Monthly Archives: August 2012

I’m not sure if something similar like this has already been published somewhere academically or on the web. If so, please link it and accept my apologies, and I’ll give credit where it’s due. ¬†I came up with this by just sitting in my room and arguing with my girlfriend’s best friend about her atheism. I was just having a bit of fun with Aquinas’s 5 ways and the KCA (Kalam Cosmological Argument). This argument is a bit of synthesis of Aquinas and the KCA. I like it because it makes a nice air-tight argument when put together. Of course, one could just stick to the KCA or one of the 5 ways by itself.

  1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
  2. The universe began to exist.
  3. Therefore, the universe has a cause. [1, 2]
  4. Either the universe’s existence was self-caused or it was not self-caused.
  5. The universe’s existence was not self-caused.
  6. If the universe’s existence was not self-caused, then it was caused to exist by something else.
  7. Therefore, the universe’s existence was caused by something else. [5, 6]
  8. If the universe’s existence was caused by something else, then there cannot be an infinite regress of causes of the universe’s existence.
  9. Therefore, there cannot be an infinite regress of causes of the universe. [7, 8]
  10. If there cannot be an infinite regress of causes of the universe, then the ultimate cause of the universe must be uncaused.
  11. Therefore, the ultimate cause of the universe must be uncaused. [9, 10]
  12. Time, matter, and space came into existence with the universe.
  13. If time, matter, and space came into existence with the universe, then the cause of the universe must be timeless, immaterial, and spaceless.
  14. Therefore, the cause must also be something timeless, immaterial, and not located in space. [12, 13]

I simply won’t go into too much detail defending the premises of the Kalam argument (premises 1 and 2) since it’s pretty familiar to most philosophers, and I’m assuming you’re here reading this far because you like philosophy. If not, then please see this post.

Premise five holds true because it’s absurd to think that something can cause itself to begin to exist. For something to cause itself to begin to exist is to presume that that something already exists beforehand to do the causing. So it exists and it doesn’t exist (since it has to begin to exist) and is thus a contradiction.

Premise six is an obvious truth. If it didn’t cause itself to exist then something else must have.

Premise eight is defended elsewhere in another post of mine. See the part on an infinite regress of causes found under the defense of premise 1.

But what about premise 10? Couldn’t one simply argue its falsity because of idea that there could be a multiverse (MV) and thus time, matter, and space didn’t really come into existence with the universe? One could object that. Besides the fact that there isn’t really any concrete evidence for the MV, I think even if we grant its existence, additional argumentation would establish that the MV would be caused by something uncaused.

Premise twelve is true given contemporary big bang cosmology. Also, William Lane Craig has defended this premise in detail else where. Cf. his book Creation Out of Nothing.

And the consequent in premise thirteen follows since this cause is prior to the existence of time, space and matter. Otherwise the cause would have had to come into existence with the universe, thus lending the cause to exist (prior to the universe) and not exist (since it had to come into being with the universe), which is absurd.

Lastly, premise fourteen follows necessarily from 12 and 13 via modus ponens.

Now, here’s the rest of the argument in which I try to show that even assuming that there’s a MV, it must have been caused by something uncaused.

15. Everything that’s caused must be caused by another.

16.¬†Suppose there’s a MV.

17. If there’s a MV, then another universe, U2 (not the band ha), in the MV caused our universe, U1, to exist.

18. U2, U3, and so on, are either self-caused, eternal, or caused.

19. The universes are not self-caused or eternal.

20. Therefore the universes of the MV are caused.

21. There cannot be an infinite regress of causes [R, 9]

22. Therefore, the ultimate cause of the universes must be uncaused.

23. The MV is simply the mere collection of the universes.

24. Therefore, the ultimate cause of the MV must be uncaused.

25. If there’s a multiverse, then the ultimate cause of the MV must be uncaused. [>I, 15-24]

This argument may be a worthless and failed attempt, it may be decent, or it may be good. Not sure. I had fun thinking about it and throwing it together.

In chapter 14 of The One and the Many: A Contemporary Thomistic Metaphysics, Norris Clarke presents a few arguments for the the ultimate source of all being, which he takes to be God. Here is my summary of the arguments he presents in the chapter. In part 1 of this series, I’m going to try to summarize and explain Clarke’s first argument from a caused being to the infinite source or cause of all being.

Argument 1: From any conditional being to one infinite source of all being

  1. There must exist at least one self-sufficient or uncaused being.

Clarke has readers look directly to our everyday experience. We notice that everything that we encounter is contingent, that is to say that it could have been the case that the stuff we see didn’t exist. In Clarke’s own words they are “not self-sufficient for their own existence but depend on other beings outside of them for their [existence], either to bring them into existence or to maintain them in existence, or both” (216). To take his example, look at ourselves. We depend on our parents for existence, and also the oxygen that we take in and the nutrients we receive from the food we consume. Our existence is dependent on these factors (and many others).

