May 20, 2007, 08:09:52 pm »


Parvinder wrote:
..."Since God exist what is the explanation of His existense?...




The interesting thing about the argument is that it does not require us to know any explanations, as long as we are able to determine which category they fit into, the necessary or the external cause.  God is deemed necessary.  We do not have to know the external cause for everything in the universe for the argument to work.

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storm

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« Reply #3 on: May 20, 2007, 08:16:50 pm »
Indeed as Godel has shown us in his Incompleteness Theorem that it is impossible to answer every question or prove every postulate or theory within an n dimensional space with answers or proofs from within that same n dimensional space. One is forced to go outside to a n+1 dimensional system to find all the answers of the n dimensions. Some of these will end up being intuition but unprovable.

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Sam

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« Reply #4 on: May 22, 2007, 05:46:05 pm »
Parvinder wrote: 1) Every existing thing has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause.
This is just another way of saying, "Everything that exists is either necessary or contingent."
1) "Since God exist what is the explanation of His existense?
He is necessary.
2) Wouldn't it be question begging to say that the universe could not come into existence in the necessity of its own nature?
I'm not sure I understand the question, but if the universe is contingent, then the explanation for its existence must be some cause.  If the universe were necessary, then it could not have "come into existence."

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demurph

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« Reply #5 on: May 24, 2007, 11:33:05 pm »

2) Wouldn't it be question begging to say that the universe could not come into existence in the necessity of its own nature?

  In response to your atheist friend's question, you seem to be able to suggest three deflationary counter points.  

A.)  Nothing can bring itself into existence, since a non-existent object has no causal properties (in fact, since until it is actualized it really isn't a thing, it doesn't really have any properties).  Hence, the universe cannot be it's own cause.  If we have reason to believe that it came into being, we have to postulate a being that brought it into existence or absurdly maintain that it popped into existence uncaused.  It seems as if the theistic God is a saner postulate.

B.)   Even if we were not able to say that the universe came into existence at any point in time, that is still no reason to think that this causes LCA to lose it's cogency.  Just because something has no temporal beginning does mean that it's necessary.  One can imagine a world in which there are logically contingent entities that have existed for an infinite duration of time without a temporal beginning.  We could still ask for a sufficient reason for why they exist rather than nothing.

c.)  Furthermore, the mereological nature of the universe can be taken to imply its contingency.  Because the universe as we know it is partially constituted by a dizzying number of subatomic and quantum particles, we have trouble trying to say that it could be necessary.  The reason for this is because if we want to say that the universe is necessary, we would have to say that all of these particles are necessary as well.  This seems both arbitrary and counter-intuitive.  Arbitrary in the sense that we have to ask "Why amount n and not n+1 or n-1?"  Saying that there is only one necessary being with the properties of God is not as arbitrary and is much more in line with certain intuitions about the world.  (Also, I don't think that I'm committing a fallacy of composition here, either.  It seems reasonable to think that if the existence of some X is dependent on the conjunctions of its parts, and X's parts are all contingent entities, then we are justified in thinking that X itself is a contingent entity.  Of course, there are issues involving the identity conditions of the universe, but it seems reasonable to say that the universe is contingent due to these considerations).  Finally, we would still have to wonder why these objects have come into the exact positions that they have to form the objects they have, thereby giving us the universe in which we exist.  So, it seems as if we have some reason to think that theism is able to give us a better explanation of the world we have than the atheistic alternative.

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William

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« Reply #6 on: June 06, 2007, 06:47:32 pm »

Parvinder wrote: Just to mention up front, I am a Christian, but I have an issues with the LCA that some atheist brought up to me. The first premise of the LCA goes like this:

1) Every existing thing has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause.

Now my questions based on this premise is

1) "Since God exist what is the explanation of His existense?

2) Wouldn't it be question begging to say that the universe could not come into existence in the necessity of its own nature?


Thanks!

  I do not know that this argument is attributable to Leibniz. THere are all sorts of variations to the cosmological argument. Spmetimes this variation is called a contingency argument. USually the key premise is that a contingent being cannot explain its own existence.
   Lets just get clear on the logic of the situation.
  (1) Everything has an explanation either in the necesity of its own nature or in an external thing.
  (2) The universe has an explanation either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external thing.
  (3) The explanation of the universe is not in its own necessity.
  (4) Therefore the explanation of the universe is an external thing.

