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The Cosmological Argument for God.

I'm an agnostic although nominally Church of England, and have recently been reading some of the arguments for and against the existence of God. One in particular I've found quite compelling is Aristotle's and Aquinas' argument for the unmoved mover, mainly because it doesn't require that I believe anything I can't confirm for myself, but I'm wondering whether there are any serious objections to it? All those I've seen put forward by the so-called "New Atheists" seem to be either straw men or miss the mark completely.

Of course, the argument is very abstract, and it still requires some "faith" (as I suppose all religions ultimately do).

Something about you (optional) Student

Re: The Cosmological Argument for God.

Hi Jay.
In my opinion, no argument can definitely prove or disprove the existence of God. This includes the claim that an unmoved mover is needed to explain motion, since one is hard put to explain the motion of the unmoved mover. Ultimately, faith is required either way, because by definition God is before and greater than the world, and indeed of a nature so different that we cannot express it in words or find it by implication from things of this world. However, obviously, some arguments put forward for or against are more consistent and factual than others.

In my opinion, the idea of God proceeds from our own self-awareness. I am aware that I exist, i.e. that I am a spiritual being, a soul. I am intuitively aware that I have cognitive and volitional powers, and that due to that I can and must determine the value of things in relation to me, i.e. to my existence. From this self-awareness, we project the existence and powers of God - as an infinite spiritual being, with infinite cognitive and volitional powers (omniscience, omnipotence), who is the ultimate arbiter of value (absolutely good). That such projection occurs, and needs to occur, does not mean it is fanciful, nor does it definitely prove the claim. Faith is still needed, and it is up to each one of us to have it or lack it.

It cannot be forced upon you nor taken from you by force. It is your choice, which choice affects your life for good or bad. It is your gamble, either way.

Something about you (optional) Logician, philosopher

Re: The Cosmological Argument for God.

Hi Avi,

Thanks for your thoughts. You say that

"one is hard put to explain the motion of the unmoved mover."

Isn't this essentially the same as saying "if God created everything, then what caused God"? This seems to be a common objection to the argument, but in fact the argument doesn't say that "everything has a cause, and God created everything". If it did, then it would be a reasonable objection. The argument says that "everything which *comes into existence* has a cause, which is quite different.

The argument develops from the concepts of actuality and potency, the fact of change, causation, etc, which cannot be coherently denied - at least, not in all the so-called rebuttals I've read.

According to philosopher Edward Feser, hardly anyone understands the argument (I'm not claiming that I do, and that's one of the reasons I posted here). Anyway, I'm planning to read his book "The Last Superstition" which covers Aquinas' "Five Ways" in depth, and apparently refutes the new atheists. You might find this blog post of his interesting:

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.co.uk/2011/07/so-you-think-you-understand.html

Something about you (optional) Student

Re: The Cosmological Argument for God.

Hi Jay.

Regarding the unmoved mover, I am not denying that God is the unmoved mover (an ontological proposition), only pointing out the difficulty of proving it (an epistemological objection). I believe I've treated this in my book on buddhist illogic.

Regarding the argument "if God created everything, then what caused God?", I do not adhere to it. This position is based on my logical analysis of (human) volition, and the understanding that God's creation of the (rest of the universe, material and spiritual) is an act of freewill (i.e. volition), and therefore not in need of a prior cause (which is a concept applicable to mechanical causality (causation) if that (modern physics is open to natural spontaneity). In that regard see my book on volition (you can read it online).

I agree with you that "in fact the argument doesn't say that "everything has a cause, and God created everything". If it did, then it would be a reasonable objection." Volitional/freewill acts do not have a cause other than their agent (in our case, our souls, in God's case, himself). Influences on volitional acts (e.g. thoughts) are not determining causes in this domain of causality. Also, God did not and does not create everything - if the world were totally mechanical, it would be true that he does, but since human (and other animal) volition exists, it cannot be said that he does (for to say so would be inconsistent).

You say that "The argument says that "everything which *comes into existence* has a cause, which is quite different." meaning that since God did not come into existence he is in no need of a cause, and I agree with that idea. However, I do not agree with the proposition that everything which comes into existence has a cause - at least not in the mechanical sense (and even in that sense, as already mentioned). Volitional acts have their agent as "cause" (doer), but this is not an event, not a mechanical cause (a causative), it is an entity, a prime mover.

You say, "the argument develops from the concepts of actuality and potency". Though in a sense this is true, creation cannot consistently be viewed in this way. If we understand potency as something inherent specifically in an existing thing, then the potency cannot exist until the thing exists. On the other hand if we take potency in a larger sense, as inherent even before the thing exists in the universe or further still in God, then potency is involved. The concept of creation ex nihilo can only assume God beforehand, all else even potencies are strictly speaking non-existent, i.e. also creations.

Something about you (optional) Logician, philosopher

Re: The Cosmological Argument for God.

Hi Avi,

Well, there's quite a lot to take in in your previous post!

Perhaps I should take a look at your book on volition. You seem to be saying that there are two kinds of "causes": mechanical and those initiated by a volitional agent.

You said:

"Also, God did not and does not create everything - if the world were totally mechanical, it would be true that he does, but since human (and other animal) volition exists, it cannot be said that he does (for to say so would be inconsistent)."

It's not clear to me why it would be inconsistent to say that God has created everything. Surely God is the "cause" of volitional agents? That's not to say that he also "causes" those *acts* of the volitional agents.

Something about you (optional) Student

Re: The Cosmological Argument for God.

Hi Jay, you've answered your own question/objection.

"It's not clear to me why it would be inconsistent to say that God has created everything. Surely God is the "cause" of volitional agents? That's not to say that he also "causes" those *acts* of the volitional agents."

God created the agents of volition, but the latter are responsible for their acts. He is not responsible for their acts, since they are freely chosen.

Note that even in the mechanical field, as I show formally and indubitably in my book The Logic of Causation, the cause of a cause is not necessarily a cause.

The chapters I recommend in Volition and Allied Causal Concepts, for a start, are numbers 1 and 2.
http://thelogician.net/4b_volition/4b_chapter_01.htm

Something about you (optional) Logician, philosopher

Re: The Cosmological Argument for God.

Note that even in the mechanical field, as I show formally and indubitably in my book The Logic of Causation, the cause of a cause is not necessarily a cause.


Avi,

Are you saying that The Principle of Sufficient Reason is sometimes violated?

Re: The Cosmological Argument for God.

