Saturday, April 19, 2008

From Nothing Nothing Comes

I've begun to think in greater depth about a certain argument for God's existence. It is often called the Cosmological Argument, and it concerns the source of contingent being.

Contingent being, let us say, is the sum of all things whose existence is not necessary. It is, then, the sum of all things that, though they exist, might yet not have existed. I am part of this sum, as are you. I might have failed to exist, and so too might have you. God and the number two (if such objects there be), on the other hand, are not contingent. If they exist, they cannot not have existed.

I take it as obvious that there's such a thing as contingent being. So let us take its existence for granted and inquire into the source of its existence. A number of possibilities present themselves. (1) There is no source of contingent being. (2) There is a source of contingent being, and that source is itself contingent. (3) There is a source of contingent being, and that source is a necessary being (or beings).

These three possibilities seem both exclusive and exhaustive.

2 can be ruled out immediately. For if there is a source of contingent being and that source is itself contingent, then it must be its own source, for contingent being includes all contingent beings. But I think it obvious that nothing that has a cause of its being can be the cause of its own being.

So that leaves us with possibilities 1 and 3. Let us consider 1. It would have us say that the existence of contingent being is a great accident, a great random event for which no explanation at all can be given. Now, I do not think that I can conclusively establish that such a thing cannot be, but to say that contingent being has no explanation at all seems quite ridiculous.

Let us say that you sit at your desk, as do I. The house begins to shake. A pencil rolls off your desk and hits the floor. Might it be that there's no explanation at all for these events? Would you be content with the supposition that these events had no cause at all? Of course not. You'd search for a cause (earthquake perhaps) and you'd not be content until you'd found it. If it should come to pass that you couldn't find a cause, you'd still be certain that there was one. There just has to be some reason why the house shook. It didn't just happen.

But if that couldn't just happen, why think that contingent being could just happen? Indeed it would seem to be an even greater absurdity to assume that all of contingent being could just happen. (I suspect that those who reject the Cosmological Argument ignore there own common-sense insistence that the events they encounter must have causes. Like the rest of us, they assume the existence of causes of all they encounter, but for a reason that remains opaque to me, they hold that it's quite rational to give up this common-sense belief when it's brought to bear in a certain argument for God's existence. Two-faced, say I.)

Thus we must reject the claim that contingent being has no source at all. But that leaves us with but one possibility - that the source of contingent being lies in necessary being. Of course we're not yet at the conclusion that God exists. There exists quite a gap between the claims

There is necessary being


God exists

But the conclusion that there exists necessary being is still of great interest. It as it were opens the door to theism.

Next time: reply to objections.

Sunday, April 06, 2008


Culture is not something easily achieved. If left on their own, children will not be fit to carry it on and will suffer horrendously when it collapses. But how are we to make them fit to carry it on? Here we must never forget that children are a mix - a mix of nascent good and of nascent evil. The good must be nurtured, the evil extinguished.

Education today (at least public education in the U.S.) seems to foster only the former. Indeed the assumption seems to be that, if we but do the former well enough, all discipline problems will disappear. This is simply false, and until strict discipline is again introduced into the home and the school, education in the U.S. will continue its long slow decline. Teacher and parent and must be, above all else, instructors in virtue, and to do this they must compel students to act virtuously even when then do not wish to do so.