Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Leibnizian Cosmological Argument for God (Page 4)

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The Leibnizian Cosmological Argument for God
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From Before

Some forms the LCA can take:
  1. The argument that asks, “Why does the physical universe exist?” and offers theism as an explanation.
  2. The argument that asks “Why is there something rather than nothing?” and offers theism as an explanation. One weakness: Platonists believe that abstract objects (like numbers) exist independently of the mind and have necessary existence, and so Platonists won’t see the need for God as an explanation because Platonic abstract objects exist by the necessity of their own nature. If you’re not a Platonist though, this is potentially a good argument because “Why is there something rather than nothing?” is an excellent question and it seems to be the sort of thing that we should look for an explanation for.
  3. The argument that asks, “Why do contingent things exist?” and offers theism as an explanation. This bypasses the problem of Platonism because abstract objects (like the number six) can’t cause anything, including contingent objects. This type of argument is also called “the argument from contingency.”
Let’s label the above three LCA arguments LCA 1, LCA 2, and LCA 3, respectively. In part 1 of the series I argued for a few versions of LCA 1, and in so doing I also argued for a form of the principle of sufficient reason (viz. “Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature or an external cause”), an important and controversial part of the LCA. In this blog entry I’ll deal with the other two LCA varieties.

LCA 3

Yeah, I’m going kind of out of order, but that’s what you get when you read an article written by a maverick Christian (sometimes). For LCA 3 we can use the same sort of reasoning as LCA 1 except we replace the “physical universe” with the “totality of contingent things,” where we can call the “totality of contingent things” the “contingent universe” (if you’re wondering what the difference is between the contingent universe and the physical universe, the contingent universe would include contingent nonphysical entities like angels and souls if they exist). LCA 3 suggests that it’s possible for the contingent universe to not exist, i.e. that there is a possible worlds where no contingent thing exists. Thus, the contingent universe does not exist by the necessity of its own nature. We could justify that assertion with an argument from subtraction; upon reflection it seems there is a possible world where only a thousand contingent things exist, and it seems there is a possible world where only fifty contingent things exist etc. all the way down to zero contingent things existing. If nothing else, we can point out that it’s possible for the contingent universe to have had a different collection of contingent things it now has, similar to how our own physical universe could have had a different collection of fundamental physical units.

Beyond the argument from subtraction, there is one other thing to consider. It seems clear that there is no physical thing that exists necessarily, but one could propose that while there is no creative force that exists necessarily (like God), in all possible worlds there is a contingent thing. That is, it is necessary that some contingent thing or other exists, but there is no physical (or contingent) thing in particular that exists necessarily. One problem with this view: why is it that a contingent thing exists in every possible world? After all, on this view there’s no necessarily existing creative force to bring them about in every possible world. The proponent of this view would have to say that it’s inexplicable; it just happens to be the case that in every possible world there is a contingent thing. But the number of possible worlds is quite literally infinite; the odds that by chance there just happens to be a contingent thing in every possible world is infinitesimally small. That there is a possible world in which there is no contingent thing seems much more plausible than its denial.

Bringing out the whole argument more explicitly:
  1. Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature or an external cause.
  2. The contingent universe exists.
  3. If the contingent universe has an explanation for its existence, that explanation is God.
  4. Therefore, the contingent universe has an explanation of its existence (from 1 and 2).
  5. Therefore, the explanation of the contingent universe is God (from 3 and 4).
The physical universe (all of physical reality) is contingent, and since the physical universe is a subset of the contingent universe, the external cause of the contingent universe would have to be nonphysical. We can then employ the same sort of reasoning in LCA 1 to conclude that the nonphysical external cause of the contingent universe is a transcendent personal cause.

Further reasoning shows that the transcendent personal cause of the contingent universe is also metaphysically necessary (it exists in all possible worlds and cannot fail to exist) and eternal. If it’s possible that no contingent thing exist, you can’t sensibly appeal to a contingent thing to explain the contingent universe, because any contingent thing is part of the contingent universe, so it wouldn’t be an explanation for why the contingent universe exists as opposed to no contingent things existing. Similarly, one can’t say that the physical universe causing itself (as if by time travel) gives us an adequate explanation, because the entire causal-loop universe would (as a contingent thing) require explanation for its existence. But if no contingent thing can explain the existence of the contingent universe, the only hope left is to appeal to a necessarily existing entity. But then the explanation for the universe’s existence is also eternal, since at no time and in no circumstances can necessarily existing entities fail to exist. So we have an eternal, transcendent, metaphysically necessary, personal entity that is the external cause of the contingent universe. This sounds even more like God. Similar to the case of LCA 1, if the atheist insists that we can’t use God as any type of explanation (for whatever reason) or does not like God being a part of the third premise etc., we can tone down the argument a bit as follows:
  1. Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature or an external cause.
  2. The contingent universe exists.
  3. If the contingent universe has an explanation for its existence, that explanation is is an eternal, transcendent, metaphysically necessary, personal entity.
  4. Therefore, the contingent universe has an explanation of its existence (from 1 and 2).
  5. Therefore, the explanation of the contingent universe is an eternal, transcendent, metaphysically necessary, personal entity (from 3 and 4).
Once one grants the existence of an eternal, transcendent, metaphysically necessary personal entity as the cause of the universe, atheism becomes much less plausible to say the least. Arguably, any atheism that accepts the existence of an eternal, transcendent, metaphysically necessary personal entity that is the cause of the universe would not be worthy of the name “atheism.”

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