Hi Smith. I quote my first conclusions in chapter 10 of The Logic of Causation: "One of the principal questions we posed, you will recall, was whether the cause of the cause of something is itself a cause of that thing or not, and if it is, to whether it is so to the same degree or a lesser degree. This issue of causal (or effectual) chains is what the investigation of causal syllogism is all about. What our dispassionate research has shown is that it is absurd to expect ordinary reasoning, unaided by such patient formal reflections, to arrive at accurate results. The answer to the question about chains is resounding and crucial: the cause of a cause is not necessarily itself a cause, and if it is a cause it need not be one to the same degree. Once the scientific impact of this is understood, the importance of such research becomes evident."

The Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR), though it applies to most material things, is not thought to be valid any longer (by modern physics) in the subatomic domain and maybe in relation to the Big Bang, for a start. But even apart from that, it concerns causation, but does not apply to volition, since this would imply no freedom for the will. When we will something, we may have a "reason" in the sense of a motive or purpose, i.e. in the sense of being influenced by various thoughts, but we are not determined in the strict sense of causation. Moreover, it is reasonable to assume that we are capable of sheer whim, without any motive or purpose or influential thoughts. You'd have to read what I wrote on these topics to follow the arguments. In any case, the PSR cannot be taken as more than a heuristic principle, a rule of thumb.

Something about you (optional) logician-philosopher

Re: The Cosmological Argument for God.

Hi Avi,

Regarding Quantum Physics, I assume you're referring to Heisenberg's uncertainty principle. As I understand it, that principle concerns the predictability (regarding the position and momentum) of subatomic particles. But to infer from this uncertainty that the behaviour of particles is uncaused seems to me unwarranted; the mere fact that we can't predict something doesn't mean it has no cause.

Given our otherwise uniform experience of cause and effect, isn't it more likely that a cause exists which we have yet to detect than that there is no cause? It just seems so inconceivable to me that PSR could be violated that I'm sure taking this position would involve a contradiction, but at the moment I can't articulate it. I'll have to think about it a bit more.

Re: The Cosmological Argument for God.

I would agree with you that uncertainty is about knowledge not about fact, perhaps, but I am not a physicist. The fact is that some or most physicists would opt for the Copenhagen interpretation. As a logician/philosopher I have to keep an open mind.

The fact is, as I show in The Logic of Causation, the idea of a law of causation (that everything must have a deterministic cause) has NO formal basis - it is an assumption, a generalization. And the fact is, to repeat, that if there was such a law in truth there would be no volition. Note that I make a distinction between human volition and natural spontaneity.

I assure you there is no contradiction in denying PSR is universal. If you are really interested in the issue, as I was, then read The Logic of Causation and read Volition and Allied Causal Concepts.

Something about you (optional) logician-philosopher

Re: The Cosmological Argument for God.

I'm currently reading "Future Logic", but "The Logic of Causation" is next on my reading list. :-)

Regarding the Cosmological Argument, a key distinction is made between so-called "essentially" ordered causal series and "accidentally" ordered series. An example of the former would be a cup sitting on a table; the cup remaining 1 metre above the floor depends on the presence of the table here and now - remove the table and the cup falls to the floor.

An example of the latter causal series would be a father begetting a son. The son existing does not depend on the continued existence of the father; even if the father dies the son continues to exist.

God, according to the argument, must exist in order to avoid an infinite regress of essential causes (which are causes in "hierachical" sense, rather than in a temporal sense). So the argument for God is really about what keeps things in existence here and now, rather than a God who may have created the universe in the distant past, but may or may not have a hand in it now.

But some have objected that there are really no such things as "essential" causal chains. Because of the law of inertia every causal chain is accidental. There is no need for any God to "keep things in existence", because "no change" doesn't require a changer, they say. So every causal chain is a temporal one which stretches back to the big-bang and prior to it (which is a mystery).

It seems to me that the objection fails, and that the distinction between these kinds of causal chains is a real and significant one. But I'd be interested in your opinion on this.

Re: The Cosmological Argument for God.

Interesting. Let's put this in if-then terms.

Essential: if table present (C), cup on it can remain suspended (E); if table removed (not-C), cup falls (not-E). In this case, C is a necessary cause of E (but not complete, since the cup can be taken away from the table). And in truth, C is not even necessary to E, since the cup could be kept suspended by other means; strictly-speaking it is contingent, then.

Accidental: If father (C) begets son, then son (E) comes into existence; if father dies, son does not necessarily die too. Here, the theses in the two propositions are not identical, i.e. the second one is not about father not-begetting son but about father disappearing after begetting son. So, the two propositions are not really about one and the same causal relation. If we ignore this, and assume we can come up with a better example, we might say that father is a partial cause of son (mother and other factors being involved too); and there is no logical reason to expect the departure of father to completely cause the son to depart.

So, what I am saying is: this kind of discourse is based on approximate and inaccurate understanding of causal relations. The examples you have given me, at least, are inadequate.

I would say the substance is inadequate too. Why? If we have a precise idea of causal relations, as given in The Logic of Causation and in Volition and Allied Causal Concepts, we see that the issues are more complex than depicted.

It is conceivable that God is (by His will) the complete and necessary cause of the first event in the material world (say the initial lump of matter and the Big Bang of it), and thence in a deterministic world all subsequent events follow necessarily. That would be "essential" causal concatenation, I guess.

But this is not the idea of Creation (at least, as imagined by Judaism, and I assume Christianity). The idea is that God (by will) created material bodies and souls, the former being subject to determinism (perhaps with exceptional natural spontaneities at the quantum level) and the latter being partly subject to determinism and partly autonomous (i.e. having freedom of will). In that case, there is no assertion of causal concatenation in the former sense. Power is given to humans (and maybe higher animals, and maybe subatomic particles) to behave in unforced ways. This is not "essential", but not "accidental" either (at least, not for humans).

Smith, one thing that I have avoided saying (so as to keep the conversation short) from the start is that my sentence "a cause of a cause of something is not necessarily a cause of that thing" is not as directly related to the issue of PSR, as you seem to think. This sentence is applicable even within PSR. This is clearly proved in the Logic of Cauzsation.

As regards Future Logic. You do well to study it, because it really contains the basis of all my subsequent work, on Inductive logic and on Causal logic. So, wise move. My books are long, but rich in new material. I personally enjoy reading long books by authors I respect for their careful treatment of details. You should send me your e-mail at avi-sion@thelogician.net so I send you updates occasionally.



Something about you (optional) logician-philosopher

Re: The Cosmological Argument for God.

Hi Avi,

So, the two propositions are not really about one and the same causal relation.


