Skip to main content

Outline of Rowe's Chapter on the Argument from Contingency in His Philosophy of Religion, Part I

Notes on Rowe on the Cosmological Argument, Part One

1. Setup: Terminology
1.1 Dependent beings: a being whose existence is accounted for by the causal activity of other beings
1.2 Self-existent beings: beings whose existence is self-explanatory, or accounted for by their own inner nature
1.3 The Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR): There must be an explanation for (a) the existence of every being, and (b) of every positive fact whatsoever, either in terms of something else or in terms of its own inner nature.

2. The Argument:
2.1 (1) Either everything is a dependent being, or there is a self-existent being.
2.1 (2) Not everything is a dependent being.
2.3 (3) Therefore, there is a self-existent being.
2.4 The argument is valid, since it has the valid argument form of Disjunctive Syllogism ((1) P or Q, (2) Not-P; therefore, (3) Q)
2.5 So, if the premises are both true, the conclusion follows of necessity.
2.6 So what is the evidence for the premises?

3. The Case for Premise 1: There can be no being that has no explanation at all (i.e., no explanation in terms of other beings, and no explanation in terms of its own nature)
3.1. Premise 1 states that either all beings are dependent, or there is at least one self-existent being.
3.2 But at first glance, at least, this seems false. For notice that there seem to be at least three types of beings that there could be
3.2.1 beings explained by one or more other beings
3.2.2 beings explained by nothing
3.2.3 beings explained by their own nature – self-explanatory beings
3.3 But the argument we’re discussing assumes that the second type of being is impossible
3.4 Why think that? If it’s wrong about that, then the argument doesn’t work
3.5 Answer: it assumes PSR
3.5.1 If the second type of being could exist, then it would have no explanation whatsoever for why it exists – it just does, and that’s all there is to say about it
3.5.2 But PSR says that everything has an explanation for why it exists, either in terms of something else or in terms of its own inner nature.
3.5.3 Thus, if PSR is true, then there can be no such beings.
3.6 Thus, PSR, if true, rules out this second type of being, and in this way, PSR supports premise (1).

4. The Case for Premise 2: Dependent beings can’t be accounted for in terms of just other dependent beings, no matter how many
4.1 The reason is not because every series of dependent beings must have a temporal "first" being to cause the others.
4.1.1 There are other versions of the cosmological argument that reason in that way.
4.1.2 But this version of the argument allows that a beginningless series of dependent beings is possible in principle
4.2 The real reason:
4.2.1 It's because, even if the series of dependent beings goes back forever, the existence of the series of dependent beings would itself be just another dependent being.
4.2.2 But if so, then by PSR(a), it too would need an explanation or sufficient reason for why it exists, and PSR says it must have one before we can legitimately stop our quest of explanations.
4.2.3 But even if the series of dependent beings isn't itself a being, the existence of the series of dependent beings is a positive fact or state of affairs.
4.2.4 But if so, then by PSR(b), it, too, would need an explanation for why it obtains.
4.2.5 Another way to think of it: even if there is an infinite series of dependent beings that goes back through eternity, we would still need an explanation for why there have always been dependent beings (as opposed to there being nothing).
4.2.6 Thus, no matter which way you slice it, dependent beings are inherently incapable of accounting for their own existence.

5. Conclusion:
5.1 The cosmological argument from contingency is logically valid; so if the premises are true, the conclusion follows of logical necessity.
5.2 Furthermore, there is a good prima facie case for the premises, as we've just seen
5.2.1 Premise 1 is supported by PSR, which rules out the existence of brute facts, i.e., beings that have no explanation for why they exist.
5.2.2 Premise 2 is supported by the apparent fact that dependent beings are inherently incapable of accounting for/explaining themselves.
5.3 If all these things are so, then we're rationally pushed to conclude that there must be at least one self-existent being to explain why there are dependent beings.


Popular posts from this blog

Epicurean Cosmological Arguments for Matter's Necessity

One can find, through the writings of Lucretius, a powerful yet simple Epicurean argument for matter's (factual or metaphysical) necessity. In simplest terms, the argument is that since matter exists, and since nothing can come from nothing, matter is eternal and uncreated, and is therefore at least a factually necessary being. 
A stronger version of Epicurus' core argument can be developed by adding an appeal to something in the neighborhood of origin essentialism. The basic line of reasoning here is that being uncreated is an essential property of matter, and thus that the matter at the actual world is essentially uncreated.
Yet stronger versions of the argument could go on from there by appealing to the principle of sufficient reason to argue that whatever plays the role of being eternal and essentially uncreated does not vary from world to world, and thus that matter is a metaphysically necessary being.
It seems to me that this broadly Epicurean line of reasoning is a co…

Notes on Mackie's "Evil and Omnipotence"

0. Introduction
0.1 Mackie argues that the problem of evil proves that either no god exists, or at least that the god of Orthodox Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, does not exist. His argument is roughly the same version of the problem of evil that we’ve been considering.
0.2 Mackie thinks that one can avoid the conclusion that God does not exist only if one admits that either God is not omnipotent (i.e., not all-powerful), or that God is not perfectly good. 0.3 However, he thinks that hardly anyone will be willing to take this route. For doing so leaves one with a conception of a god that isn’t worthy of worship, and therefore not religiously significant.
0.4 After his brief discussion of his version of the problem of evil, he considers most of the main responses to the problem of evil, and concludes that none of them work.

1. First Response and Mackie's Reply
1.1 Response: Good can’t exist without evil; evil is a necessary counterpart to good.
1.2 Mackie’s reply:
1.2.1 this see…

Notes on Swinburne, "On Why God Allows Evil"

Notes on Swinburne’s “Why God Allows Evil”

1. The kinds of goods a theistic god would provide: deeper goods than just “thrills of pleasure and times of contentment” (p. 90). For example:
1.1 Significant freedom and responsibility
1.1.1 for ourselves
1.1.2 for others
1.1.3 for the world in which they live
1.2 Valuable lives
1.2.1 being of significant use to ourselves
1.2.2 being of significant use to each other

2. Kinds of evil
2.1 Moral evil: all the evil caused or permitted by human beings, whether intentionally or through negligence (e.g., murder, theft, etc.)
2.2 Natural evil: all the rest: evil not caused or permitted by human beings (e.g., suffering caused by hurricanes, forest fires, diseases, animal suffering, etc.)

3. The gist of Swinburne’s answer to the problem of evil: God cannot – logically cannot -- give us the goods of significant freedom, responsibility and usefulness without thereby allowing for the possibility of lots of moral and natural evil. This is why he has al…