The Cosmological Argument

  • Created by: Chloe B
  • Created on: 18-04-13 18:01


  • first cause argument.
  • god exists from a posteriori premise, as it is based on what can be seen in the world and universe.
  • things move and change. The universe and everything has a cause -> GOD.
  • God is Omnipotent, Omnibenevolent, and Omniscient.
  • Necessary Existence: refers to the external and transcendant nature of God. If God didn't exist in this way, we wouldn't exist.
  • Aristotle: all movement depends in there being a mover. Movement includes change, e.g. growth. There must be a common source that brings about every movment and chain of events. This 'unmoved mover' is the PRIME MOVER!
  • The Prime Mover: causes the movement of other things as a final cause rather than an efficient cause.

-Efficient Cause: a cause is capable of performing an action and brings about the desired effect. - Final Cause: the reason for something to be brought about. 

  • The prime mover doesn't start everything with a push, but rather starts the movement by being the purpose, or the end of the movement. Things are attracted to its nature. The prime mover attracts objects to it to create movement. It is not an efficient cause as this would mean that it would / could be moved as well. The prime mover could never be moved. The prime mover is perfect, which is why things are attracted to it, as they desire to share in this perfection. PRIME MOVER IS GOD!
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AQUINAS' 3 WAYS..... 1) Motion and Change

  • Everything in the world is moving or changing.
  • Yet nothing can mover or change itself -> there must be an external force acting on it.
  • There cannot be an infinate regress of things changing other things.


  • There must be a prime mover which is itself unmoved.

e.g. Wood has the potential to be hot. To achieve its potential, it must CHANGE. To change it must come into contact with the ACTUALITY of heat i.e. Something already hot e.g. A Lit Match. 

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2) Cause and Effect

  • Everything in the world has a cause but nothing can be the cause of itself (that is a logical impossibility). 
  • Yet there cannot be an infinate regress of causes. 


  • There has to be a first, uncaused cause to start the chain of events.

Gottfried Leibniz - "Nothing takes place without sufficient reason" - Sufficient reason can be traced back to something that doesn't depend on anything else. 

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3) Contingency

  • Everything in the world is finate or contingent (has a begining or an end).
  • If things can NOT EXIST, there must have been a time when they did not exist. 
  • If everything in the world can NOT EXIST, there must have been a time when nothing existed.
  • Things exists now so there must be something which brought us into being:
  • A DE RE NECESSARY BEING, unlimited by time:
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Criticism 1. Does Aquinas contradict himself?

  • Aquinas says that nothing can be the cause of itself (2nd way). However, he then goes on to say something must exist that can be the cause of itself, namely God. 
  • YES HE CONTRADICTS: it is a logical contradiction and therefore the argument does not make sense. 
  • NO HE DOESNT: There has to be an exception to the rule "everything has a cause" or the universe would have no cause and would not have come to exist. 
  • Aquinas defends his argument saying God is an exception as we are talking about a being unlike anything else. God has a special form of existence. 
  • Suppose we allow the exception: why make God the exception? Why couldn't the universe be the exception? 
  • It may be fair to say that everything exists within the universe must have a cause. But why does the universe itself need to have a cause? It could be self-causing or it may not require an explanation at all: it just is!!
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Philosophers who criticise Aquinas' 3 ways

  • Bertrand Russell: just because humans have a mother, does not mean that the universe needs to have a mother. The universe is a brute fact "I should say that the universe is just there, and that's all". 
  • David Hume: believed in cause and effect because we can see the effects therefore identify the causes. This only worked for individual things not the universe!!! The universe is a 'unique' effect and we are unable to experience its cause. The idea of a necessary being makes no sense. There is no being the non-existence of which is inconceivable - and even if there were, why should it be God? 
  • Kant: did not consider there was any way of reasoning from finate events to a transcendant cause. He rejects the idea of a 'necessarily existing being' - the only things that are necessary are propositions where truth rests on linguistic convention (the way words are used).
  • Matin lee: CA rests on a conclusion as either God is something or nothing. If God is something we can ask what caused God. If God is nothing, then nothing cannot be a cause of the universe. (Aquinas says God is neither Nothing or something, he is in a category of his own).  
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Strengths of the Cosmological Argument

  • Some would argue that God is the 'Simplest' explanation for the existence of the universe. 
  • Both Aquinas and Swinbourne claim this.
  • "if we can explain the many bits of the universe by one simple being which keeps them in existence, we should do so..."
  • OCKHAM'S RAZOR: This means the simplest conclusion is often the best. 
  • Big Strength = A posteriori - argues on evidence that we all can experience. it is a solution for the universe as well as the existence of God. It emcompasses the concepts of the Big Bang Theory (The Big Bang theory proposes a finite history of the universe- a beginning point, not an infinite regress.) 
  • Even though the CA can only provide us with a probable cause of the universe not a certain proof, it is likely that God is the reason
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Russell .vs. Copleston


  • The key to success of the argument from contingency relies on the acceptance of God being the only sufficient reason for the existence of the universe. Aquinas and copleston argue that the universe can only be sufficient reason > without a necessary being there would only ever be contingent beings (which is not logical). Without God there would be no universe. God provides us with a sufficient reason as to why there is something rather than nothing. 