That's right, they're not. But the if-then counterfactual way of expressing the causes doesn't make a distinction between "essential" and "accidental". Maybe a better example of the two kinds of causes would be the following:

Suppose I go to a concert. The presence of the music depends on the orchestra generating it there and then - if the orchestra stops playing, then I no longer hear the music (essential cause).

On the other hand, I may have a CD of the concert, in which case I can sit at home and listen to it. The presence of the music no longer depends on the orchestra; whether they are playing or not I can still hear the music (accidental cause). But the orchestra is still the "cause" of the music, because if it had not existed, nor would the CD.

Another essential cause is the generator which causes the lights in my house to stay on; stop the generator and the lights go out.


It is conceivable that God is (by His will) the complete and necessary cause of the first event in the material world (say the initial lump of matter and the Big Bang of it), and thence in a deterministic world all subsequent events follow necessarily. That would be "essential" causal concatenation, I guess.


No, that would be an accidental cause because God in that case only started the ball rolling, as it were. God as essential cause (which is what the cosmological argument is arguing for) is the current SUSTAINER and GENERATOR of the world, in the way that the orchestra generates and sustains the music at the concert. God as merely accidental cause would be like listening to the CD; creator, yes, but not necessarily sustainer of existents.

Re: The Cosmological Argument for God.

Hi Smith.

I would recommend you read the first three chapters (or at least chapter two) of The Logic of Causation, so you have a clear idea of the exact definitions of the determinations of causation. This would save both you and me much time: http://www.thelogician.net/LOGIC-OF-CAUSATION/Generic-Determinations-2.htm

Briefly put: take you concert/CD example. This specific orchestra's specific performance only plays once. If they stop playing today, you do not hear them. They might play another day, however. Or another orchestra might play the same piece. Or there might be a CD, or another. All these factors have to be clarified. What are you referring to specifically? Is it this orchestra, this day, this piece of music, this performance of it? When you pinpoint just what you refer to, then you can discuss causal issues.

It seems from what you said that by "essential cause" you mean "necessary cause", i.e. a sine qua non. C is a necessary cause of E, if and only if "if not C, then not E" is true (plus other conditions, see above link). If this is not quite true, i.e. if the absence of C (precisely pinpointed, to repeat) in certain circumstances does not imply the absence of E, then what you have at best is a "contingent cause". Perhaps the latter is what you mean by "accidental cause".

As regards God. The idea of God as generating and sustaining the world every moment is found in Judaism and in Islam, and I assume also in Christian doctrines. Many issues arise in this regard.

The Aristotelian idea of the First Cause (or Prime Mover or Unmoved Mover) seems to suggest that God created the rest of the world, apparently in the way of an efficient cause or final cause; this idea was apparently the basis of Thomist views on the subject. The Occasionalism of Al Ghazali considers God as constantly willing all events in the universe; when effect follows cause it is not mechanical but because God willed it. Spinoza has God causing the universe in a purely mechanical manner, apparently. The traditional Jewish idea of creation is, as I said before, an initial act of will by God, followed by a mechanical unfolding for inanimate matter and a certain amount of personal responsibility (freewill) for humans. In the latter case, God is involved daily only insofar as He does not choose to stop the universe, and insofar as He may choose to make miracles (i.e. special events outside the normal course of events).

Where does your comment stand? You seem closest to the Muslim idea (al Ghazali). In reply, I would say that the Jewish idea, as above described, would seem the most credible to me. God got the ball rolling; inanimate nature rolls on; human (and animal) nature has some degree of freedom, due to being endowed, like God, with powers of Will; God could stop the whole thing anytime, and has the power to intervene anytime if he so wishes (which He rarely does, at least not a a public manner). This view comprises aspects of all the other views, but not taking any of them to extremes.

Something about you (optional) logician-philosopher

Re: The Cosmological Argument for God.

I think you described Smith's essential cause as a necessary cause correctly. Aristotle's prime mover argument seems to argue that changing things only change because of the prime changer who is responsible for the changing thinking changing as they do- and the prime mover itself is a static and change less thing.

The accidental cause that smith describes sounds like the effect could exist without the cause existing.

So I think smith wants to say that change occurs because of the necessary cause of the existence of the prime mover.

What is the weakness of the aristotelian argument?

Re: The Cosmological Argument for God.

Perhaps that change is not caused by anything at all since change is fundamental a la Whitehead?

Or that Aristotle's argument is circular since the changing things change because the final cause of those changing things is toward the prime mover?

Re: The Cosmological Argument for God.

Hi, Dave. I do not not know which previous article or comment of mine you are referring to. Please clarify where this conversation started. Thanks.

Something about you (optional) logician-philosopher

Re: The Cosmological Argument for God.

Avi
Hi, Dave. I do not not know which previous article or comment of mine you are referring to. Please clarify where this conversation started. Thanks.
Sorry, I found the thread, now.

Rereading it, I think Smith's distinction between essential and accidental causing is one between static and dynamic causality. But, I would reply, this distinction does not in fact affect causality (or at least, the deterministic variant of it, causation). The relation "If C then E; if not-C then not-E" (to take for example the strongest determination of causation) does not change whether C and E are static things or dynamic events. So the idea is fundamentally flawed, not to mention the objections I raised earlier.

Something about you (optional) logician-philosopher

Re: The Cosmological Argument for God.

I see. So essentially cause seems to describe either a static or dynamic scenario.

Smith seems to make a distinction between a causal series that goes infinitely in the past and the vertical causal series where necessary causes must be finite or there would be no motion, but you point out that a static world is equally described by the necessary cause.

Does this argument end up sounding like the contingency argument for God?

Re: The Cosmological Argument for God.

Dave, sorry, but I do not know what you mean by "Smith seems to make a distinction between a causal series that goes infinitely in the past and the vertical causal series where necessary causes must be finite or there would be no motion, but you point out that a static world is equally described by the necessary cause."

Rather I would say that he envisions two types of causation. The static ("essential") is vertical - table upholds glass of water without any motion, likewise God upholds everything in the world. The dynamic ("accidental") is is horizontal, i.e. the series of events one bringing about the next - like kicking the table away makes the glass fall down, likewise God kicks off the chain of events that occur in the world.

FORMALLY, as I already stated, "the relation "If C then E; if not-C then not-E" (to take for example the strongest determination of causation) does not change whether C and E are static things or dynamic events." But these two scenarios refer to different kinds of CONTENT, the static and the dynamic.

But as I said, this analysis is flawed because simplistic. The causality involved is more complex, with differences between volition, causation and natural spontaneity. And within volition (freewill), there are different degrees of influence. Also within causation between the different determinations of causation (necessary-complete, contingent-complete, necessary-partial, contingent-partial). Also, natural spontaneity, assuming it exists, is circumscribed in pockets (e.g. quantum mechanical domains) or times (e.g. Big Bang).

