Thursday, June 26, 2008

From Nothing Nothing Comes: Objections

In a prior post - a post in which I rehearsed a version of the so-called Cosmological Argument - I promised to return later and consider objections. I'll list all the objections of which I know. Any suggestions about how to supplement my list are most welcome. Some are from Hume. Some are from the good doctor. Some are my own invention.

I'll add to the list as new objections occur to me.

1. If one thinks that there's a need to posit a necessary being, one might as well assume that the sum of all so-called contingent beings (and this sum is perhaps simply the material universe) is itself necessary. If one does this, there is no need to posit an entity outside that sum and thus there is no need to posit any kind of god.

2. The term "necessary" is applicable only to propositions, and when applied to one the result is true just when that proposition is a conceptual or logical truth. (An example of the former: triangles are polygons. An example of the latter: either triangles are trilaterals, or they are not.) Thus one simply cannot say of some entity or other that it is necessary. "God necessarily exists" is, in all strictness, nonsense.

3. To explain the existence of the sum of all contingent beings, one only need explain each contingent entity individually. But to explain a contingent entity individually, one need only cite a prior contingent entity that brought it into existence. Thus contingency suffices to explain contingency by an unbroken chain of cause of effect that leads back infinitely in time.

4. Causes must precede their effects in time. Thus if one speaks of a cause of the universe (and this I do attempt to do in my argument), one must assume that that cause exists prior to it. But time is itself merely a feature, or an aspect, of the universe. Thus nothing can exist prior to the universe. The upshot: the universe cannot have a cause.

5. The argument assumes the truth of the Principle of Sufficient Reason. (The PSR says this: for every state of affairs that obtains, there exists a sufficient explanation of the fact that it obtains.) But science has shown that the PSR is false. There are certain quantum events - like for instance the decay of a radioactive atom - for which there exists no sufficient reason (at least no sufficient reason to explain why they occurred just when they did). Moreover, there is no prima facie absurdity in the denial of the PSR; and indeed there is no way for the defender of the Cosmoligical Argument to prove its truth. Thus an objector is quite free to assume that it does not hold universally.

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