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Leibnizian Cosmological Argument

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Cosmological argument seems unconvincing
« Reply #60 on: July 15, 2010, 01:56:20 pm »
I have 2 issues with this argument

1 issue: The big bang is an expancion of space, mater and time, at the moment of the big bang there was a singularity where time is not cautifiable.
When did the cause ocure then if time does not yet unfold?

2 issue: According to quantum physics given enough time for something to happend it will happend just by probability.
In this case is the probabiliy the cause?

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John Burford

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Cosmological argument seems unconvincing
« Reply #61 on: January 25, 2012, 10:04:11 pm »
I realize that this is an old thread, but I thought I'd post here because I've been struggling with a similar issue and I think I've found a satisfactory answer. I had been looking at the standard atheist arguments and had been wondering why no modern person (no one since Hume, so far as I can tell) has postulated that the universe (or universe-generating multiverse/superverse, if you prefer) exists necessarily.

Some, such as the people on this thread, have shown that an eternal, infinite multiverse escapes the problems with the Kalam cosmological argument, as without a beginning it doesn't need a cause.

However, I think people are forgetting about the Leibnizian cosmological argument, and there's a reason why the 2 go together. Remember, at the time that Leibniz (and before him, St. Thomas Aquinas) was writing his argument, people didn't know about the Big Bang. They believed in the "steady state" model, which held that the universe was both eternal and infinite, much like our proposed multiverse.

So the LCA applies equally well to an infinite, eternal multiverse/superverse. To assert that such a multiverse exists necessarily, one would have to show that it is impossible for the multiverse to not exist; in other words, you'd have to show that nothingness is logically impossible. But nobody can really think of how to do this.

Here's another example. The way that Hume, and later Edwards, proposed that the universe existed necessarily is as an infinite causal chain. One contingent thing explains the next, and so on to infinity. In such a way, every contingent thing would be explained, and thus the entire chain, the universe/multiverse itself, would exist necessarily.

However, Pruss showed that the flaw in this argument lies with the last step. I'll use phoenixes as an example. The ancient myth of the phoenix said that at the end of each phoenix's life, it burst into flames and was reborn as a new phoenix. Each phoenix caused the next phoenix in such a way, and this process had been going on infinitely into the past and would continue on infinitely into the future. It was, in short, an infinite causal chain of phoenixes.

So the question Hume and Edwards (in what is called the Hume-Edwards Principle) amounts to saying "Why does this phoenix exist?" It exists, of course, because the phoenix before it existed, and the previous phoenix caused the current one. But this is very different from asking "Why do any phoenixes at all exist?" In order to explain the existence of any phoenixes at all, one is forced to presuppose the existence of phoenixes, since phoenixes can only come from phoenixes. One is forced to either conclude that phoenixes exist without an explanation, or that some other entity is ultimately responsible.

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belorg

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Cosmological argument seems unconvincing
« Reply #62 on: January 26, 2012, 12:23:23 am »
peacerenity wrote:


So the LCA applies equally well to an infinite, eternal multiverse/superverse. To assert that such a multiverse exists necessarily, one would have to show that it is impossible for the multiverse to not exist; in other words, you'd have to show that nothingness is logically impossible. But nobody can really think of how to do this.

You are wrong in this. If, as you claim, nothingness cannot be shown to be logically impossible, the conclusion is not only that the universe cannot be necessary, but also that God cannot be necessary. That would destroy the LCA altogether.

However, Pruss showed that the flaw in this argument lies with the last step.

Which 'last' step?



So the question Hume and Edwards (in what is called the Hume-Edwards Principle) amounts to saying "Why does this phoenix exist?" It exists, of course, because the phoenix before it existed, and the previous phoenix caused the current one. But this is very different from asking "Why do any phoenixes at all exist?"

No, that is not 'very different'. Since every single phoenix is explained, it is meaningless to ask 'why do any phoenixes at all exist' It is simply a fact. What is 'the chain of phoenixes'? It seems to be a set. But describing a set as a separate entity from its members leads to several problems. Among other things it leads automatically to another infinite regress.

In order to explain the existence of any phoenixes at all, one is forced to presuppose the existence of phoenixes, since phoenixes can only come from phoenixes. One is forced to either conclude that phoenixes exist without an explanation, or that some other entity is ultimately responsible.

No, even if yoiu want to make this distinction (and I think it is an artificial distinction) you leave out another option: the chain exists by necessity.

FYI: nobody can really think of a way to prove the universe cannot be necessary, at least not to my knowledge. If there is a convincing argument for that, I would like to see it, but so far, I haven't seen one.