The various attempts like Smith's to define the causal workings of the world by one simple distinction or other is naive.

Something about you (optional) logician-philosopher

Re: The Cosmological Argument for God.

And another important distinction that I didn't mention is that between different modes of modality as bases of causation - natural causation, extensional causation, temporal causation, spatial causation. These are not the same.

Also note, the ideas behind the words "essential" and "accidental" - the former refers to essences, i.e. the idea of a static characteristic upholding another or depending on another; while the later refers to accidents, i.e. the idea that dynamic events are not essentials (because change is involved) but therefore accidents. In Aristotle's four causes, these are the Formal cause and the Efficient cause.

This vision of things is naive because a motion can be an essence (some things are defined with reference to motions), and because a static character can be a so-called accident (because it is not universal to that kind of thing, or because it is temporary).

Moreover, when you have "if static C, then static E - and if static not-C, then static not-E" causation, a dynamic causation is implicit in flipping from one side to the other - i.e. when "static C is replaced by static not-C" (in place or time), then you have a motion; and likewise for E and not-E.

Something about you (optional) logician-philosopher

Re: The Cosmological Argument for God.

So Aristotle's argument for a prime mover is weak because Aristotle's understanding of causation is limited?

Sorry if I misunderstood, but is that the weakness of the prime mover argument?

Re: The Cosmological Argument for God.

Also, can you give me an example or explanation of motion as an essence? Would this mean that motion is a substance?

Re: The Cosmological Argument for God.

Dave
So Aristotle's argument for a prime mover is weak because Aristotle's understanding of causation is limited?

Sorry if I misunderstood, but is that the weakness of the prime mover argument?
I didn't say that. I said the picture is much larger and more complex than it seems.

Something about you (optional) logician-philosopher

Re: The Cosmological Argument for God.

Dave
Also, can you give me an example or explanation of motion as an essence? Would this mean that motion is a substance?
Motion is not a substance. (Indeed, what is a substance? Just an analogical term, reflecting Aristotle's Material cause. But that's a wider issue.)
Examples of motion as essence are plentiful. The essence of a runner is that he or it runs. The essence of a clock is that it measures or reflects the passage of time. And so forth.
Also, the purposes of man-made objects are often motions, note well. Like the said clock. For example, a car is a vehicle made to move people. This is Aristotle's fourth cause - the Final cause.
There is also the quasi-purposive in Nature - for instance the functions of bodily organs in the sustenance of the organism's life.

Dave, I suggest we stop this conversation and you read some of my works on causality. You'll find all answers there, if you are really looking for them. Best regards, Avi.

Something about you (optional) logician-philosopher

Re: The Cosmological Argument for God.

FORMALLY, as I already stated, "the relation "If C then E; if not-C then not-E" (to take for example the strongest determination of causation) does not change whether C and E are static things or dynamic events."


Hi Avi, I know this is an old thread but I've just started reading The Logic of Causation (LC) and am a bit confused in regard to your characterization of C and E above as "static things" or "dynamic events". Don't C and E stand for propositions, and not terms? If so, C and E must be true or false, but things and events, whether static or dynamic, are neither.

Well ok, I suppose you could express an event as a proposition, eg "The Cat sat on the mat", is an event, but it isn't a thing; only "cat" and "mat" are things. Unless you mean that if dynamic the C and E refer to propositions but if static they refer to terms? But that can't be correct; C and E must be propositions. Could you give a concrete example of a static and dynamic proposition? Must C and E be one or the other, ie mutually exclusive and exhaustive?

In LC, Chapter 1, you write :

If the cause shifts from absent to present, the effect invariably shifts from absent to present;

if the cause shifts from present to absent, the effect invariably shifts from present to absent;


Are there not 2 more possibilities here? ie :

If the cause shifts from absent to present, the effect invariably shifts from present to absent;
If the cause shifts from present to absent, the effect invariably shifts from absent to present;

Re: The Cosmological Argument for God.

Hi Joe. In reply to your queries:

1) static predication would refer to a quality causing a quality - for instance, stillness of mind causing inner peace; whereas a dynamic predication would refer to an activity causing an activity - for instance, running causing sweating. You can of course formulate the cause and effect as sentences, e.g. if one's mind is still, then one feels at peace, etc. Generally, a static thing does not cause (deterministically) a dynamic one, but in volition the agent (a self, soul) is something static and his act (whatever he wills) is something dynamic. See in this regard Volition and Allied Causal Concepts.

2) Regarding your comment "Are there not 2 more possibilities here? ie : If the cause shifts from absent to present, the effect invariably shifts from present to absent; If the cause shifts from present to absent, the effect invariably shifts from absent to present;" - the answer is no, formally: the cause and effect are C and E - i.e. things (whether in fact, materially, one or both be positive or negative in polarity) considered as positive terms. So, we go from the absence of the cause not-C to its presence C, and this brings about the movement from not-E to E; or we go from C to not-C and correspondingly from E to not-E. If C causes not-E, then the term not-E (whatever its content) should be called E; or if not-C causes E, then the term E should be called not-E. The letters C, E, and their negations, are here intended as formal (i.e. whatever their material polarities). Of course, materially a positive thing may cause a negative, and a negative may cause a positive. E.g. The Covid-19 pandemic (positive) may cause economic losses (negative).

I hope that is now clear, otherwise do tell me. Best regards, Avi

Something about you (optional) logician-philosopher

Re: The Cosmological Argument for God.

Hi Avi,

Thanks for the clarification. Conditional propositions are used in causation, but not all propositions of the form if P, then Q express causality. eg. if fido is a dog, then fido is a mammal expresses a relation of inclusion between P and Q, not causality. Another example is if it's 4 pm, then I'm late for class, in which P implies Q but doesn't cause it. I guess it's down to common sense to decide whether an if-then proposition is causal?

But, does it even matter whether the propositions are causal? Since the Generic Determinations are formal, they should "work" for any kind of if-then propositions, right?

You've defined the meaning of "cause", but your definition is very broad and it's a very abstract concept, so it's not always easy to see in any given proposition whether the relation is causal between P and Q. But the Generic Determinations are in a sense tests aren't they? For a given determination of causality, if the propositions which make it up are all true, then the relation between P and Q is causal (of the type for which the set of propositions apply).

Re: The Cosmological Argument for God.

Hi Joe.