   I have used 'thing' instead of 'cause' because I do not want to conflate cause and explanation. 4 says that something distinct from the universe explains the universe. It folows rather quickly that whatever it is that explains it is a necessary thing. A necessary being,or there is an infinite regress of contingent explanations. Perhaps such a regress is not possible. But even if it is, what explains the infinite chain of explanations? It will either be necessary itself, or there will be some necessary thing that explains it. So, as you point out, it is fairly easy to establish that there is a necessary being-so long as one accepts (1)-this is called the priniciple of sufficient reason.
    The question your friend is asking, I think. Is why is the universe not the necessary thing. WHy think 3 is true?
     Well, the universe is radically contingent-it is not necessary. It could have not existed-at one 'point' it did not. It could have existed in many different ways or not at all. There is not anything logically incoherent about the universe not existing-in fact inlogic this possibility is called the null set.
     Hope this helps.


 
 
   

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demurph

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« Reply #7 on: June 07, 2007, 06:34:37 pm »
I do not know that this argument is attributable to Leibniz. THere are all sorts of variations to the cosmological argument. Spmetimes this variation is called a contingency argument. USually the key premise is that a contingent being cannot explain its own existence.
   Lets just get clear on the logic of the situation.
  (1) Everything has an explanation either in the necesity of its own nature or in an external thing.
  (2) The universe has an explanation either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external thing.
  (3) The explanation of the universe is not in its own necessity.
  (4) Therefore the explanation of the universe is an external thing.

   I have used 'thing' instead of 'cause' because I do not want to conflate cause and explanation. 4 says that something distinct from the universe explains the universe. It folows rather quickly that whatever it is that explains it is a necessary thing. A necessary being,or there is an infinite regress of contingent explanations. Perhaps such a regress is not possible. But even if it is, what explains the infinite chain of explanations? It will either be necessary itself, or there will be some necessary thing that explains it. So, as you point out, it is fairly easy to establish that there is a necessary being-so long as one accepts (1)-this is called the priniciple of sufficient reason.
    The question your friend is asking, I think. Is why is the universe not the necessary thing. WHy think 3 is true?
     Well, the universe is radically contingent-it is not necessary. It could have not existed-at one 'point' it did not. It could have existed in many different ways or not at all. There is not anything logically incoherent about the universe not existing-in fact inlogic this possibility is called the null set.
     Hope this helps.
[/QUOTE]
  First, I totally agree with you that the universe is by all means contingent, but I don't think that your reasoning for why (3) is true actually only brings out the epistemic contingency of the universe, not the metaphysical contingency of the universe.  I think that everything that you mention to claim that the universe is contingent (except for the beginning of the universe) can be used to show that God is contingent.  There seems to be no logical contradiction (as far as we know) in saying that God doesn't exist (Kant and Hume hammered this point, and Swinburne has taken this line as well).  Of course, I think that this is not the case, but that the fact that this is so can only be know to us a posteriori.  Why can't this be taken by the atheist of Hume's ilk (or the pantheist of Spinoza's stripe) to say that it might be an a posteriori truth that the universe is actually not contingent?  Furthermore, the beginning of the universe in and of itself doesn't necessarily show that the universe is contingent.  Quine argued that on a B-Theory of time, the beginning of the universe is simply something like a spatial boundary, not an actually the beginning point of its existence.  Also, if you buy into an A-theory of time, one could still say that this part of the universe came into existence at a certain point, the actual universe as a whole has eternally existed.  While neither of these objections to the beginning of the universe being an absolute beginning strikes me as really all that plausible, perhaps the atheist might say that you have to rule these possibilities out in order to show that the universe is contingent.

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black apologist

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« Reply #8 on: July 29, 2007, 11:48:37 pm »
Since we're on the topic of the principle of sufficient reason, there are a few things that I'd like to make note of:
 
 (1) Many atheistic philosophers have accused the principle of sufficient reason (we'll call it PSR from now on) of being question-begging in the sense that it demands a contingent being to necessarily have an explanation. For this reason, most atheist philosophers feel that they have good reason to reject the proof altogether because of the seemingly question-begging premise that's embedded in it. It is difficult for me not to be partial to this interpretation of the syllogism because this does appear to be the case, and in this sense, the theist would be faced with overwhelmingly notorious difficulties in attempting to defend the argument. Richard Swinburne, for instance, has had to retreat to the idea that God is, in fact, contingent in order to somehow rehabilitate the argument in its most standard form.
 
