Skip to main content

Craig on the Leibnizian Cosmological Argument

Although Craig has criticized the Leibnizian Cosmological Argument in a number of places, he offers a brief defense of it in The Rationality of Theism (Routledge, 2003, ed. Paul Copan and Paul Moser).

The Leibnizian cosmological argument depends on some version of the Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR). The standard formulation of PSR can be expressed as follows:

(PSR) There is a sufficient reason for the existence of (a) every object, and (b) every state of affairs, either in terms of something else or in terms of its own nature.

A standard criticism of the argument is that PSR(b) is false.[1] Craig states the criticism tersely: "There cannot be an explanation of why there are any contingent states of affairs at all; for if such an explanation is contingent, then it, too, must have a further explanation, whereas if it is necessary, then the states of affairs explained by it must also be necessary." (p. 114)

Craig defends the argument against the criticism by eliminating PSR(b), and just relying on PSR(a) to get the conclusion of a necessarily existing object -- God -- as the explanation of the contingent universe.

However, this won't do. For as Peter van Inwagen points out[2], the conclusion can't be gotten with just PSR(a). For suppose there is an infinite, beginningless series of dependent beings[3], such that each being is explained in terms of another, as follows:

...C --> B --> A

In this series, A is explained by B, B is explained by C, and so on. But if so, then each contingent being in the series is explained by another contingent being. And if that's right, then PSR(a) is satisfied in such a scenario, and yet there is no need to appeal to a necessary being.

Now one might say that the series of contingent beings is itself a being, and so PSR(a) isn't satisfied without appeal to a necessary being. However, things aren't so easy. For ever since Christian philosopher Peter Van Inwagen wrote Material Beings[4], it's not so clear when, or even whether, two or more things compose another thing. Enter the material constitution debate. Thus, whether the collection of dependent beings is itself a being depends on which theory of material composition is true. A universalist (or "allist"), would say that any two or more objects is itself is an object. A nihilist (or "noneist") would say that no two objects compose an object -- there are only simples and their aggregates. Everyone else falls somewhere in between (the moderates). The problem is that every position on the matter has counterintuitive implications. Therefore, at the very least, it will require either a defense of a universalist account of material constitution, or a defense of a moderate account of material composition that allows the collection of dependent beings to count as a being (it should be noted that van Inwagen's own moderate account doesn't countenance the collection of dependent beings as itself a being). Needless to say, Craig has a lot more work to do in defending the Leibnizian cosmological argument against the criticism he raises here.
----------------------
[1] See for example, Peter van Inwagen's statement of the criticism in his text, Metaphysics (Westview Press).
[2] Ibid.
[3] Of course, Craig argues against the possibility of an actually infinite series such as this in his defenses of the kalam cosmological argument. But as I've argued in other posts (see Section 1.1.2 of my index, here), these arguments for a finite past have undercutting defeaters. But Wes Morriston has stated the problems with Craig's Kalam argument better than I can.
[4] van Inwagen, Peter. Material Beings (Cornell University Press, 1995).

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

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…