There are several types or modes of causation: notably, natural, temporal, spatial, extensional and logical, also ethical, corresponding to the different types or modes of modality. The general form is the same, but the specific form per type or mode is slightly different. On this topic, see Future Logic the part on conditional propositions, and Logic of Causation chapt. 10.2, among others.

Thus, if fido is a dog, then fido is a mammal, points to an extensional causation, or even a logical causation (given that all dogs are mammals). On the other hand, if it's 4 pm, then I'm late for class points to a natural causation.

Causative propositions differ from mere conditional propositions, in that the former give an all-round picture of if-then connections, whereas the latter give mere one-sided pictures.

Yes, given that the full set of if-then propositions is thus or thus, then you have a causative relation (deterministic causality), though to repeat the type or mode may vary. So, the given definitions are indeed general, and there is no further logical possibilities of combinations between them than the four stated - the other possibilities all leading to inconsistency, as I have proved.

That is why the claims by skeptics like Hume that causation does not exist is absolutely wrong.

Regards, Avi

Something about you (optional) logician-philosopher

Re: The Cosmological Argument for God.

Thanks again Avi.

Since this thread is about the cosmological argument (Aquinas' 2nd Way), here it is (taken from Just The Arguments) :

The Second Way – The Argument from Causation

Whereas the First Way focused on accidental changes, the Second Way
focuses on ordered series of efficient causation. An efficient cause is that
which produces something or an alteration in something. The composer is
the efficient cause of the sonata; the fire is the efficient cause of the heating
of the kettle. An ordered series is a series in which the causal work of later
members in the series depends on the simultaneous causal work of earlier
members in the series. If the fire heats the kettle and the kettle heats the
water, it is an ordered series, since the kettle’s heating the water depends
upon the causal activity of the earlier cause, the fire. Likewise, a system of
gears is an ordered causal series, since the causal action of one intermediate
gear spinning another, later gear depends upon the causal activity of previ-
ous gears in the system. Aquinas argues in the Second Way, to continue
with the gear image, that the system cannot be gears all the way back. An
infinite series of gears, without a first cause of their spinning, would not be
in motion.


We find that among sensible things there is an ordering of efficient causes,
and yet we do not find – nor is it possible to find – anything that is an efficient
cause of its own self. For if something were an efficient cause of itself, then
it would be prior to itself – which is impossible.
But it is impossible to go on to infinity among efficient causes. For in every
case of ordered efficient causes, the first is a cause of the intermediate and the
intermediate is a cause of the last – and this regardless of whether the inter-
mediate is constituted by many causes or by just one. But when a cause is
removed, its effect is removed. Therefore, if there were no first among the
efficient causes, then neither would there be a last or an intermediate. But if
the effi cient causes went on to infinity, there would not be a first efficient
cause, and so there would not be a last effect or any intermediate efficient
causes, either – which is obviously false. Therefore, one must posit some first
efficient cause – which everyone calls God. (ST I, q2, a3, response)


1. P1. There is an ordered series of efficient causes.
2. P2. Necessarily, if X is an efficient cause of Y, then X is prior to Y.
3. C1. Necessarily, if X is an efficient cause of X, then X is prior to X
(instantiation, P2).
4. P3. It is not possible for X to be prior to X.
5. C2. It is not possible for X to be an efficient cause of itself
(modus tollens,C1, P3).
6. P4. If something is an ordered series of efficient causes, then the first cause
causes the intermediate cause(s), and the intermediate cause(s) cause(s)
the last effect.
7. P5. If a cause is removed from an ordered series of efficient causes, then
the effects after that cause are removed as well.
8. C3. If there were no first cause, then there would be no subsequent effects
(instantiation, P4, P5).
9. P6. If an ordered series of efficient causes could precede infinitely, then there
would be no first cause.
10. C4. If an ordered series of efficient causes could precede infinitely, then
there would be no subsequent effects (hypothetical syllogism, C3, P6).
11. P7. But there are subsequent effects.
12. C5. An ordered series of efficient causes cannot precede infinitely
(modus tollens , C4, P7).
13. P8. An ordered series of efficient causes either precedes infinitely, terminates
in a cause that causes itself, or terminates in an uncaused cause.
14. C6. An ordered series of efficient causation terminates in an uncaused
cause (disjunctive syllogism, C2, C5, P8).
15. C7. We call that uncaused cause “God” (definition).

Re: The Cosmological Argument for God.

Joe.

Looking at this quote from Aquinas, "But when a cause is
removed, its effect is removed. Therefore, if there were no first among the
efficient causes, then neither would there be a last or an intermediate. But if
the efficient causes went on to infinity, there would not be a first efficient
cause, and so there would not be a last effect or any intermediate efficient
causes, either – which is obviously false. Therefore, one must posit some first
efficient cause" - I would say the following:
First, he talks vaguely of efficient causes but does not make any distinction between complete and partial causation or between necessary and contingent causation. Thus, when he says "when the cause is removed, its effect is removed" he is referring to necessary causation, but unconsciously.
Second, this sentence is a non-sequitur. "Therefore, if there were no first among the
efficient causes, then neither would there be a last or an intermediate." One can well imagine an infinite string of prior causes but which stops at some point. No logical reason why not. Same with the next sentence.
In short, this argument gives the impression of being an argument but it is just an arbitrary assertion.

As regards his claim "we do not find – nor is it possible to find – anything that is an efficient cause of its own self. For if something were an efficient cause of itself, then it would be prior to itself – which is impossible." Well, there is truth in that - within the natural world. But the paradox is that belief in God has to be belief that He is causeless, or His own cause. So, as an argument in favor of belief in God it is not very successful. We posit God as the Creator of the natural world (the universe apparent to us), but that only means he is its First Cause, and it does not provide an explanation of God's existence. I discuss this issue in my book Buddhist Illogic. There's no known solution to the problem. That's why I say we must believe on faith - we cannot do so for logical reasons. The logic is intractable.

Something about you (optional) logician-philosopher

Re: The Cosmological Argument for God.

Hi Avi,


Second, this sentence is a non-sequitur. "Therefore, if there were no first among the
efficient causes, then neither would there be a last or an intermediate." One can well imagine an infinite string of prior causes but which stops at some point. No logical reason why not. Same with the next sentence.
In short, this argument gives the impression of being an argument but it is just an arbitrary assertion.


I don't see why the sentence is a non-sequitur? Could you explain? I don't see the problem with it stopping at some point; it stops at the effect. If you mean it's infinite going back (prior cause preceded by prior cause, etc) then there can be no effect, because all causes in the chain other than the first are only "instrumental", and an instrumental cause derives whatever causal power it has from something else.


