Assess whether the cosmological argument proves the existence of God.

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Daryan        Philosophy        29/09/2013

Assess whether the cosmological argument proves the existence of God?

The cosmological argument endeavours to prove the existence of God, by inferring this, from examining the cosmos and the phenomena within it. It is an a posteriori argument as it starts from experience and uses inductive reasoning, as it makes the general conclusion of a need of a first cause from the observations of causation, motion and contingency found within the universe.

Its origins and inception can be rooted back to Aristotle’s Physics and Metaphysics, where he put forth the notion of an ‘efficient cause’ which turns the potential of something into actuality, like how a sculptor is required to turn a marble into a statue, akin to this, the universe is also in motion and this motion requires an efficient cause, if one was to go back and examine all the movers or causes, and found no original cause or movement, then there would be no universe and as Parmenides famously said ‘ex nihilo nihil fit’, nothing comes from nothing; therefore the universe must have had an original mover, an unmoved mover which itself required no movement as nothing could move before it, to Aristotle this was presumably Zeus, the supreme God of the Greek pantheon. However as with the case of most of Scholastic philosophy, in the middle Ages, scholastic philosophers like Saint Thomas Aquinas evolved and edited Aristotle’s first principles and his metaphysics to accommodate the prevalent Christian thought. Many philosophers have refuted and repudiated the argument due to the many philosophical ‘jumps’ it commits and the many assumptions and misconceptions it relies upon, and its failure ultimately to prove anything.

 Al-Ghazali, the Persian philosopher, influenced Aquinas’ with his version of the cosmological argument which is rather analogous to a syllogism but with an additional part combined with it. The ‘Kalam’ argument (which is Arabic for speech), is a simple and unadorned version, where he starts from two premises like a typical syllogism: everything that begins to exist has a cause for its existence and the universal also began to exist, the conclusion like a syllogism, is inferred from the premises: the universe must have had a cause for its existence, so far it has retained the form and structure of a syllogism. However it then goes on to assert: that the cause of the universe is the one God of classical theism, being a Muslim, he was talking of the God of Islam (or as he is called Allah in Arabic). The syllogistic nature of the first three parts can be considered to be a strength as syllogisms are logical and simple and if the premises are right and accepted then the conclusion is probably true, however as with all syllogisms, the conclusion is only as strong as the pillars that it stands on, the premises and in this case the premises can be heavily criticised. Also the simple nature of it could appeal to the principle of parsimony and be perceived to be a possible strength. However, it makes certain assumptions and philosophical ‘leaps’ that result in significantly weakening the argument.

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The transition from the first conclusion of the universe having a cause and the cause being God has been received rather negatively, as even if we were to accept the argument hitherto, then it would not be explicitly obvious that it was indicating to the God of classical theism. We could posit another being there as its cause, as there is no evidence pointing to the God of classical theism. However it could be argued, that everything is a product of its context and Al-Ghazali wrote this to reinforce faith and belief to readers he assumed to be similar to ...

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