(2) I do find the "New Cosmological Argument" posited by Alexander Pruss and Richard Gale to be a bit more attractive than the standard Leibniz argument. Unlike the traditional argument that utilizes PSR, they employ a weakened version of this same proposition which they refer to as the Weak Principle of Sufficient Reason (W-PSR from now on). They've advertised that this proposition is an improvement over the "stronger", more traditional principle of sufficient reason (we'll call it S-PSR from now on) that has found its way in a number of second-generation cosmological arguments. Instead of insisting that every contingent being necessarily has an explanation, they employ a possibility premise which suggests that "for any proposition, p, and any world, w, if p is in w's Big Conjuctive Fact, then there is some possible world, w1, and proposition, q, such that w1's Big Conjuctive Fact contains p and q and the proposition that q explains p." In order to avoid confusion, all Gale and Pruss are doing in this instance is shifting the proposition of S-PSR from "it is necessarily true that a contingent being has an explanation" to "it is possibly true that a contingent being has an explanation", thus attempting to avoid the problems of question-begging that arise in the stronger version of the principle. They thus go on to demonstrate how the previously described possible world does, in fact, correlate with our actual world, and the modal operators that they utilize are so confusing that I wouldn't have enough space to really dive into it here! Following this point, the rest of their argument becomes a little more detailed and you'd have to read it for yourself in order to acquire the full gist of it.

(3) While I do find the Gale-Pruss Cosmological argument to be more plausible than some others (possibly even the kalam argument) it is not without its problems. Graham Oppy, for instance, has demonstrated that the W-PSR entails the S-PSR when he employs a standard Fitch-style deduction. Pruss has also formulated a similarly structured proof in one of his articles. Oppy would insist that this entailment gives atheists good reason to reject the W-PSR and (consequently) Gale and Pruss's argument as a whole. I do think, however, that Oppy's criticisms are a bit excessive, as (according to this line of reasoning) one's understanding of an argument is closed upon deduction. I would have to agree with Gale and Pruss that such a demand is "totally contrived" and that it is evident that before this entailment was discovered, many atheistic philosophers had no trouble in understanding W-PSR while at the same time being unaware of this entailment relationship. Thus, I don't find good reasons to label W-PSR with the same charge of question-begging that S-PSR has undergone for so many years. It is thus more plausible to say that the W-PSR gives one good reason to accept the S-PSR. In any case, I do find their argument (and their employment of the W-PSR in particular) to be more plausible than the contradictories of Oppy and others.

(4) As Dr. Craig pointed out in one of his books, our modal intuitions alone do seem to suggest that the universe is certainly a contingent thing, despite the objections of Hume and others. But, of course, it is desirable to have something other than our intuitions alone that reinforce this position, and I do think that the Gale-Pruss argument is the best available demonstration of this thus far. Of course, people would argue with me that the kalam is a better demonstration of the universe's contingency, but the kalam rests on the validity of numerous principles that are constantly being challenged by Craig's atheistic opponents. The Gale-Pruss argument rests on less controversial premises that most philosophers are more willing to assent to. But, undoubtedly, we have a long way to go until we can determine all the dilemmas that most cosmological arguments face.

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pieter van Leeuwen

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« Reply #9 on: August 01, 2007, 07:56:29 am »

"(1) Many atheistic philosophers have accused the principle of sufficient reason (we'll call it PSR from now on) of being question-begging in the sense that it demands a contingent being to necessarily have an explanation."

Could you please expand on this problem. I can't see why this would be question begging. Given that an explanation is necessary, either you find it in the being itself or outside of it. Are they arguing that it is not a given that an explanation is needed for everything existing? Is't that counter enlightenment policy?

