Religious studies: Philosophy- Cosmogical argument.

HideShow resource information

What is the Cosmological argument?

  • Seeks to prove the existence of God (based on the starting point that there is a universe).
  • The argument seeks to prove why there is a universe and a world in which we live in rather than nothingness.
  • This argument is based on an Aposteriori premise (experience of living in a universe).
  • The argument focuses on causes that lead to the existence of things.

This argument answers the following questions:

- How did the universe begin?

- Why was the universe created.

- Who created the universe?

1 of 30

The Classical cosmological argument.

  • Also known as the "First Cause Argument".
  • Comes from the conclusion God exists from an a posteriori premise. This is as it is based on what can be seen in the world and the universe.
  • Starting point= observation of our world.
  • Observations show that things move and change.
  • Things are caused to happen in response to how actions affect them.
  • We can also see things come into existence and then cease to exist.
  • BUT we do not live in an empty universe as something always exists.
  • This argument seeks to prove that the universe and all that's in it has a cause which is God.
2 of 30

Aristotle and the Prime Mover: Part A.

  • Ancient Greek Philosopher.
  • Believed all movement depended on their being a mover.
  • Movement doesn't always mean from A to B, but also through other changes such as growth, melting, cooling and heating.
  • Argues that behind every movement their must be a chain of events that caused the movement that we are seeing.
  • This is a common source of all substances.
  • Something/someone must be responsible for the beggining cause.
  • This cause MUST BE an eternal substance, exist necessarily, be immune to change, decay and death.
  • This cause is the unmoved mover and is the ultimate cause of the universe.
    Has to be a start point of the chain or it wouldn't exist as nothing can cause itself.


3 of 30

Aristotle and the Prime Mover: Part B.

  • The Prime Mover causes the movement of other things as a Final Cause rather than an efficient cause.
  • Final Cause= The reason for something to be brought about.
  • This means the Prime Mover is the purpose/end/telos of the movement not by giving it a push.
  • Aristotle believed that an efficient cause, giving a push would also be affected by the act of pushing.
  • The Prime Mover (according to Aristotle) causes movement through attraction.
  • The Prime Mover is perfect and all in the universe desire to be as perfect and are therefore attracted to God and want to share his perfection.


4 of 30

Aristotle and the Prime Mover: Part C.

Aristotle argues that:

1: God did not create the universe.

2: God did not sustain the universe.

3: God did not act in the universe.

4:God had no intrest in the universe.

  • God is supremly happy as he contemplates himself.
  • Aristotle considered contemplation the highest end meaning thatGod being supremly perfect would have no intrest at all in the universe.
  • Instead God thinks about and contemplates his own nature, which as God is supremly perfect, this would make God supremly happy.
  • God is outside of time and space. God is spaceless and timeless.
  • God is radically different from anything in the universe.
5 of 30

St Thomas Aquinas.

  • Chief work "Summa Theologicia" (Summaries of Theology).
  • Aquinas felt that Aristotles system of logic and ethics was compatable with Christianity, and often quoted from Aristotle to support his arguments.
  • Aquinas did not accept that the statment "God exists" as self-evident.He states that it is a proposition that requires demonstration.
  • In the "Summa Thelogicia" Aquinas developed his "Five Ways" to prove the existance of God.
  • Aquinas based his arguments on what can be observed.His observations included that in the universe, even inanimate objects move and change. From these observations he reached conclusions about the existance of God.
  • The first Three of Aquinas's Five Ways form the Cosmological Argument as a proof of the existance of God.
  • Aquinas accepted that it might not be possible prove that the cause of the universe is the God of Classical Theism.
6 of 30

The CA of St Thomas Aquinas: The First Way.

  • The First Way is motion (or change).
  • Aquinas is talking about motion in the broadest sence: not only from A to B but in the sence of quality and quantity as well.
  • According to Aquinas, an object only moved when an external force was aplied to it.
  • The chain of movement or changes cannot go back to infinity. There must have been a First or Prime Mover, which was itself unmoved.
  • The Unmoved Mover began the movement in everything, without actually being moved.
  • Aquinas argued that the Prime Mover is God.
7 of 30

The C.A. of St Thomas Aquinas: The need for extern

  • Aquinas continued that objects only changed because some external force had brought about that change.
  • He spoke of things achieving their potential through an external influence. (Example of fire making wood hot. Fire when aplied to wood changes the wood to achieve its potentiality to become hot).
  • In order for a thing to change it requires actuality. Whatever brings the change from potentiality to actuality must itself have have achieved the actuality to achieve this change or movement. (The fact that wood is its actuality. The fact that fire can make it hot is potentiality. In turn something must have made the fire change to become alight).
  • Each change is as a result of an earlier change.
  • Aquinas however did not accept that there was a series of infinate changes. There must have been a point at which the first movement/change occured, brought about by 'a first mover'.
  • "It is necassary to arrive at a first mover, moved by no other; and this everyone understands to be God".
8 of 30

The C.A. of St Thomas Aquinas: The Second Way.

