The cosmological argument

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The first and second ways

The cosmological argument has its origins in Aquinas' 5 ways to prove the existence of God.        

Ways 1 & 2: The arguments for an unmoved mover and uncaused cause: 

  • Everything is in a process of motion which is changing from a potential to an actual state
  • Things can not be potentially and actually the same thing.
  • E.g. hot chocolate can not be hot and cold. What it can be is hot, but it has the potential to be cold.
  • Therefore, eveything that is in a state of motion must be put into this state my another thing

The second way- efficient causes

  • Nothing is an efficient cause of itself and they follow in order. It is not possible for efficient causes to go back to infinity because if there is no efficient first cause there will not be any following causes
  • E.g. the efficient cause is what gives the hot chocolate the heat it needs
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Infinite Regression

An Infinite Regression is a chain of events that goes backwards forever


E.g. The domino example

  • If you asked what caused the final domino to fall, you would say the previous one and you would say it was the one before that and so on.
  • The IMPORTANT pont to note is that each domino is the potential cause of the next one falling

Pure act- The chain of events is caused by a pure act and not a potential cause because if the cause of the chain was potential, it needs to be acted on to achieve its potential. Therefore the chain of regression would start again. Aquinas says the pure act is GOD.

Points to note-The God who starts everything off in Aquinas' view does care about humanity, Aquinas is not saying he does not. E.g. football kicker.

Criticsms- there could be an infinite number of causes that went on forever.

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David Humes criticsms

The fallacy of Composition- Is it neccesary to assume everything in the universe has a cause just because everything within the universe can be explained with reference to a preceeding cause?

E.g. Betrand Russel said just because everyone has a mother does not mean the human race has a mother.

The skepticsm between cause and effect

David Hume is very skeptical of the link between cause and effect. The human mind tends to point out links between cause and effect.

Anscombe- Rabbit example (you just presume something caused the rabbit to come out, you can assume existence must have a cause without pointing to cause and effect.

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The Third way, the argument from Contingency

The idea that the universe could not exist under different enviroments means points towards something that MUST EXIST.

Aquinas proposes that everything in nature at one time did not exist. If this is true then there is nothing in existence as there would be nothing to bring anything to existence.

(So there must be something that exists by neccesity)

Every neccesary thing has its existence caused by another. But an infinite regression of things is impossible- therefore some being must exist which causes other things their neccesity. This is God.


Criticsms- Kant rejects the argument with the same basis he does in the ontological argument (existence is not a predicate) But this is not entirely fair as this argument is a posteriori and not a priori.

Mackie- Must there be a neccesary being?

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