Thanks,

Pieter


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black apologist

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« Reply #10 on: August 02, 2007, 05:43:19 am »
Hey PVL,

Thanks for your remarks. The common atheistic response to the PSR involves the notion that it appears to be question-begging to assume that everything necessarily requires an explanation. David Hume was well known for espousing this view. As far as he was concerned, it was just as plausible to suggest that the universe was just one big contingent "thing" that didn't require an explanation. But to say that everything necessarily requires an explanation seems to beg-the-question in that it is perfectly plausible to conceive of some things (be they contingent or not) as not requiring an explanation at all. This, of course, does not mean that everything doesn't necessarily require an explanation, but the atheistic philosopher seems to regularly appeal to the charge of question-begging when their theistic opponent lends credence to the standard Leibniz argument. Numerous theistic philosophers have tried to circumvent this difficulty while staying true to the traditional structure of the argument (such as Swinburne, for instance) but I do think that these attempts have been met with very limited degrees of success.

As for your remark about non-Enlightenment, that does appear to be a very interesting observation. I think that the atheist would intuitively suggest that all explanations must eventually have an ending point, and they would try to suggest that PSR seems to imply an infinite regress of explanations. I myself am not convinced that PSR implies that, and I think that Dr. Craig has demonstrated that in his book Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview.

Hope this helps!!


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Pieter van Leeuwen

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« Reply #11 on: August 06, 2007, 03:38:07 am »
Hi B.A.

Thanks for your response. I understand what you mean. I am a little familiar with hume and can see his point. It's funny though how atheist philosophers cherry pick usefull bits from Hume. I doubt that when it comes to it they really go all the way. They would have to deny cause and effect as well. The very basic presuposition that science works from.

The other thing that comes to mind is that if you do hold to the PSR is that you DO get an infinite regress, if all that exist in reality are contingent facts. I find Thomas Aquinas very helpfull in this. After all, this is why I think the Cosmological Argument is so strong. It begs for a necessary explanation where the regress stops. From your answer, it seems that those atheists just arbitrary decide where the regress stops, namely at the total contingent fact of the whole universe. Here the essay by Richard Taylor is very effective. (Was it Richard Taylor?) Where he argues that if a small contingent fact needs an explanation, surely just by making it bigger is not going to take away the need for an explanation.

Ultimately, if one denies that the universe begs an explanation, then the universe is without explanation and therefore without cause. All you are left with is irrationality. If then the universe is irrational, how can we believe in science?

Thanks,

Pieter

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Drm970

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« Reply #12 on: August 20, 2007, 03:47:31 am »
How about the objection which Pruss himself talks about in his Ex Nihilo Nihil Fit paper? Some claim that necessary causes entail necessary effects and contingent causes entail contingent effects. So that God, being necessary, could not cause contingent things to exist.

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demurph

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« Reply #13 on: August 22, 2007, 11:31:53 pm »
Drm970 wrote: How about the objection which Pruss himself talks about in his Ex Nihilo Nihil Fit paper? Some claim that necessary causes entail necessary effects and contingent causes entail contingent effects. So that God, being necessary, could not cause contingent things to exist.


Two things:  First, are the objectors who claim this claim that a rational agents choice is an example of event causation?  If one holds agent causation to be a plausible theory, then what reason do we have to say that God's necessity could prevent him from being able to be an agent cause?  Secondly, doesn't that objection also presuppose that because God's existence is necessary, He has all of his properties necessarily?  This seems dubious to me.  But, I have to admit that I haven't really read the Pruss paper that your talking about, so if I'm getting the objection wrong, feel free to correct me.

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Drm970

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« Reply #14 on: August 23, 2007, 01:01:22 am »
I think you're approaching Pruss' own answer to this objection. Here is how he sums the objection up.

But if this explanation both explains the BCCF and is contained in the BCCF, then inter alia it explains itself.  But no contingent proposition can explain itself!  Thus, the explanation of the BCCF must be necessary.  But an explanation has to entail that which it explains: the explanandum must follow logically from the explanans.  Otherwise, how does the explanation do any explaining?  Thus, the explanation of the BCCF entails the BCCF.  But anything that logically follows from a necessary proposition is itself a necessary proposition.  Thus, if the explanation of the BCCF is a necessary proposition, so is the BCCF.  But the BCCF is contingent.  To put it differently, if the explanation of the BCCF were a necessary proposition, then it would be equally logically compatible with the BCCF’s holding as with the BCCF’s not holding.


View the paper at:

http://www9.georgetown.edu/faculty/ap85/papers/ENNFtalk.html