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The First Cause

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Introduction

The First Cause Wouldn't it be much easier to say that there is a beginning? Let's be empirical about this: when we observe the world we see that everything has a cause: the rain causes the plants to grow, the plants cause the production of oxygen, oxygen causes animal life to exist, etc. Does it not follow from this that the whole universe, too, has a cause? Aristotle (384 - 322 BC) - rejecting Plato's concept of eternal Forms - believed that everything must have an 'efficient cause'; the efficient and final cause was the 'Unmoved Mover'. Aristotle was a major influence on Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) who developed the causal argument as part of his Christian beliefs. Basically, Aquinas stated that if 'A' causes 'B', and 'B' causes 'C', then 'A' is the first cause, and 'C' is the last cause. ...read more.

Middle

Every cause would be the first cause! We are also faced with the obvious paradox here of, on the one hand, saying that everything has a cause and, on the other, saying that there is a cause of itself; something that was not caused by something else! Aquinas rephrased the argument in terms of dependency: Doesn't dependency have to be grounded somewhere in non-dependency? Every creature is dependent (i.e. contingent) for its existence on something else, without which it would not have been. For example, if my mother had not met my father during World War Two then I would not now exist. In fact, I also have the war to thank for my existence today. But how can you have a chain of dependent beings without, at the end of the line, having a being that does not depend on something else? ...read more.

Conclusion

John Stuart Mill ( in his article Theism, said: 'Our experience, instead of furnishing an argument for a first cause, is repugnant to it.' Still, we can't help being curious. Nonetheless, Hume and Mill have a point: where does all this speculation leave us? Does it help us to believe in a First Cause or, for that matter, in the existence of God? A religious believer may well be able to say that God is 'special': to ask the question "What or who caused God?" misses the point entirely and is, in fact, irrelevant here. God just is: he is the eternal, uncaused, timeless, creator. Equally, the atheist could use a similar argument in response to the question: "What caused the universe?" As Russell once said: "I should say that the universe is just there, and that is all." The universe just is: like the laws of nature, the universe is a brute fact; it's the way things are. Neither response is particularly helpful, it has to be said. ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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