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John Burford

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Cosmological argument seems unconvincing
« Reply #63 on: January 26, 2012, 01:25:03 pm »
I'm simply pointing out that there's a reason why no contemporary atheist philosopher tries to claim that the universe exists necessarily. Most say that the universe exists without any explanation, while some say that the universe created itself. The only one who even approaches claiming that the universe exists necessarily is Quentin Smith, who tries to make the infinite causal chain argument.

And yes, "Why do any phoenixes at all exist?" is indeed a very different question. The inability to explain why there are any phoenixes at all without assuming pre-existing phoenixes essentially forces one to conclude that while each individual phoenix may have an explanation, the set itself exists without any explanation.

Saying that the question is "meaningless" and the phoenixes' existence "is simply a fact" is just another way of saying the set itself exists without an explanation. It's very similar to how most atheist philosophers will say that the universe/multiverse exists "because it just does." You can attempt to make that argument if you wish, but it's important to distinguish between "The universe has no explanation for its existence" and "The explanation for the universe's existence is the universe itself."

In short, an infinite causal chain of contingent beings does not automatically add up to one necessary being. We do not observe phoenixes in our universe, even though, by your reasoning, an infinite causal chain means that something exists necessarily--that it can't not exist. The only difference between an infinite causal chain of particles of matter and an infinite causal chain of phoenixes is that the former "simply exists" and the latter "simply doesn't exist," which amounts to saying that one exists and the other doesn't exist with pretty much no explanation.

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troyjs

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Cosmological argument seems unconvincing
« Reply #64 on: January 26, 2012, 08:00:44 pm »
If the universe necessarily exists, then to say, 'The universe exists', would be analytic. If to say, 'The universe exists', is analytic, it is meaningless to consider the universe not existing, as much as it is meaningless to consider a triangle which does not possess three sides. It the predicate of necessary existence, can not be determined from an analysis of the term, 'universe', then the term, 'universe' does not analytically possess the property of 'necessary existence'. If the term, 'universe', does not analytically possess the property of necessary existence, then one can not determine that the proposition, 'The universe exists', is true, by analysis. If the proposition, The universe exists', is not analytic, then it is not true that the universe necessarily exists.

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“Knowledge of the sciences is so much smoke apart from the heavenly science of Christ” -- John Calvin.
“I consider looseness with words no less of a defect than looseness of the bowels” -- John Calvin

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John Burford

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« Reply #65 on: January 26, 2012, 09:11:44 pm »
@ troyjs

What sort of argument could you make for God's necessary existence that you couldn't make for the universe's necessary existence?

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belorg

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« Reply #66 on: January 27, 2012, 03:22:37 pm »
peacerenity wrote: @ troyjs

What sort of argument could you make for God's necessary existence that you couldn't make for the universe's necessary existence?

The only way to argue for God's necessary existence is by showing that God's non-existence entails a genuine contradiction, and the ionly way to argue for the universe's necessary existence is  by showing that the universe's non-existence entails a genuine contradiction.

The reason why no contemporary atheist philosopher tries to claim that the universe exists necessarily is probably because it is not really provable. Now God's necessary existence isn't provable either, but that doesn't bother the theist because unlike the universe, God is a completely made-up concept, and,  as Troy says, you can make any sort of ananlytical claim about a made-up concept. once you define your concept as 'necessary' it is an analytical truth to say it is necessary.
The trick iks simple:
1  you define God as a necessary being
2  somebody objects and says that he can see no contradiction in the non-existence of God.
3  you say that the non-existence of God is impossible because God is necessary.

You can get away with this because, while the claim is unprovable it is also, even in principle, unfalsiable.

The universe, on the other hand, is not a completely made-up concept and as such, claims about the universe's necessity are in principle falsiable.

So, I could claim that the universe in one way or another is necessary, and this would be an unfalsiable claim, but as soon as I define the way in which it may be necessary, my claim will become falsiable. Atheist philospohers generally look for real explanations and will not consider 'the universe is necessary in one way or another' a genuine explanation, just as they won't consider 'God is necssary in one way or another' a genuine explanation.
That's why they  usually have the intellectual honesty to admit they do not have an explanation for the universe, rather than come up with pseudo-explanations like 'necessary existence'

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John Burford

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« Reply #67 on: January 27, 2012, 03:55:13 pm »
You're right. Claims like "The universe created itself" or "The universe popped into existence out of nothingness, for no purpose, and with no explanation" are much more intellectually honest and coherent ;-)

My best guess is that you're right, in a certain sense. Physical objects are hard, if not impossible, to defend as necessary, because it's easy to picture the universe with 1 less carbon atom. Concepts, on the other hand, are easier to defend as necessary because it doesn't seem apparent how they could suddenly change or fail to exist. A 4-sided triangle is hard to imagine.

Acknowledging this doesn't make it intellectually dishonest: one can easily argue that the concept of the number 3 is a necessary entity, and that wouldn't be intellectually dishonest at all.