  • Aquinas identified a series of Cause and Effect in the universe.
  • Aquinas observed that nothing could be the cause of itself as this would mean that it existed before it existed which would be a logical impossiblity.
  • Aquinas rejected an infinate series of cause and believed that there must have been a first, uncaused cause.
  • The first cause started the chain of causes that have caused all events to happen.
  • The first cause, was God.
9 of 30

The C.A. of St Thomas Aquinas: Rejection of infina

  • In order to avoid an infinate regress in his theory of causality (and a second proof of God's existance).
  • Aquinas proposed that there had to be an "uncaused cause" that had to begin all change in the universe.
  • Aquinas rejected that the motion and change or the cause and effect went back to infinity.
  • Aquinas argued that motion/change and cause/effect cannot go on into infinity as that would mean there was no first mover, and, consequently no other mover.
  • According to Aquinas, there must be a first mover, which we define as God, because there cannot be an infinate regression of movers putting objects into motion.
  • It is impossible to go on into infinity with efficent causes bevause of the very defintion of effectient causes: the first is the cause of the intermediate cause, which is the cause of the ultimate cause. No matter how many intermediate causes there are, a first and ultimate cause will always exist. The cause cannot be taken away because the effect is removed with it.
10 of 30

The C.A. of St Thomas Aquinas: Rejection of infina

  • To deny infinate regress means that there must be a "being" which in itself is an uncaused cause and eternal: a being that does not depend on anything else for it's existance, otherwise there would have had to have had a beginning and therfore have been caused to exist.
  • This means that the chain would continue as we would have to ask what was the cause of the "being" and what caused that, and so on. For Aquinas, the motion/cause and cause/effect starts with a being with necassary existance, and this being is what "what we call God".
  • A later philosopher Gottfried Leibniz developed an argument for "a sufficent reason" which gives additional support to Aquinas's argument for rejecting infinate regress. 
  • Leibniz accepted the Cosmological Argument because he believed that there had to be a sufficent reason for the universe to exist.
  • Leibniz rejected an infinate universe because he did not believe that it was a satisfactory explanation for its existance.
  • He accepted that God was the first, uncaused cause on everything else depends.
11 of 30

The C.A. of St Thomas Aquinas: The Third Way: Part

  • Relates to the argument that something must have started off the universe.
  • This is based on the fact that everything that begins to exists has a cause.
  • The universe began to exist and therfore the universe must have a cause. This means that
  • Aquinas is not only the cause of the universe but also all the contingent matter in the universe.
  • Based on the fact that the universe came into existance and that things in the universe come in and out of existance, Aquinas considered the possibility of infinate time.
  • However if time is infinate, then there must have been a time when nothing existed. THIS IS BECAUSE OF CONTINGENCY; the very fact that things are contingent means that they cannot continue forever.
  • If there were a time when nothing existed then there would still be nothing, as nothing can bring itself into existance. Therfore the cause of the universe must have always existed and be external to the universe.
  • There must have been a nessacary being (God) who if they didn't exist, would not have a universe.
12 of 30

The C.A of St Thomas Aquinas: The Third Way: Part

  • Aquinas argues that everything in the world has a finite and conditioned experience that is dependant for its existence on an infinate, unconditioned cause which is God.
  • Every cause in the chain is dependant on God for its existence.
  • Necassary being is required for the existence of things.
  • Some scholars CRITICISED Aquina's argument asking "why did there have to be a time when nothing existed? Surely it could be possible to have infinate regression without a time when nothing existed".
  • Aka a first cause which everything else depends on and continues to depend on for its existence.
13 of 30

Challenges to the C.A: Hume: Part A.