But the paradox is that belief in God has to be belief that He is causeless, or His own cause.


But the argument doesn't start from God, it starts from an analysis of change and causes of change. Bertrand Russell accused Aquinas of special pleading, but it's clear he didn't understand the argument. The very point of the argument is to demonstrate that God explains or causes himself; he is not an "effect". That may be paradoxical, but is it any more paradoxical than certain results in Quantum physics?

The obvious objection is that even if you admit the existence of a first cause, why should it be what we think of as God? Why couldn't it be some purely material force which science hasn't discovered yet?

Aquinas addresses all this at length in the S.T. and shows that the traditional attributes of God such as perfect goodness, omnipotence etc follow from the main argument. The above is just a very brief synopsis of 100s of pages of argumentation. I haven't actually read the S.T. myself, but philosopher Ed Feser has written a great book called Five Proofs of the Existence of God, which goes into a lot of detail and rebuts all the standard objections (and some not so standard ones).

He covers the Cosmological argument (the Aristotelian Proof) in chapter 1 which you can read in its entirety online at Google books. I would be interested in your thoughts on it, because although I find the argument convincing, I want to believe what's true, so if you can come up with any objections which haven't been addressed, I'd like to hear them.

Re: The Cosmological Argument for God.

"I don't see why the sentence is a non-sequitur? Could you explain? "

Let us suppose we are talking about an infinite chain of causes and effects, infinite backwards and forwards. And let us suppose we are referring to complete, and possibly even necessary, deterministic causes - to make things simple, as Aquinas seems to make them.

One can well imagine there being no first cause (i.e. infinity backwards) yet a last effect in this chain. Certainly, Aquinas considers it possible that there be a first cause, and a last effect. But he does not show why absence of a first cause logically necessarily implies absence of a last effect; he apparently considers last effects possible, in conjunction with first causes, but not (for an unstated reason) in conjunction with infinite chain of causes in the past. The truth is, given the definitions of causation in terms of collections of if-then statements, there is no basis for insisting on the pattern Aquinas conceives. The claim that "everything has a cause" is unproven formally (see my Logic of Causation chapter 10, 16 and 24). The same is true for the claim that "everything has an effect" - there are dead ends in the world.

Joe, I have studied Aristotle's arguments, though not Aquinas' in detail. The thing to understand is that there is not enough distinction in them between the different ways of causality. I am a believer in God by faith, not reason. Reason cannot settle the matter. The all-round theory of God's creation is that He created the material/mental world as a voluntary act, i.e. by volition, not because he was forced to by circumstances or some other power. A non-God natural force has presumably no volition, let alone such powerful volition, so that is out of the question. Now, volition is not causation, not deterministic causality - so in this thesis, the First Cause is not itself a product of causation, nor does it move by causative means. It is the Unmoved Mover.

Now, we take it that when God created the world, he did not initiate a chain of causation, a chain of deterministic actions and reactions. Rather, He set some general laws of nature, and He reserved for Himself some leeway for miracle (i.e. occasional at his discretion breach of those laws). He allowed for some natural spontaneity, according to modern Physics, at least at the level of sub-atomic particles and waves. He also especially allowed for some measure of human and perhaps animal volition (else there would be no right or wrong, if we were all mechanical dolls), similar on a much reduced scale to His own volitional power. Volition is not chance, spontaneity, but a distinct form of causality.

Thus, the image of causality apparently projected by Aquinas in the quoted excerpt (which is largely based on Aristotelian discussions) can be characterized as very simplistic. It refers only to deterministic causation, and does not take into account free volition (Divine or human-animal). Moreover, its understanding of the formal aspects of causation is, as I have pointed out already, limited - based on a vague and narrow view of the possibilities and varieties of causation. I should add that religions do conceive of there being an end to the world, just as there was (they believe) a beginning to it. The issue of God's origin is left quite open - we assume He was here Eternally and will be here Eternally.

All this is logically quite possible. I hope that helps. I am sorry but cannot right now pursue this further by reading the Ed Feser book, though I am sure it is quite interesting. I cannot get into some major discussion with him or you. My time is running out - time is flowing forth at super speed! Cheers, Avi

PS - see also my Volition and Allied Causal Concepts, chapters 1 and 2.

Something about you (optional) logician-philosopher

Re: The Cosmological Argument for God.

Avi, reading your reply, I can't help thinking we're at cross purposes in this discussion of causes. I'm not denying that the distinctions you make - regarding volition and deterministic causation (and all of its species) - aren't important, but surely God, if He exists, is above all that and sustains it. Anyway, I won't pursue it any further since you're busy with other things. Are you working on a new book?

I hope you will be able to answer any further queries I may have on LC. I am an admirer of your work and am looking forward to reading your other books.

Cheers.

Re: The Cosmological Argument for God.

Joe.
"but surely God, if He exists, is above all that and sustains it" - I quite agree.
That is, you may say, my whole point.

Just think of all the work thousands of scientists have put over time into understanding the natural universe. All the space telescopes, all the computer work, all the mathematical and conceptual theorizing. This yields an INDUCTIVE descriptive picture of the universe as we know it so far (best hypothesis to date), which is changing over time.

Now think of Aquinas or other philosophers sitting in their armchairs and DEDUCTIVELY *proving" in a few sentences or a few hundred pages, once and for all, that God exists and is the Creator of this universe, and so on. Is such a thing even conceivable? Is not such a claim pretentious? We hardly even today know the beginnings of the universe (Big Bang and before), except hypothetically. Can we nevertheless attain true and definitive understanding of the Divine source of the universe?

Clearly, Aquinas's argument is spin or wishful thinking or manipulation, call it what you like. His motives are no doubt good; but this lacks modesty, humility. One cannot deal with such a major issue so easily. We can at best THEORIZE, i.e. imagine the broad contours of God's position in the causing of this world. But He stands outside, over and above it, and the categories of reason we apply to Him can only be analogies. We cannot know what really and truly happened. That is my conviction.

If now you still think that Aquinas' cosmological argument proves God's existence and creator-role, then I invite you to logically prove the sentence in his argument that I have previously identified for you as an arbitrary assertion, and not truly a valid argument. Go ahead, I'm open-minded.

As regards reading or writing - I am currently basically not writing, but only reading. And my reading focuses on world history rather than on philosophy.

If you have any questions, do not hesitate to ask. All the best, Avi



Something about you (optional) logician-philosopher

Re: The Cosmological Argument for God.

