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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.



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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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