  • Hume believed that all knowledge and ideas (however complex) can be reduced to some experience our senses provided.
  • This examination of people's mode led Hume to conclude that humans think they know a lot more than the external world than is warranted.
  • The mistake humans make is to allow imagination to make a connection between cause and effect.
  • For Hume, this means that Aquinas is wrong in making a link between cause and effect. Aquinas has observed cause and effect around him and the existance of the universe. His error (according to Hume) is to join those two seperate events together. This is just a habbit of the mind that makes the connection between the two events: it is induction.Therefore it is not proof of God causing the universe.
14 of 30

Challenges to the C.A: Hume: Part B.

  • "How can anything that consists from eternitiy have a cause, since that relation implies a priority in time and in a beginning of existance". This means that even if the universe did begin, why does it have to have a cause? (Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion) on Hume about the universe having a beginning.
  • As we have no direct experience of the creation of the universe, we could not speak meaningfully about the creation of the universe.
  • Hume did not believe that there was either sufficent evidence to prove the cause of the universe or even that the universe was caused.
15 of 30

Challenges to the C.A: Kant.

  • Examined the argument of the existance of a supreme Being as a first cause of the universe.
  • Kant argued that the idea that every event must have a first cause only aplied to the world of sense experience. It cannot apply to something we have not experienced.
  • Kant did not accept any justification for the conclusion that God caused the universe to begin. He would not accept it as valid to extend the knowlage we do possess to question that transcend our experience.
  • God would be a casual being outside of space and time as we understand it.
  • Therefore it would be impossible for people to have any knowledge of what God created or of God himself.
16 of 30

Challenges to the C.A: Russell.

  • Introduced the expression philosophical logic (the study of the more specifically philosophical aspects of logic). This referred to a process where key philosophical questions are re-worded into mathematical terms.
  • This resulted in Russell's work being presented in a mathematical way. Russell felt this to be necassary as normal everyday language can be extremely misleading.
  • His argument was that every word stood for something.
  • He believed that words were often used without the user knowing what they stood for- or in some cases, without standing for anything!
  • This led to the "fallacy of composition" (the error that concludes that since the parts have a certain property, the whole likewise has that property) which is falsley ascribing to the parts of a whole to the whole.
  • For example when aplied to the Cosmological Argument, it would be making a statment such as "Objects within the universe were created. Therfore the universe was created".
17 of 30

Radio debate: Copleston vs Russell: Part A.

  • The debate took place in 1947.
  • Jesuit priest and proffessor of History of Philosophy Coplestone and Russell with oposing views on the origin of the universe.
  • Coplestone supported the Cosmological argument as evidence for the existance of God, wheras Russell oposed it.
  • Russell rejected the idea of Contingency and that there was a necassary being, God, on which all things depend. God as a necassary being would have to be in a special category of His own. Russell asked where this special catogory comes from, and why should this category be accepted? Russell aruged that 'necassary being' had no meaning.
  • Coplestone responded with the fact that Russell was even talking about God demonstrated he understood the meaning of a 'necassary being'.
  • The Two could not agree and in the end Russell concluded that Coplestone was making a fallacy of composition: just because humans have a mother, does not mean the universe has a mother.
  • The universe does not have to have a begining, it could have always been there and that was a brute fact.
  • Russell stated "I should say that the universe is just there, and that's that".
18 of 30

Radio debate: Copleston vs Russell: Part B.

  • One of the major objections to the Cosmological Argument is the suggestion that infinity is impossible and that the universe had a beginning.
  • Many phillosophers point out that Aquinas and Coplestone contradict themselves when reject the possibility of infinate.
  • Aquinas and Coplestone denied the infinate and yet argue that God is infinate.
  • Supporters of the argument point out that God is unique and the laws of nature do not aply to God.
  • Russell is supporting the possibility of infinate regress. His arguments go against both Coplestone as well as Aquinas. He does not agree that the universe must have a begining otherwise there is no adequte explanation for its existance.
  • Russell argues that there may be no reason for the existance for the universe. It has always existed and that is a 'brute fact' that has to be accepted.
19 of 30

Scientific theories and Aquinas's C.A. Kenny.