Clarke takes an objection, and a common one at that. Can there be an infinite regress of causes? So being A is caused to exist by being B, and when we get to being B we see that it too is caused to exist by being C, and so on and so forth. Can it be that this chain stretches out towards infinity? Clarke rightly answers no. Here’s why: suppose we have a an infinite amount of boxcars that are all connected to each other and it’s in motion. We ask ourselves, “What caused boxcar A to move?” Well it’s the pushing of boxcar B. Similarly we asked about what caused boxcar B to move, and we say C. We keep asking, and asking, and asking but never arrive at a point in which we can say it’s motion began. We are left with no reason to suppose why or how it began it’s motion. But of course if there is no reason or cause of it’s motion, then the boxcar would be motionless since these boxcars have nothing in its being which would cause it to move.

Or look at ourselves. Assuming we have free will, when I move my arm to scratch my nose, the movement of my hand is actualized by my arm, my arm by my muscles, and my muscles by neurons firing (or whatever else goes on in this complicated process). Eventually we must get to a point in which there’s simply an unmoved mover. Something to get the process started and going. My arm can’t just be suspending in the air scratching my nose for an infinite amount of time without being caused by something. And if these causes go back infinitely, we have no reason to suppose that my arm would be suspended in the first place.

So to make sense of the motion of the boxcar, my arm, and the existence of the contingent “stuff” we see, there must be at least one uncaused or unmoved being or “thing” to get it all started.

Clarke’s rejection of an infinite regress is stated this way:

Given that being A here and now exists, categorically, not conditionally (i.e., as an “is,” not an “if” statement). Now suppose one tries to explain the actual existence of A thus: A exists only if B, B only if C, C only if D, and so on to infinity, in an endless series of “only if” statements. In this case, since each member depends on the conditions for its existence being fulfilled by another, and these conditions in turn remain endlessly unfulfilled, the entire series remains conditionally (“iffy”) in its existence. Unless one of the members along the line exists unconditionally, categorically, with no more conditions to be fulfilled, then the original existence of A itself becomes only conditional. There could never be a categorical affirmation of anything at all (nothing but “only ifs”). But the original A does exist, categorically and unconditionally, as a fact, not “iffily.” (218-219).

Clarke concludes that “there must exist at least one self-sufficient being” (219).

2. Any being that is self-sufficient for its own existence or is uncaused must be infinite in perfection.

One way Clarke supports this is via reductio ad absurdum:

  1. Suppose there exists a finite self-sufficient being.
  2. This being would have to be the total ultimate source of all attributes within it, including existence.
  3. It cannot be the case that the ultimate source of a perfection would posses this perfection in a limited way, imperfect way since the being in question is the ultimate source of this perfection.
  4. But in virtue of being finite, this finite being possesses these perfections in a limited, imperfect, or less than full way.
  5. Therefore, there does not exist a finite self-sufficient being.

So, if there is a being that is self-sufficient for it’s existence, it follows, then, that this being cannot possess existence or any other perfection in a limited, imperfect, or less than full way, and thus it cannot be finite. This being can be either finite or infinite. Thus it must be infinite in perfection.

3. There can be only one such infinite being.

This argument is represented straightforwardly by another reductio ad absudrum:

  1. Suppose there were two such beings, that is, two self-sufficient infinite beings.
  2. These two beings are distinct from one another and cannot in anyway be each other.
  3. If these two beings are completely distinct from one another, then one of them lacks something the other doesn’t.
  4. Therefore, one self-suffucient infinite being lacks something the other doesn’t.
  5. If each being didn’t lack something the other had, then there would just be one being since the beings would be entirely identical to each other.
  6. If one lacked something the other one doesn’t, then one being lacks a perfection.
  7. A self-sufficient infinite being is one who has all perfections
  8. One of the two self-sufficient infinite being’s lacks a perfection
  9. Thus, there cannot be two self-sufficient infinite beings.

Clarke thus concludes the argument in the following way:

“Either the universe is unintelligible, or there must exist one and only one Infinite Source of all other beings, both of their actual existence and of all the perfections (goodness) within them. It is at once Infinite Being and Infinite Goodness, in which all finite beings participate both for their existence and their goodness” (221). In my next post, I’ll cover Clarke’s second argument.

Anthony Kenny’s and Bertrand Russell on Aquinas’ Christian theism (in particular his Catholicism):

“There was,” writes Russell, “little of the true philosophical spirit in Aquinas : he could not, like Socrates, follow an argument wherever it might lead, since he knew the truth in advance, all declared in the Catholic Faith …

[But] it is not,” replies Kenny, “in fact a serious charge against a philosopher to say that he is looking for good reasons for what he already believes in. Descartes, sitting around his fire, wearing his dress gown, sought reasons for judging that that was what he was doing, and took a long time to find them. Russell himself spent much energy seeking proofs of what he already believed: ‘Principia Mathematica’ takes hundreds of pages to prove that 1 and 1 make 2 … We judge a philosopher by whether his reasonings are sound or unsound, not where he first lighted on his premises or how he first came to believe his conclusions. Hostility to Aquinas on the basis of his official position in Catholicism is thus unjustified, however understandable, even for secular philosophers.”

— Anthony Kenny, agnostic — “A New History of Western Philosophy Volume 2: Medieval Philosophy,” pg 76
In undergraduate classes, I’ve seen atheists discredit Christian philosophers simply because these philosophers seek out reasons to demonstrate the truth of their faith. This shouldn’t matter. If there are sound reasons for one’s belief, it shouldn’t matter that the person tries to seek reasons to hold their belief. If no reason can be found, then the next rational thing should be to let go of that belief.