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St Thomas Aquinas and the Cosmological Argument

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Introduction

St Thomas Aquinas and the Cosmological Argument Background of Thomas Aquinas * St Thomas Aquinas (1224-74) was born at Roccasea, near Aquino in Italy. He was of aristocratic background and studied at the Benedictine monastery of Monte Cassino before entering the University of Naples. * Aquinas was a Dominican and hence a friar, he committed himself to the Order, to live and work wherever they instructed him. He went to Cologne where he was a pupil of St Albert who wanted to provide an account of the newly discovered and translated work of Aristotle. * Albert moved to the University of Paris, and Aquinas followed. He began studying for a degree of Mater of Arts, which he completed when he was 30, writing a commentary on The Sentences of Peter Lombard. He wrote many commentaries on Aristotle and other authors. * He is best known for his two great Summas, Summa Contra Gentiles and Summa Theologicae. The Five ways and the Cosmological Argument * In "Summa Theologica" Aquinas gives his five ways for the existence of G-d, the first three are better known as the cosmological argument. * He rejects the Ontological argument, as he says an argument that says G-d's existence is self-evident we cannot use as we can't see the self evidence. ...read more.

Middle

The linking of cause to effect depends upon them being observed as two separate things. However, we cannot get "outside". The worlds to observe its cause.We have not experienced the creation of a Universe. Yet we are prepared to argue that because there are causes of things within the Universe, there is a cause for the Universe as a whole. * Religion suggests that the world operates on cause and effect and that there must therefore be a First Cause, namely God. In Hume's worldview, causation is assumed but ultimately unknowable. We do not know there is a First Cause or a place for God. These difficulties were noted by Dorothy Emmet in a book written at the end of her life: "First Cause' is not the first member of a casual sequence [...] It is an eternal non-temporal activity on which everything else depends." The problems mentioned put together an argument: 1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause so that it can exist 2. The universe began to exist 3. Therefore, the Universe must have a cause for its existence It appears weak. Premise 1 is not self-evidently true. We cannot know that everything has a cause - we cannot deduce the necessary of all from many instances. ...read more.

Conclusion

Russell also suggested that the argument appeared to suggest that because everyone has a mother, then the Universe must have a parent. While this might be true for each Human Being, it does not follow for the Universe. * Copleston argues that everything within the Universe has a cause. * Russell argues that it does not. However, if Russell could be persuaded to accept that everything has a cause, he would probably want to argue that the existence of "God" needs an explanation just as much as the Universe needs an explanation. Criticisms * A problem which needs addressing is the sense in which G-d can ever be the stopping point in explanation. To say "G-d did it" seems not to end the question but create more - why did he make this or that etc... To answer those questions, we would need to know the mind of G-d which religious people say is a mystery we will never know. * A point worthy of comment is that there is, as Russell and Copleston suggested, a kind of stalemate., as if atheist and theist can both agree that either the universe is ultimately explicable, or a mere brute fact. One proposition is true, or the other is; there seems no obvious way behind that dilemma. ...read more.

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