Thursday, November 10, 2016

Epircurean 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 cosmological argument of sorts, but one that concludes that matter, and not an immaterial creator, is the uncaused cause of contingent concrete reality. Let us therefore call any argument that deploys the principle ex nihilo nihil fit to infer the factual or metaphysical necessity of matter (or matter's ultimate constituents) an Epicurean Cosmological Argument.  

Given its simplicity and plausibility, I think it's high time for Epicurus' little argument to receive the attention and development it deserves.

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