  • Presents an argument that undermines Aquinas's First Way (relating to Motion and Change).
  • In 'the five ways' (1965), Kenny said that Auinas's principle that nothing moves itself goes against that people and animals move themselves.
  • Newton's first law of motion, in which movement can be explained by a body's own internia from previous motion, disproves Aquinas's argument.
    It is possible for objects to have unform motion as well as being in a state of rest.
  • Kenny states that Newtons law 'wrecks' Aquinas's argument of the 'First Way'.
  • At any given time the rectilinear uniform of motion can be explained by the principle of internia in terms of the body's own previous motion without appeal to any other agent.
  • Many philosophers have countered Kennys argument.
  • They do this by pointing out that 'motion' for Aquinas meant any kind of change of state.
  • A human could be at rest but still be undergoing change such as ageing or blood pressure.
20 of 30

Scientific theories and Aquinas's C.A: Steady-Stat

  • The Steady-State Theory counts against Aquinas's Third Way relating to contingency and necassary existance, by suggesting that the universe is eternal.
  • This theory provides a scientific explanation that would undermine the Cosmological Argument as it denies a beggining to the universe.Rejected in favor of Big Bang Theory.
  • Until recently, scientist have accepted the theory that energy cannot be created and therefore the universe will always weigh the same and the energy in the universe will be redistributed.The acceptance of unifrmity of the universe led to the theory that it should look much the same not-only from the same place, but also at the same point in time. 
  • The Steady State Theory is oposite view to creationism (the belief that the universe and living organisms originate from specific acts of divine creation, as in the biblical account, rather than by natural process such as evoloution) as it teaches there is no begining or the end to the universe, that the universe has always been there and it's always looks the same.
  • So although the universe is expanding, (galaxies moving apart), the theory states that new galaxies have to be created to fill the gaps left by old galaxies. 
  • The continueous creation of new particles of matter is at a rate that is automatically adjusted by the cosmological expansion. This is at a steady rate and always the same. 
21 of 30

Scientific theories and Aquinas's C.A: Big Bang Th

  • Provides a scientific theory to explain the begining of the universe.
  • Both supporters of the C.A and those who deny it, use the Big Bang Theory as proof for or aganinst the existance of God. 
  • Scientific observations have confirmed there was a begining of the universe, and has provided futher evidence that the universe developed a structure very early in it's history. 
  • The Big Bang theory is a challegenge to the C.A. only if it's accepted as a rival theory to the C.A.
  • If the Big Bang theory is considered to be a spontaneous random event without reason, or cause then Aquinas's assertation that God is the mover and cause of the universe is undetermined. 
  • On the other hand. if it's accepted that there must be a reason to why the Big Bang happened, then and that once the universe began to evolve there seems to have been a sustainer of the universe that ensured it developed and continued, then the Big Bang theory gives support to a belief in the God of classical theism.
22 of 30

The Kalam C.A: William Lane Craig. Part A.

  • American philosopher who developed a modern version of the C.A in his book "The Kalam Cosmological Argument".
  • The first part of the Kalam Cosmological argument state the following:

- The present would not exist in an actual infinate universe (whole universe where things cannot be added as it is already full), because sucsessive additions cannot be added to an actual infinate universe. 

- The present does exist, this is as a result of a chronological series of past events. 

- The universe must be finite. 

- The finite universe had a begining. 

- Whatever began to exist had a cause, as things cannot cause themselves. 

- Therfore the universe had a first cause of it's existance. 

- The first cause was God.

23 of 30

The Kalam C.A: William Lane Craig. Part B.

  • Craig argued that if the universe did not have a begining, then the past must consist of a series of events that is actually infinate and not meerly potentially infinate (can have additions made to a series of events). 
  • Craig cannot accept this idea because it would mean that past events form a collection of events; for example there would be just as many wars as there would be all other events together. 

Craig concluded that.

- The history of the universe was formed by one event following on from another event- this is a sucsessive addition. 

- A collection formed by sucsessive addition cannot be actually infinate.

- Therfore the universe must have a begining in time. 

  • "Since everything that begins to exist has a cause of it's existance, and since the universe began to exist, we conclude, therfore, the universe has a cause of it's existance". The Kalam Cosmological Argument. William Lane Craig. 1979.
24 of 30

The Kalam C.A: William Lane Craig. Part C.

  • The Second part of the Kalam C.A. seeks to prove God as the personal Creator of the universe.
  • If the universe had a begining, then this begining was either caused or uncaused. 
  • Either it was a natural occurance or a choice was made to bring the universe into existance. 
  • Supporters of the Kalam C.A.argue that since the rules of nature did not exist before the begining of the universe, the universe cannot be the result of natural causes. 
  • Craig concluded that "if the universe begn to exist, and if the univserse is caused, then the cause of the universe must be a personal being who freely chooses to create the world".
  • The argument depends on the belief that God created the universe ex nihilo (meaning out of nothing). 
  • If the universe was created out of nothing, then the begining of the universe was the begining of time. 
  • There must have been a personal agent existing outside time to start of the process of creation, an agent who willed the universe into existance.
25 of 30

The key strengths of the C.A.

