philosophy science theology

logical argument

Of all the theistic proofs, the cosmological argument is clearest and simplest:

  1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
  2. The Universe began to exist.
  3. The Universe has a Cause.

A helpful deductive version is stated as follows:

  1. A contingent being (a being that if it exists can not-exist) exists.
  2. This contingent being has a cause of or explanation for its existence.
  3. The cause of or explanation for its existence is something other than the contingent being itself.
  4. What causes or explains the existence of this contingent being must either be solely other contingent beings or include a non-contingent (necessary) being.
  5. Contingent beings alone cannot provide an adequate causal account or explanation for the existence of a contingent being.
  6. Therefore, what causes or explains the existence of this contingent being must include a non-contingent (necessary) being.
  7. Therefore, a necessary being (a being that if it exists cannot not-exist) exists.

The key issue is whether or not the world (including concepts such as universe, multiverse, etc.) is a) self-caused, eternal and infinite or other-caused, temporal and finite – and I maintain that this is not an issue which science can determine.

7 replies on “logical argument”

Perhaps you could clarify, Dale. There seem to be a few different versions of the cosmological argument around – and I wish to deal with the most accepted one.

For example one sources describes it as:
“a philosophical argument for the existence of God which explains that everything has a cause, that there must have been a first cause, and that this first cause was itself uncaused.”

So – Is it important to you that you restrict the first step to only “whatever begins to exist” rather than to whatever exists? Seems to miss out a lot of possibilities about the unvierse.

And Wikipedia has as the later steps:

1. (3) The universe has a cause of its existence.
2. (4) If the universe has a cause of its existence then that cause is God.


1. (5) God exists.”

In other words it is a specific argument for an existence of a god, rather than your 3rd step “The Universe has a cause.”

I see these two versions being hugely different – but do you mean yours to be different to the Wikipedia version? And if so, why?

I want to clarify exactly what the accepted argument is before analysing it.

Thanks Ken,
A good move – clarifying. Always worth doing. Our engagement will be all the better for it. And the point you’ve raised is an important one: it involves the distinction between general and specific.

This is – or is at least is almost always considered – a theistic argument – and therefore is a general argument, as there are many, many forms of theism. As I mentioned on your blog, this is not an argument for any particular god, whether Roman, Hindu, Jewish, Christian, Greek, Monotheistic, Pantheistic (though this view dealt with the most directly in this argument), etc. But rather an argument for theism in general – the broad belief in some kind of ‘god’.

There are indeed different forms of the argument, and the implication throughout (explicit in some forms and implicit in others) is that the ‘un-caused Cause’ or the ‘necessary being’ is ‘God’ or ‘a god’. If it will help you, I’m quite happy to use the terms ‘un-caused Cause’ or ‘necessary being’? Whilst I don’t think it’s controversial to use the general term ‘god’ for such a Cause or Being, I have no problems with sticking to other terminology – perhaps getting to that in a separate argument, etc. Let me know if this helps.

I fail to appreciate why there must be a beginning to the universe any more than a circle proves the necessity for a creator god. I mean, if people can accept the existence of a 2D circle or 3D sphere, by definition a geometric shape that has no beginning and no end but a continuous perimeter or shell equal distance from a center point, then I don’t understand this theistic need for a universe to have a First Cause, an un-caused cause, a necessary cause, and so forth… therefore god. The universe just is, and what it was before the Big Bang we cannot know. Bringing god into it is hardly what I would consider a ‘best’ argument; it seems like an unnecessary complication.

For this post, I’m mainly interested in two points:
1) that the argument is logical
2) that science can’t adjudicate on whether the universe (or multiverse) is ‘self’-caused (or un-caused) or ‘other’-caused. Here, your claim that “the universe just is…” is equally as non-scientific as the claim that “the First Cause just is First…” Now, I do think the Big Bang theory does cohere more with a view that the universe had a beginning, is finite, and is ‘unnecessary’ (it could have possibly ‘not existed’ – it doesn’t exist ‘of necessity’). But I’m not fond of using this as a ‘proof’.

Non scientific? Well that depends.

There is plenty of available evidence that the universe is and not a shred for a First Cause. That tends to separate the two assertions into two very distinctive camps.

If the comparison is between the assumption of no cause and the assumption of cause, then they are in the same camp at this point. So what evidence informs either hypothesis to lend a higher probability to one or the other? I think the default assumption is that it ‘just’ is unless and until there is evidence to suggest otherwise. Inserting the absurdity of an un-caused cause is merely an exercise of tortured language and not any kind of evidence. In the same way you have no cause to believe mushrooms are intergalactic spies unless evidence to support the hypothesis is provided, you have no cause to believe in an un-caused cause. Not believing and believing in galactic spies in the form of mushrooms are not equal assumptions that are both as likely to be correct as incorrect without evidence; non belief is the default. The point here is that non belief in the intergalactic nature of mushroom spies is not a belief. It is non belief. Believing mushrooms are intergalactic spies is a belief. The two are not the similar beliefs.

‘Just is’ is not a belief but an absence of any specific belief… a non belief, which is the default. First Cause is a specific belief that rests on accepting an un-caused cause (like a non belief belief). But if one accepts this un-caused cause to be reasonable to provide a cause for everything else, then one is granting a specific exemption to this first cause that is identical to the ‘Just is’ position.

As I wrote: adding god is simply an unnecessary complication.

The word ‘just’ (meaning ‘only’ or ‘merely’ or ‘no more’ or ‘simply’, as in nothing else to complicate it) goes beyond the facts. It is a negation of there being any more to things than the ‘mere’ fact that the universe exists. Saying instead that the universe ‘is’ better reflects a truly agnostic or ‘non-believing’ view. Thus, I suggest that the spectrum is between ‘just is’ and ‘just is caused’ – with ‘is’ being the middle ground.

‘just is’ <<<--- 'is' --->>> ‘just is caused’

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