  • Russell challenges Copleston's position by questionning why God must be the sufficient cause. RUSSELL REJECTS THE 3RD WAY! "when is an explanation adequate?" > a flame with a match - there is no need to look to the argument from contingency (GOD) when trying to fulfil Leibniz's principle and when trying to provide an explanation for the universe. -> Copleston states 'an adequate explanation must ultimately be a total explantaion to which nothing further can be added'. 


  • Russell responds by saying that "you're looking for something which can't be got, and which one ought not to expect to get". 
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The Kalam Cosmological Argument and Potential Infi

  • An Arabic term which means to 'argue' or 'discuss'. 
  • Infinate - to say that something is infinate means that it is endless, boundless or limitless.
  • William Lane Craig:he talks about the universe in terms of being either a potential or actual infinate. 


  • exists if it is always possible to add one more to a series of events. It is possible to think of the future as a potential infinate, because more events are constantly being added to a series of past events. 
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The Kalam Cosmological Argument and Actual Infinat

  • refers to sets or collections of things with an infinate number of members. 
  • It is NOT growing towards infinity because it is infinate already. 
  • A part within an actual infinate set is equal to the whole set because it is infinate. 
  • Craig's argument is:
  • p1 - the present universe exists after a series of past events
  • p2 - successive addition cannot be added to what is infinate
  • p3 - therefore, the universe is finate (has a begining and an end)
  • p4 - thus the universe had a begining
  • p5 - it could not have caused itself to begin
  • p6 - it cold not have begun naturally as laws of nature did not exists then
  • c1 - therefore, the cause must have already existed
  • c2 - therefore, it must have been created by a personal creator (GOD) who freely chose to create it. 
  • He argued that IF the universe did not have a beginningm then the past must consist of a series of events that is actually and not merely potentially infinate. 
  • Craig cannot accept that idea because it would mean that past events from a collection of events; in which, for example, there would be just as many wars as there would be all other events together. 
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The Kalam Cosmological Argument - God as Personal

  • if the universe has a begining then it was either caused or uncaused.
  • Either it was a natural occurance or a choice was made to bring the universe into existence. 
  • Supporters > since the rules of nature did not exist before the beginning of the universe.
  • The universe cannot be a result of natural causes. 
  • Craig concluded that 'if the universe began to existm and if the universe  must be a person being who freely chooses to create the world'. 
  • If the universe was created ex nihilo then the beginning of the universe was the beginning of time. There must have been a personal agent outside time to start the process of creation. 
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Critiques of the Kalam Cosmological Argument

  • The Oscilating Universe Theory: 
  • The universe undergoes a series of oscillations each beginning with a Big Bang ending with a Big Crunch. After the Big Bang, the universe expands for a while before the graviational attraction of matter causes it to collapse back in and undergo a bounce.
  • Transcendant does not necessilary mean supernatural:
  • if the argument is correct then God must have made a decision to create the world. Either in or out if time an action has come after a decision. if this is the cause then God is subject to 'time'. Therefore, God would have had to begin to exist as well. The argument states that actual infinate things cannot exist. Therefore God, as an actual infinate being cannot exist either. 
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The Cosmological Argument and Religious Faith

  • NATURAL THEOLOGY: "knowledge of God which is gained by reason alone, without the aid of revelation". The CA provides a basis in reason for believeing in God. 
  • Religious believers just argue that arguments just support and strengthen their existing belief and FAITH in God. 
  • FIDEISM - faith cannot be tested by using rational enquiry. 
  • Faith is just something that a believer has that causes them to accept the teachings of their religion as true - religious believers dont need rational justification for their beliefs because faith tells them it is true and involves complete trust and commitment to God. 
  • BATTLE OF WILLS - Atheist, may be inclined to see the universe as the result of random chance. 
  • If there is a first cause, no proof its the God or Classical theism. The first cause could be anything - even the material world itself (Hume). Aquinas and Craig contradict themselves when they reject the possibility of the infinate by saying God is infinate. 
  • God is unique  and the laws of nature do not apply to God. The Big Bang gives weight to the cosmological argument as it supports the basic premise that the universe has a begining. Davies argues the CA has to be supported by other evidence and arguments adn isnt proof alone. 
  • SOOO... whether or not God is the cause of the universe is very much a matter of faith. It seems to support whatever th individual already believes and will not convert a non-believer into accepting Gods existence. 
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How Successful is the Cosmological Argument?

  • A Posteriori argument - everyone has experienced cause and effect. 
  • The big bang theory provides evidence that the universe has a beginning and that it’s not infinite.
  • Scientists accepting the big bang theory cannot explain the cause
  • Being able to measure time shows there must be a beginning, if the universe was an actual infinite we would not be able to measure time.
  • Richard Swinburne suggests the argument is the simplest way of explaining why there is something rather than nothing.
  • The argument satisfies the need to find cause for the universe
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