Avi,


Clearly, Aquinas's argument is spin or wishful thinking or manipulation, call it what you like. His motives are no doubt good; but this lacks modesty, humility. One cannot deal with such a major issue so easily. We can at best THEORIZE, i.e. imagine the broad contours of God's position in the causing of this world. But He stands outside, over and above it, and the categories of reason we apply to Him can only be analogies. We cannot know what really and truly happened. That is my conviction.



I think you're being a bit unfair to Aquinas here. He never maintained that we can "attain true and definitive understanding of the Divine source of the universe", and certainly not in scientific terms, merely by philosophical argument. But, the Catholic Church teaches that faith and reason are complementary, and rejects fideism (unlike the Protestant Church). Reason isn't enough; you also need faith, which puts flesh on the bones of philosophical argument.
I don't know enough about Judaism to comment; but didn't Maimonides also offer similar arguments to those of Aquinas?

Personally, I don't understand how anyone can just "have faith" without some foundation of logic (or metaphysics), perhaps because I was raised in a secular family and always considered the claims of the church as mumbojumbo. What is the point of thinking about what has been divinely revealed unless you have grounds for believing that it really has been divinely revealed in the first place? Aquinas' "Five Ways" and other arguments (such as fine tuning etc) provide that foundation on which revelation can rest. Without these, how would I know that my belief isn't mere wishful thinking?


If now you still think that Aquinas' cosmological argument proves God's existence and creator-role, then I invite you to logically prove the sentence in his argument that I have previously identified for you as an arbitrary assertion, and not truly a valid argument. Go ahead, I'm open-minded.



Therefore, if there were no first among the efficient causes, then neither would there be a last or an intermediate.


This seems almost self-evidently true to me, so I wouldn't know where to start with a proof, and I don't want to repeat what I have already written, except to say that if each cause in the series is instrumental (dependent), then there MUST be a first which is non-dependent, and without which, there is no last. I don't see how this can be coherently denied. It would be like saying a paintbrush with an infinitely long handle can paint by itself. But maybe after having read LC I will attempt a proof, or concede that none is possible.

Re: The Cosmological Argument for God.

Joe.
I am not defending Judaism against Catholicism, or any religious text or doctrine, but writing philosophy. I have nothing against Aquinas, or any other philosopher writing on this subject. My point is that it is impossible for a philosopher to cook up an argument, in a few sentences or in a few hundred pages, which deductively proves that God exists or that God created the phenomenal world. Logic cannot produce such a grand result. We might imagine finding some empirical index that inductively proves this or that claim - i.e. that such index can only be logically explained by such claim - but no one has found such an inductive proof. In any case, it is inconceivable that there be a deductive proof. As I said, the best one can hope for is to drawn up a speculative outline, in broad brushstrokes, of what creation might be. The consensus on that seems to be that:
1) God, as we conceive Him, is Eternal - in past, present and future. Something eternal has no beginning and no end, and therefore can neither be created nor destroyed. Therefore, it is useless to look for an efficient cause of God. One might wonder how come he exists at all, just as one wonders how come the phenomenal world exists at all - but this is seeking explanation not causation of God or existence. God then creates the phenomenal world by free will, starting something in motion that was not there before, etc.
2) On the other hand, we regard the phenomenal world as having a beginning - brought about by God, granting monotheism - and probably also an end. There is no inconsistency in supposing that the world is thus temporally finite - but some do contend (and well may, so far as can be seen so far) that the material/mental world is itself eternal (without start or finish). The question is open - there is no axiom capable of proving definitively that the world is temporally finite. It is the job of scientists to deal with this question, and of course their opinions do vary over time.
3) As regards Aquinas' statement (which may be only one of many that I would challenge) - what is he saying here: "Therefore, if there were no first among the efficient causes, then neither would there be a last or an intermediate. " As far as I can tell, he is saying that a chain of causation that is eternal in the past is necessarily without end in the future. Right? Now, why does that seem self-evident to you? There is nothing axiomatic about it - the opposite is quite conceivable without inconsistency.
4) Your interpretation "if each cause in the series is instrumental (dependent), then there MUST be a first which is non-dependent, and without which, there is no last." - is even worse. Of course the middle causes in a causative chain are "dependent" by definition, having been caused. It does not follow that such a chain must have a first cause (non-dependent) - for an infinite chain would also in its middle have dependent causes, yet not a non-dependent first cause. And whether there is a first or not, there is no logical way to predict whether there is a last or not. To claim a link between the two ends of the string is, to my mind, pure fantasy, wishful thinking. This objection is not a religious statement - but a purely aetiological one.
Best regards, Avi

Something about you (optional) logician-philosopher

Re: The Cosmological Argument for God.

Hi Avi,


God, as we conceive Him, is Eternal - in past, present and future. Something eternal has no beginning and no end, and therefore can neither be created nor destroyed. Therefore, it is useless to look for an efficient cause of God.

The question is open - there is no axiom capable of proving definitively that the world is temporally finite. It is the job of scientists to deal with this question, and of course their opinions do vary over time.


Those comments aren't relevant to Aquinas' argument.


As far as I can tell, he is saying that a chain of causation that is eternal in the past is necessarily without end in the future. Right?


No, he is saying that an essentially ordered causal series cannot be infinite.


Your interpretation "if each cause in the series is instrumental (dependent), then there MUST be a first which is non-dependent, and without which, there is no last." - is even worse. Of course the middle causes in a causative chain are "dependent" by definition, having been caused. It does not follow that such a chain must have a first cause (non-dependent) - for an infinite chain would also in its middle have dependent causes, yet not a non-dependent first cause. And whether there is a first or not, there is no logical way to predict whether there is a last or not.


I think the difficulty is in explaining what Aquinas means by an "essentially ordered" causal series. It has nothing to do with time or whether the universe is temporally finite, but has to do with the cause of anything existing HERE and NOW.

If you have time, read this paper because it explains what Aquinas means better than I ever could.

There Must be a First : Why Thomas Aquinas Rejects Infinite, Essentially Ordered, Causal Series

Re: The Cosmological Argument for God.

Hi Joe, thanks for the interesting link.
However, I cannot agree with this:

"Several of Thomas Aquinas’s proofs for the existence of God rely on the claim that causal series cannot proceed in infinitum. I argue that Aquinas has good reason to hold this claim given his conception of causation. Because he holds that effects are ontologically dependent on their causes he holds that the relevant causal series are wholly derivative: the later members of such series serve as causes only insofar as they have been caused by and are effects of earlier members. Because the intermediate causes in such series possess causal powers only by deriving them from all the preceding causes, they need a first and non-derivative cause to serve as the source of their causal powers."

