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T H E C O S M O L O G I C A L A R G U M E N T

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Introduction

T H E C O S M O L O G I C A L A R G U M E N T for the existence of God There are many types of Cosmological argument, but it is better to concentrate on a small number of them and to probe their intricacies rather than to be content with general summaries. They all share many features in common - in particular, they argue from the world to God and are thus a posteriori. In the Timaeus, Plato uses a Cosmological argument to arrive at the Demiurge, but it is Aristotle's argument that has had most influence because it was used by St.Thomas Aquinas. Aristotle argued to an unmoved mover. This unmoved mover was not a personal God like the Christian God, and it had no religious significance - rather, it should be seen as the ultimate cause of the Cosmos. Plotinus, in the third century, modified Plato's argument, although again did not arrive at the Christian God. Plotinus' God created the world from himself (and not from nothing) by a necessary unfolding of himself - God had no choice. Plotinus' God was also beyond all description and NEEDED to create in order to become conscious (Process theology draws on this view). The Islamic and Jewish philosophers tended to be in advance of Christian philosophers in the early middle ages. Alfarabi and Avicenna put forward distinctive proofs, including the significant KALAM argument. The Jewish thinker Maimonides put forward an argument which led to a God similar to that of Aquinas - he claimed that the 'I AM' of the Old Testament has absolute existence, and that He alone exists necessarily and absolutely. AQUINAS' ARGUMENT =================== Aquinas' Five Ways are the cornerstone of Catholic Natural Theology because they claim to show that language about God successfully refers. However, Aquinas was not creating new arguments but using old ones; for example, Aquinas' Fifth Way owed much to Plato's argument in the Timaeus. ...read more.

Middle

The key to this argument is the PRINCIPLE OF SUFFICIENT REASON, which Leibniz thought to be self-evidently true. In practice, people are normally content with proximate reasons - reasons that satisfy. Thus the reason these notes are written is to make philosophic issues clearer to students. One might ask further questions such as why I bother since no-one reads them, whether this is the best way of helping students, or even why the students are studying Philosophy of Religion at all, but most people would not consider that there has to be an ultimate explanation of my action in order for the explanation to make sense. It is the assertion of an ultimate explanation that the Principle of Sufficient Reason maintains. Kai Neilsen says that 'If a series were literally infinite, there would be no need for there to be a first cause to get the causal order started, for there would always be a causal order since an infinite series can have no first member'6. However even if a series existed eternally, then it could still be argued that God is needed to sustain the series - which brings the discussion back to whether the whole causal series is simply a brute fact or requires God to explain it. Mackie7 maintains that Leibniz' argument can be challenged in two ways: 1. Firstly by asking 'How do we know everything must have a sufficient reason?' Leibniz asserts that this is the case but does not actually provide any compelling argument, 2. Secondly, 'How can there be a necessary being, one that contains its own sufficient reason?' Leibniz does not have any compelling reason to show why the existence of such a being is necessary. HUME'S CRITICISMS8 ================== Hume offers a sustained attack on the Cosmological arguments, and his arguments have since been developed and elaborated: 1. Like causes resemble like effects. The most that can be derived from finite effects will be finite causes. ...read more.

Conclusion

Swinburne (The Existence of God10) maintains that God is a SIMPLER explanation than the brute fact of the universe because God provides a personal explanation - but this is debatable. Aquinas certainly considered that God was metaphysically simple (this is the defining characteristic of the Thomist God from which other features such as God's timelessness, immutability, spacelessness, bodilessness, etc. are derived), but this is VERY different from saying that God provides a simple explanation. Also, it is all very well saying that God is personal, but it is far from clear what 'personal' means when applied to the wholly simple God - it certainly cannot be understood univocally (see The Puzzle of God 11for a discussion on analogy and metaphor in religious language) since God is not 'personal' in the same sense as a human being is personal. Dr. Peter Vardy Vice-Principal Heythrop College University of London 1 'Aquinas' Five Arguments in the Summa Theologiae 1a, 2, 3 Kos Pharos Publishing, The Netherlends, 1994 2 'De dicto' means 'of words' - so this necessity is a necessity based on how words are used. E.g. 'Spinsters are female' is necessarily true because of the way the word spinster is used. 3 'De re' means 'of things' - so this necessity is a necessity based on the nature of a thing - thus God is held to be de re necessary because God's nature is to exist, God cannot not exist. 4 G. Hughes, The Nature of God, p. 37 Routledge 1995 5 'Philosophy of Religion' Baker Book House 1988 6 Quoted in Brian Davies 'An introduction to the Philosophy of Religion' p. 90 7 J.L Mackie 'The Miracle of Theism' The Clarendon Press, Oxford 1982, p. 82 8 David Hume 'Dialogues concerning Natural Religion' first published 1779 9 'Something or Nothing' in The Heythrop Journal 1986 10 Clarendon Press, Oxford 1991 11 'The Puzzle of God' Harper Collins 1990 by Peter Vardy ?? ?? ?? ?? 1 Dialogue Education - Cosmological Argument ...read more.

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