The Cosmological Argument

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  • The most famous example given by philosophers to show the logic of believing in God. 
  • It claims that from examining thefact that the universe exists, you can work out the cause of the universe's existence. 
  • The universe exists. Why does it exist? Something must have caused the universe to exist.

Aquinas' Cosmological Argument: the Five Ways

  • Aquinas put forward a collection of related ways of demonstrating the existence of God; these are known as the Five Ways. 
  • The first 3 are often referred to by modern philosophers when discussing the cosmological arugment.
  • Ways 1 and 2: The Arguments for an Unmoved Mover and Uncaused Causer
  • His first 2 ways demonstrate God's existence are similar and to be set out as follows.
  • Thomas Aquinas' first way
  • 1. We can observe that things in the world are in a process of motion.
  • 2. Everything that is in motion is in the process of changing from a potential state to an actual state.
  • 3. The same thing cannot be at the same time potentially and actually the same thing.
  • 4. For example, if something is actually hot, it cannot be potentially hot, but it can be potentially cold.
  • 5. So, everything that is in a state of motion must be put into this state by another thing.
  • 6. But the chain of movers 'cannot go on to infinity, because then there would be no first mover, and, consequently no other mover.'
  • 7. Conclusion : 'it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, put in motion by no other; and this everyone understands to be God.'
  • Thomas Aquinas' second way
  • 1. Nothing is an efficient cause of itself.
  • 2. Efficient causes follow in order: a first cause causes a second, a second a third and so on. 
  • 3. 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.
  • Conclusion: 'It is necessary to admit a first efficient cause to which everyone gives the name of God'
  • Points to note about Aquinas' first and second ways
  • Motion, potentiality and actuality
  • The First way sounds odd because of the use of 'motion' - yet he means the way or method by which some thing or object becomes something else.
  • A hot coffee is actually hot, yet it is potentially cold. Aquinas said said you cannot be both potentially and actually the same thing at the same time. 
  • Efficient cause can be understood as Aquinas' way of saying that the cause is necessary. You have to heat thhe coffee. The efficient cause is therefore that what gives heat to the coffee. 
  • Idea comes from Aristotle's prime mover. 
  • Infinite Regression
  • This is a chain of events that goes back to infinty. 
  • Dominos cause each other to fall - infinite regression. Yet when analysing this analogy with the potentiality and actuality we find every domino in the chain is potentially the cause of the next one falling. 
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