The Cosmological Argument (NOTES)

Description, concepts, ideas, critiques all on the cosmological argument

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Cosmological Argument
The word `cosmos' refers to the universe as an ordered, harmonious and holistic entity. The
Cosmological argument therefore argues for the existence of God a posteriori based on the apparent
order in the universe.
THOMAS AQUINAS
Aquinas believed that, since the universe is God's creation, evidence of God's existence can be found in
his creation using intellect and reason. Aquinas therefore devised his `Five Ways,' five a posteriori
proofs for the existence of God based on our empirical experience of the universe.
AQUINAS' FIVE WAYS
The Cosmological argument is based on the first three of Aquinas' Five Ways
1) THE ARGUMENT FROM MOTION (The `Kalam' argument)
· Everything in the world is moving or changing
· Nothing can move or change by itself
· There cannot be an infinite regress of things changing other things
· Therefore there must be a Prime Mover (or changer)
· This is called God
2) THE ARGUMENT FROM CAUSATION
· everything in the world has a cause
· Nothing is the cause of itself
· There cannot be an infinite regress of causes
· Therefore there has to be a first cause to start the chain of causes
· this first cause we call God
3) THE ARGUMENT FROM CONTINGENCY (possibility)
· Everything in the world is contingent (can either exist or not exist)
· If things cannot exist, there must have been a time when they did not exist
· If everything in the world cannot exist, there must have been a time when nothing existed
· Things exist now so there must be something on which we all depend which brought us into existence
· This necessary being we call God
FREDRICK COPLESTON
Fredrick Copleston reformulated Aquinas' argument by concentrating on contingency. He proposed his
argument in a BBC radio debate in 1947:
1) There are things in this world that are contingent ­ they might not have existed e.g. we would not exist
without our parents
2) All things in the world are like this ­ everything depends on something else for its existence
3) Therefore there must be a cause of everything in the universe that exists outside of it
4) This cause must be a necessary being ­ one which contains the reason for its existence inside itself
5) This necessary being is God
COPLESTON AND RUSSELL'S FAMOUS BBC RADIO DEBATE 1947
F.C. Copleston proposed his Cosmological argument in a famous BBC radio debate with Bertrand
Russell. Russell however refused to accept the notion of a necessary being as one that cannot be
thought of not existing, and concluded that the regress of causal events could not be held responsible
for the existence of everything in the universe:
"what I am saying is that the concept of cause is not applicable to the total"
Just because each human has a mother does not mean the entire human race has a mother. He
reduced the universe to a mere, brute fact, of which its existence does not demand an explanation.
"I should say that the universe is just there, and that's all."
Russell saw the argument for a cause of the universe as having little meaning or significance. He
established it as a "question that has no meaning" and thus proposed: "Shall we pass on to some other
issue?" Copleston's response to Russell's refusal to accept the importance of the issue was to claim:

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If one refused to sit at the chess board and make a move, one cannot, of course, be
checkmated."
CRITIQUES
DAVID HUME
Hume was famous for recognising when a line of argument disobeys the rules of logic and instead of
moving from one step to the next makes a great leap. To move from `everything we observe has a cause'
to `the universe has a cause' is too big a leap in logic.…read more

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