dinsdag 28 september 2010

A renewed first cause argument (revised)

In the last few weeks I received helpful comments on my paper titled 'A Renewed Argument for the Existence of a First Cause'. This resulted in a revised version of my paper that is now again online available on my website.

In this paper I propose a renewed argument for the existence of a first cause, i.e. something uncaused from which all causal series eventually proceed. More specifically, I show that under some very general and sufficiently plausible conditions (regarding the nature of causation and mereological parthood) the existence of a first cause logically follows.

The paper starts with a discussion of the problems associated with two traditional paradigmatic first cause arguments, derived from Aquinas and Leibniz. It is shown that the proposed renewed argument does not face any of these problems.

The renewed argument does also not depend on the principle of sufficient reason, that is, it does not assume that there is an explanation of every truth. In fact, it does not depend on any of the weaker or restricted versions of this principle either, such as those proposed by Craig, Koons and Pruss.

Moreover, the argument does not rely on the much debated concepts of metaphysical or broadly logical possibility and necessity. It does not refer to these modal concepts at all.

3 opmerkingen:

Hassan Abdillah zei

Professor Rutten, I just finished reading your dissertation, such a treatment was long overdue! I did have some questions thoug (please forgive me if these questions seem too ignorant, I'm a layman when it comes to philosophy):

1. Wouldn't you say your argument renders the contingency-based arguments redundant? I could not think of any way that necessity would be relevant to natural theology, at least until someone develops a thorough relation between necessity and dependency. As you demonstrated, however, even necessary objects may be caused (hence dependent), and even contingent objects may be uncaused (hence self-sufficient and independent). On the other hand, your argument proves the existence of a first cause which is the cause of all other derived reality (with the exception of uncaused abstracta for the platonist, perhaps), and who is strictly uncaused and hence self-sufficient and independent. To top it off, a recent blog post of yours demonstrated that the first cause is necessary. So why would the other arguments even be required?

2. I have some qualms about your case for the sum of all caused simples being a (demarcated) natural kind. First, I don't understand how it fulfills Koslicki's second criterion- namely, members of a natural kind must have something in common other than what their definition entails- which I personally take to be a very important point. You gave the example of string theory, but that only applies to this particular universe. A particularly potent problem seems to be that you are willing to be extremely broad when it comes to defining an object, to the extent even abstracta would fit into this scheme. Now surely, some abstracta may be thought of as caused simples. If that is the case, then string theory (or any other physical theory) couldn't possibly tie all caused simples together. Even if one opted for nominalism, there might be caused simples external to this universe which are not composed by string theory or anything else postulated by (a complete) particle physics or cosmology. As such, I can't think of any property "caused simples" have in common, other than being caused and simple. In fact, I don't think "caused simples" are an improvement over "contingent objects" in this regard, which means it falls prey to Russel's accusation of compositional fallacy.

3. Would you elaborate how your objection against Gale and Pruss' cosmological argument doesn't apply to your argument as well i.e. that the argument rules out libertarian free will? In your paper, you address this point by saying all your argument concerns itself with are caused simples, and nothing else. That aside, could one argue that your argument concerns itself with objects, while libertarian free actions are events and hence the problem doesn't even arise?

4. (This question may come off as particularly ignorant) Without the premise of atomism, would your argument work for caused objects in general, and not specifically caused simples?

5. Finally, does your argument depend on a notion of primary vs. secondary causation, or would it entail that the First Cause is the sole cause of all caused simples? Does it entail that naturally, simples are uncausable?

Thanks again for the brilliant paper and your patience,

Anoniem zei

Beste Emanuel,

Hoe is het eerste oorzaak-argument te rijmen met de eerste wet van de thermodynamica?

Is het betrokken zijn van alles wat is in een cyclisch gebeuren, waarin wat wij *oorzaak* en *gevolg* noemen eigenlijk niets anders zijn dan verschijningsvormen van hetzelfde (nl. energie), niet even goed, zo je wilt even moeilijk, te accepteren dan het lineair terugvoeren van al wat is en gebeurt naar één eerste oorzaak?

De cyclus zelf kan beschouwd worden als niet veroorzaakt; die is er gewoon.
Je zult nu zeggen: zó gewoon is dat niet; het is zelfs onmogelijk.

Ik zou dan willen zeggen: het moge onbegrijpelijk zijn en onmogelijk lijken, maar wat er is en wat wij constateren mogen wij wel beschouwen als zijnde een mysterie en vooralsnog onbegrijpelijk, maar niet als onmogelijk.

Postuleren dat er een eerste oorzaak is neemt het probleem (mysterie) niet weg, maar verschuift het alleen maar en creëert er daardoor een nieuw probleem bij, namelijk dat alles veroorzaakt is door iets wat niet veroorzaakt is. De verklaringskracht van een dergelijk postulaat is nihil.

Parafraserend zou ik willen zeggen: problemen moeten niet zonder noodzaak verschoven worden.

vr. groet,

Emanuel Rutten zei

Dear Hassan,

Thank you very much for your interest in my dissertation. You pose excellent questions, which indicate that you have carefully studied my arguments. I'm delighted by that and by the fact that my arguments have found their way even to Bangladesh! I'v deep respect for Muslim philosophers such as Ibn Sina and Ibn Rushd and I do welcome intellectual exchange with muslim philosophers working directly or indirectly in that philosophical tradition, such as yourselves. Yet, I do not have time on short notice to respond to all your questions. As soon as I find the time I surely will do so. Promised. For now, thanks again for your open and thoughtfull post on my blog!

Kind regards,