...for the simple reason that it is pure fiction. How could Aquinas possibly formally prove such an extravagant claim to a sort of cumulative causation, where an effect cannot be a further cause unless it is tied to the particular series of causes it came from? Just to define formally such a complex causal chain is an impossible task, let alone proving that this is the form of causation which applies to the universe. When the author says "effects are ontologically dependent on their causes" he gives the impression of saying something new - but it means nothing - all natural causation implies "ontological dependence" even if not cumulative as here described.

Furthermore, this scenario seems self-contradictory to me. Remember, there is a distinction between partial and complete causation, and between necessary and contingent causation. If we have a chain of complete and necessary causes, and we say that a middle link in the chain cannot proceed except through the given preceding set of links, we are actually saying that the complete-necessary link under scrutiny is in fact NOT really complete and necessary, but only illusory so! That is, while C seems to be sufficient to cause E at first sight, it turns out that C is only partially sufficient - all precedents of C in the case at hand must also be present! Similarly for the negative side (necessity-contingency).

No. It is clear that Aquinas, if that is really the tenor of his theory of causation, is just doing a complex "tailoring" job - trying to fix a desired conclusion by giving the false impression that there is a complex basis for it, without regard to FORMAL issues involved.

Joe, there are four conceivable possibilities, logically. A causal chain is infinite at both ends; or it is infinite to start but finite at the end; of it is finite to start but infinite at the end; or it is finite at both ends. Logically, all four conceivable possibilities are indeed actually possible. There is no FORMALLY PROVEN BASIS for rejecting any of these four options - they involve no self-contradiction.

The 4 causal relations defined by me (the specific determinations) are an exhaustive list of formal possibilities; they cannot be overcome by piling up or any other means. And these 4 formal possibilities contain no formal power, as far as I can see, to reject any of the above mentioned 4 conceivable possibilities of causative chaining. Only empirical findings can ultimately determine, therefore, what the actual situation of the universe is (wholly infinite, or partly or wholly finite).

Of course I do not, therefore, agree with your objection that "Those comments aren't relevant to Aquinas' argument." As regards your statement: "No, he is saying that an essentially ordered causal series cannot be infinite." - I would reiterate that Aquinas is trying to prove that the empirically evident world is finite and caused by God, and doing so by imaginary arguments.

Regards, Avi

Something about you (optional) logician-philosopher

Re: The Cosmological Argument for God.

Hi Avi,


No. It is clear that Aquinas, if that is really the tenor of his theory of causation, is just doing a complex "tailoring" job - trying to fix a desired conclusion by giving the false impression that there is a complex basis for it, without regard to FORMAL issues involved.


On reflection, I have to agree with you. Having read some of LC, it's obvious that Aquinas' treatment of causality is hopelessly superficial and naive. I don't know whether he had addressed any of the formal issues you mention, but Ed Feser certainly doesn't mention them in his book "Five Proofs". All he does there is to talk about the difference between "hierarchical" and "linear" causes, but this is pretty vague, not even at the level of detail of Mill's methods, and there isn't even any distinction made between necessary and sufficient causes. For an argument which hinges on the idea of "cause", it's strange that he gives no definition of what a cause actually is (although this is notoriously hard to define), other than "that which actualizes a potential". Again, pretty vague.

To be fair to Aquinas, though, he never intended the arguments to be formal proofs, which is why he called them "ways". Although I find Scholasticism kind of appealing in that it is an impressive and tightly knit complete system of thought about the world, God, the soul, etc which is internally consistent, whether it corresponds to reality is another thing altogether. It's certainly a remarkable achievement, but is it true? I doubt it.

Re: The Cosmological Argument for God.

Joe, nice to read your conclusions to this discussion. Your remarks are all pertinent. Shows your open-mindedness and objectivity. This has been for me too a learning experience.

As regards Feser's "hierarchical and linear causes", which you also hinted to in a previous post saying "I think the difficulty is in explaining what Aquinas means by an "essentially ordered" causal series. It has nothing to do with time or whether the universe is temporally finite, but has to do with the cause of anything existing HERE and NOW." - I believe this refers to an apparent difference between vertical and horizontal causality by God. The vertical mode is timeless, hierarchical - the horizontal mode is temporal, linear. In Aristotelian aetiology, and presumably in Aquinas, this would be the distinction between formal and efficient causality.

Within my framework, this distinction is one of type or mode of modality. The vertical mode refers to the static logical or extensional modalities, whereas the horizontal mode refers to the dynamic natural or temporal modalities. Note that my definitions of causation are applicable to all modes - and should not be exclusively associated with the natural or temporal modes, i.e. efficient causation. There's no mention in these general definitions of time, thus allowing for the cause and effect to be simultaneously or timelessly related in some cases.

And of course, in any discussion of causality - and in particular of the causality of the universe by God - one should never fail to consider Volition, i.e. freewill, available in varying degrees to God, mankind and animals. Another oft-forgotten item is natural spontaneity, which modern physics claims for subatomic quantum phenomena. So any idea of a purely deterministic universe or of a purely causative chain of creation is far from evident.

Best, Avi

Something about you (optional) logician-philosopher

Re: The Cosmological Argument for God.

Joe, just to clarify something I said earlier in response to the claim attributed (rightly or wrongly) to Aquinas that "the later members of such series serve as causes only insofar as they have been caused by and are effects of earlier members."

If you go to chapt. 6 of The Logic of Causation, the first listed valid mood of causative syllogism is:

Q is a complete and necessary cause of R;
P is a complete and necessary cause of Q;
so, P is a complete and necessary cause of R.

This informs us that the complete-necessary cause (P) of a complete-necessary cause (Q) of some effect (here R) is itself a complete-necessary cause of it. This means that no matter how far you go in a chain of strong causation, every earlier cause is as much a strong cause as the later ones, ad infinitum.

So, this is true of all strong causative chains - it is nothing special. What the above statement claims is that somehow each earlier cause additionally plays a part in the effect; i.e. P is not only a necessary-complete cause of Q and thus of R, but additionally it is a partial and perhaps contingent cause of Q and then of R! This is the contradiction I pointed out earlier. Stated in such more formal terms, its absurdity is evident for all to see.

Cheers, Avi

Something about you (optional) logician-philosopher

Re: The Cosmological Argument for God.

Hi Avi,

Thanks for pointing this out and giving the location in LC. It does indeed clarify the contradiction you mentioned, which I was not able to see at the time. Unfortunately, for those don't see this problem with Aquinas' argument, they're not going to understand why there is a contradiction unless they've read your book, which is not a trivial task.