At the same time, a universe-creating necessary entity can't be an abstract object like the number 3, because abstract objects can't cause anything (part of the definition of abstract object). So you'd need a non-abstract, non-physical, timeless necessary entity. This wouldn't necessarily mean God, just something fitting that description.

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belorg

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« Reply #68 on: January 27, 2012, 04:49:23 pm »
peacerenity wrote: You're right. Claims like "The universe created itself" or "The universe popped into existence out of nothingness, for no purpose, and with no explanation" are much more intellectually honest and coherent ;-)

They are, provided we treat them as hypotheses or speculations.
They are not, however if we treat them as explanations.

My best guess is that you're right, in a certain sense. Physical objects are hard, if not impossible, to defend as necessary, because it's easy to picture the universe with 1 less carbon atom.

That the univesre could have one less carbon atom does not entail that the universe cannot be necessary, so I would not say it is impossible to defend the universre as necessary, but it is very hard to do so, just because the universe is not merely a concept.

Concepts, on the other hand, are easier to defend as necessary because it doesn't seem apparent how they could suddenly change or fail to exist. A 4-sided triangle is hard to imagine.

Acknowledging this doesn't make it intellectually dishonest: one can easily argue that the concept of the number 3 is a necessary entity, and that wouldn't be intellectually dishonest at all.

Yes, but that is precisely because they are concepts.

At the same time, a universe-creating necessary entity can't be an abstract object like the number 3, because abstract objects can't cause anything (part of the definition of abstract object). So you'd need a non-abstract, non-physical, timeless necessary entity. This wouldn't necessarily mean God, just something fitting that description.

And because lots of things can fit that description, it is utterly intellectually dishonest to claim any sort of certainty or belief in one particular type of thing. It's not that posing God as a hypothesis is unjustified, it's that posing God as a  fact that is unjustified given our current level of knowledge.


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John Burford

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« Reply #69 on: January 27, 2012, 05:21:07 pm »
I think we're saying similar things. It's true that you can't use just one argument to construct the God of Christianity, and to pretend that you can is intellectually dishonest. It doesn't mean that it can't be done using a synthesis of several arguments.

On the issue of the universe not being necessary, I just used that example to show that if you try to defend the universe as necessary, you have to try to show that while pieces of the universe are contingent, the universe as a whole can be necessary, i.e. an infinite causal chain. For a discussion of this particular argument, I'd recommend "Infinite Causal Chains and Explanation" by Michael Rota: it's available online for free.

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belorg

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« Reply #70 on: January 28, 2012, 08:15:59 am »
peacerenity wrote: I think we're saying similar things. It's true that you can't use just one argument to construct the God of Christianity, and to pretend that you can is intellectually dishonest. It doesn't mean that it can't be done using a synthesis of several arguments.

That's true, but it hasn't been done yet.

On the issue of the universe not being necessary, I just used that example to show that if you try to defend the universe as necessary, you have to try to show that while pieces of the universe are contingent, the universe as a whole can be necessary, i.e. an infinite causal chain.

That the universe has contingent pieces does not entail that the universe as a whole is contingent and the universe could be necessary in a completely different way than by being an infionite chain.

But as a matter of fact, nobody can prove that the universe is necessary, but that is equally true for God.





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troyjs

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« Reply #71 on: February 28, 2012, 04:46:13 pm »
This is the problem with the word 'existence'.

As Kant pointed out, there is not much of a difference between the idea of a thing, and the the thing itself. What does it mean to say that the tree outside my room exists? I do differentiate between a thing, and our idea of it, however I do not believe language can adequately do the same in regards to names. The object of our idea, and the idea itself may be different, however the two are never separated from one another in our consciousness. I can say 'red ball', or I can say ''the concept of a red ball', and the only difference is that the latter includes information regarding the subject, ie. me. However, what red ball is there, apart from our conscious experience of one, and what would 'red ball' mean apart from our conception of it? To say that a red ball exists in the mind, but not in reality, seems not to be very coherent. Not to say that the mind and reality are not distinct concepts, but that the word existence does not diffentiate an entity from non-existent objects.

If one does hold that the term 'existence' is meaningful, what does the atheist mean when he says, "God does not exist"?

Maybe the term 'fictional', would be better. For example, pegasus is fictional. Even so, if an entity may be fictional in character, it would seem that it is coherent and logically possible.

The atheist may then retort, that God is logically possible, in sofar as God is fictional. Anyways, I am getting sidetracked once-again.

kind regards
“Knowledge of the sciences is so much smoke apart from the heavenly science of Christ” -- John Calvin.
“I consider looseness with words no less of a defect than looseness of the bowels” -- John Calvin