- As an aposteriori argument is based on experience and this is a strength. As everyon e has experience cause and effect then they are able to understand the belief in the universe as having a first cause for themselves. 

- The Big Bang theory has provided scientific support for the argument as it demonstrates that the universe had a beginging and therfore the universe is not infinate. 

- Scientists who accept the Big Bang theory, cannot explain what caused the Big Bang. 

- As we are able to measure time, this would suggest a begining to the universe. If we were in an actual infinate universe, we would not be able to measure time. 

- People can see for themselves that the universe exists, and this is futher support for the argument that things that exists are caused to exist are caused to exist and that cause is God. 

- Richard Swinbourne suggests that is the simplests explanation of why there is something rather than nothing.

- The argument satisfies the need to find a cause of the universe and the origins of everything within the universe. 

26 of 30

Value of the C.A. for religious faith: Part A.

  • It is important to consider whether the argument would convert an aitheist, or an agnostic to believe in God. Would the arguments put foward by Aquinas in his three ways be sufficent evidence for the existance of God if there was not already faith in God? 
  • Natural theology= the use of reasoned argument to provide a basis in reason for believeing in God. It can be argued that the Cosmological Argument would provide such basis. 
  • When added to the other arguments for the existance of God, then the reasons for believeing in existance of God then the reasons for believeing in God are strengthened.
  • However philosophers such as Rusell denied that whatever evidence was presented the existance of God can neither be proven or disproven. 
27 of 30

Value of the C.A. for religious faith: Part B.

  • Therfore, according to Rusell, arguments for the existance of God have no value. Religious believers would not agree with this. Such arguments simply support their already existing belief in God. They have faith that God exists. 
  • This view has become known as fideism which argues that faith cannot be tested by using rational enquirey. 
  • Faith is something that a person has that accepts the teaching of the religion are true, and because of their beliefs, they will look the universe and accept that their religious teachings are true, and because of their belief then they will look at th universe and see cause and effect, motion and change, and accept it was brought into existance by God. An aitheist may however be inclined to see the universe as a result of random chance.
  • It is necassary when considering the value of the argument for the existance of God that for the believer, faith is more than believeing that God exists. It involves believing in God which includes trust in God, commitment to God and following a particular lifestyle.
28 of 30

Conclusion: Part A.

  • Some philosophers argue that even if there was a first cause of the universe, there is no proof it is the God of Classical Theism. 
  • The first cause could have been anything, Hume argued that the first cause if there was one, could be the material, physical world, rather than God. 
  • The material world as its own cause is just as satisfactory explanation as God. 
  • One of the major objections to the arument is the suggestion that infinty is impossible and that the universe had a begining. Many philosophers point out that Aquinas and Craig contradict themselves when they reject the possibility of infinite. Both Aquinas and Craig deny the infinate and yet argue that God is infinate.
  • Supporters of the argument point out that God is unique and that the law of nature does not aply to God. 
  • Evidence for the Big Bang theory does give support to a begining of the universe and therfore greater weight to the Cosmological Argument's basic premise that the universe had a beginning. 
  • Quentin Smithhas argued against the Kalam Cosmological Argument. Smith uses quantam mechanics to demonstrate the possibility of things existing without a direct cause. 
  • The universe may have had a beginning, but there is no reason to think the beginning is God. 
29 of 30

Conclusion: Part B.

  • Whether the beginning was caused by God becomes very much a matter of faith. 
  • It may be that the Cosmological Argument supports what the induvidual already believes and will not convert a non-believer into  accepting the existance of God. 
  • Davies takes the position that the Cosmological Argument cannot stand alone as a proof for the existance of God, and would have to be supported bu other evidence. 
  • The design argument might be futher evidence to establish the existance of God. 
  • "As an argument for a first cause of all existing things the cosmological argument seems a reasonable one. But it does not by itself establish the existance the existance of God with all the properties sometimes ascribed to him" Brian Davies, The introduction to Philosophy of Religion 1990.
30 of 30


No comments have yet been made

Similar Religious Studies resources:

See all Religious Studies resources »See all Philosophy resources »