Cosmological Argument

Aquinas' Cosmological Argument,what Coplestone added to it, and objections to the argument (Russell, Hume and general)

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  • Created on: 27-05-08 16:31

Argument from Movement

The Cosmological Argument

  • Thomas Aquinas put forward the Cosmological Argument in the 13th Century.
  • He believe that there must be a God to have created this world, and that just asnothing in the world explains itself/has not come about by itself, he said that the universe does not hold the explanation for itself without external factors.
  • Thomas Aquinas thought that there were five ways in which he thought the existence of God could be shown. The first THREE are Cosmological. These are:

- The Unmoved Mover (Argument from Movement) - Inspired by Aristotle, Aquinas pointed out that...
1) everything on this Earth is in constant motion. Nothing can move by itself - everything is moved/changed by something else.

2) There cannot just be infinite regress (something which moved something which moved something...never ending) of this motion. Something must have started the motion - a Prime Mover.

3) That Prime Mover must be God

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Argument from Causation

The Second Way:

An Uncaused Cause (Argument from Causation)
1) Everything in this world is caused by something else - cause and effect is visible everywhere.

2) There cannot be an infinite regress of causes. Something must have been the First Cause.

3) The first cause is God,

REMEMBER! These two arguments may sound basically the same but have to be worded differently (using movement and cause) as they were put forwrd as separate ideas by Aquinas.

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Argument from Contingency

The Third Way:

Possibility and Necessity (Argument from Contingency)
1) Everything in this world is contingent (it is not necessary) and has the possibility of not existing (i.e. we can imagine a world without dogs).

2) If things have the possibility of not existing, there MUST have been a time when they did not exist and something (contingent and eternal) must have brought everything into existence.

3) This is God.

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Main General Objections to the Cosmological Argume

Objections to the Cosmological Argument:

  • One God may not be the obvious conclusion. Even if something created the world, it could have been many gods or a giant space robot - not necessarily God!
  • Aquinas' argument was formed on scientific knowledge which is no longer valid (for instance his 'heirarchy of causes')
  • If everything had to have a cause, anda Prime Mover, why does God not need a cause, or something to move Him?
  • The universe could be infinite. Although there was nothing there, there was definately something at the moment of singularity which caused the Big Bang.
  • What proof is there that infinite regress is impossible - some people may just accept it!
  • Aquinas argues there must have been something to bring the universe about, but some people argue it is simply here and that is that!
  • Some things do change themselves (animals/humans have autonomy)
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Critics of the Theory

Hick said that Aquinas' theory points to one of two things; either that there is a First Cause or the universe is simply unintelligable brute fact. However, he goes on to say that, it does not prove either one or the other - so using this argument it is just as feasible to accept the latter explanation.

Thompson disagreed with Aquinas' description of movement and causes. He pointed out that each cause could produce an infinite number of effects. And each effect could have been caused by an infinate number of causes (i.e. the universe's movement cannot be explained simply by a chain of events). He said "We move within a seamless web of causality which goes forward and backwards in time, and outwards in space"

Hume said that as we have no experience of the creation of the universe, we cannot speak meaningfully about the universe having a cause. This is an a posteriori argument (argument from experience).
We cannot get 'outside' the universe to see if it has a cause.

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Support for the Theory

Support for the Theory:

  • Argument appeals to Empiricists as it's based on the world around us.

Hick said that as nothing can come from nothing there must be a necessary being. However there is now the discovery of 'quarks' to counteract this statement.

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The Radio Debate - Copleston (FOR)

Copleston's argument came in four main points:

1)Everythingin the worldis contingent (need not exist), and looks to something else to explain it's existence.

2) The world is a sum total of all these objects which depend on other objects.

3) If everything requires something else to exist, the cause of the universe must be external to the universe.

4) This being must only rely on itself for it's explanation, and have an intrinsic cause for existence. (GOD!)

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The Radio Debate - Russell (Against)

Russell started by disagreeing that the universe was either contingent or non-contingent. He said "I should say that the universe is just there, and that is all"

Russell also adds that if one follows the logic of Copleston one would come to the conclusion that every human has a mother, therefore the universe must have a mother (which is absurd). The argument jumps too far from things in this world to the universe.

Russell disagreed that everything had a cause, but even if he could have been persuaded he would have probably argue that the existence of God needs an explanation too!

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