Thomas Aquinas Cosmological Argument
From the arguments discussed in class, I choose to evaluate Thomas Aquinas’ Cosmological Argument. Aquinas offers a believable case for the existence of God through five arguments. The arguments are “a posteriori arguments” with five strategies (Aquinas 52). The first argues that there is an unmoved mover that originated all motion but the mover, itself, does not move. The second argument concludes: “there must be a first cause to explain the existence of cause” (Aquinas 52). The third argument says dependent beings means there are independent and necessary beings on whom the dependent has to rely on. The fourth argument supports the principle of excellence by proposing that there must be a perfect being from whom all perfection stems from. The last argument claims there is a divine designer who created the harmony of nature. Although all these arguments make strong cases for the existence of God, I will focus on the first three. For each of the three arguments, I will explicitly present the argument, what the premises mean and what type of validity the argument aligns with. I will also propose objections there are and then prove them wrong. This assessment is to reaffirm my agreement with Aquinas’ Cosmological Argument.
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The first argument from change is built of eight premises. It starts by stating that things are in motion (1) and this motion is moved by another force (2). Also, things that are not in motion have the potential to be in movement (3). Movement is the act of transforming potentiality to actuality (4). This leads to the fact that one thing cannot be in the stage of potentiality or the stage of actuality at the same time (5). Potentiality is the state of being possible. Actuality is the state of existence. The stages clarify that “it is impossible, therefore, that…anything should both cause movement and be caused, or that it should cause itself to move” (6) (Aquinas 53). Therefore, motion is only possible if it is moved by something else (7). There is not infinity of those who cause motion after motion because if that were true, there would be no first mover. But if there is no first mover, there were would no movers at all because who would cause the initial movement (8). Infinity means there is no beginning or an ending. Therefore, since there had to be a beginning, the first mover is God. A reason for believing in the first three premises is that nothing is able to move without another source energizing it. For instance, clocks can only give us the correct time and be in motion if batteries power them. Once the batteries run out, the clock will no longer operate. But as the third premise states, if the clock is reloaded with batteries, it can function again and tell time. One example of the sequence of the states of potentiality to actuality is the creation of fire. Since it is possible to make fire with wood, wood is equivalent to potentiality. Once wood turns into fire, it has passed its potentiality and became into existence, an actuality.
As mentioned, the two states cannot be happening simultaneously, as wood deteriorates when burning. The seventh premise is believable because of the aforementioned examples of the clock and the fire. The best example of infinity is the sky. It is not possible to determine where the sky starts and where it ends. It is feasible to believe that movement is not infinite because there is always something that precedes it. To further substantiate, another reason for believing that God is the first mover is that the first mover cannot move itself. God moves others but is not moved by anything else. To finalize, reasons for believing that God is the first mover are through the clock (another power source), fire (potentiality to actuality), and sky (infinity) examples. This is a good argument because the conclusion is worthy of acceptance. Based on this argument, I believe that God is the first mover. All the premises are true so the inference is solid. Since the premises are true, the conclusion, that God is the first mover, is also true. It is impossible for the conclusion to be false according to the true premises so the argument is also deductively valid. This all further validates it to be a sound argument.
The second argument from causation has six premises. It uses the common concept of cause and effect as the way material things interact with each other (1). There is regular order so it is not possible for anything to cause itself (2). There is also no infinity of causes (3). The regular order is: the first causes the intermediate and the intermediate causes the last (4). But if causes are removed, there is no first (5) and if there were infinity of causes, there would be no first (6). So, it is verified that the first cause does exist and it is God. A reason for believing the first two premises, that nothing can cause itself, is because causes come before their effects. But nothing can come before itself so nothing is its own cause. A car accident is an ideal example of causation. A car accident can happen because of irresponsible driving. Once there is a crash, there can be car damages or passenger injuries. The car accident came before the unfortunate effects. The car accident also cannot come before itself because it requires either another driver to hit your car or for you to hit their car. Therefore, a car accident cannot cause itself. A reason for believing that there is no infinity of causes, as seen in the car accident example, is that there is an order. First, one car has to hit another car and only then will it lead to one becoming injured. As mentioned in the fourth premise, there can be many intermediate causes. In the car accident example, in order to heal those injuries, one must go to the hospital.
After getting treatment, it finally leads to recovery. The fifth and sixth premise are plausible because none of the causes would have been caused without the first cause, the car accident. It is necessary for there to be a first cause so I believe that the first cause is God. To conclude, the reason for believing that God is the first cause is through the car accident example. All the premises are true so the inference is solid. Since the premises are true, the conclusion, that God is the first cause, is also true. It is impossible for the conclusion to be false according to the true premises so the argument is also deductively valid. This all attests it to be a good and sound argument. The third argument from contingency also consists of six premises. Contingency is the state of uncertainty for actuality to happen; there is uncertainty because dependency exists. The first premise is that things “consequently are capable of being or not being” which means that some things are contingent in existence (Aquinas 54). The second furthers the first premise by saying that the “or” is not an option and that if something is capable of not existing it is because each contingent thing does not exist at some time. Since it was capable for everything to not exist, there was a time when there was nothing (3).
But then, how do things exist now? It is necessary that there was an origin of existence (4). For the existence of the Universe, there is a necessary force (5). All necessities are caused by an outside source (6). But relating back to the second argument, since there is no infinity of causes, necessities are not caused by an outside source but rather a first cause. The first cause is “necessary in itself” and leads to the intermediate “cause of necessity in others” (Aquinas 54). The first cause is again God. A reason for believing the first premise is that things either do exist or does not. Corroborating the principle of contingency, the life of one is dependent on one’s parents. There is a chance that two people could not have met and given birth to you. The second premise is realistic because the life of someone does not exist when one’s parents have not yet met each other. Since there is a possibility of one’s parents never meeting, there is also the possibility of one never becoming born. There is a fifty percent chance of existence. That further validates that there was a time when nothing existed. But if that is a possibility according to contingency, things should not exist now. Since I am living, I do know that things do exist though. My existence and as well as the presence of the Universe I am living in now, validates that not all things are contingent. From that, I believe there must have been a necessary force that created the Universe. So, in order for everything to exist, it is dependent on a necessary force. According to my above-mentioned example, one’s birth is dependent on one’s parents.
It is believable that necessities are caused by an outside source because in order for the necessary marriage between one’s parents, there had to have been external factors that influenced it. For instance, one’s parents could have been introduced to each other through a mutual friend. Or, they could have met each other in a class in college. But not every necessary thing can get its necessity from another necessary thing because according to the third premise of the second argument, infinity of causes is not a possibility. There must be a sequence of order. Another appropriate example is the rain. This leads to the intermediate cause of the necessity to cover oneself with an umbrella. The rain gear allows for the last cause, dryness. The weather, not controlled by humans, is an ideal example for believing that God is “necessary in itself” and so is the first necessity as well as the first cause. To end, the reasons for believing that God is the first necessity are through the birth by parents and weather example. It is also supported by the second argument, which further fortifies my belief in this third argument. The argument is good and sound because of the provided evidence that backs it. All the premises are true so the inference is solid. Since the premises are true, the conclusion, that God is the first necessity, is also true. It is impossible for the conclusion to be false according to the true premises so the argument is also deductively valid.
The main objection to Aquinas’ Cosmological Argument is against the second argument that the first cause is God. There are already too many theories for the first cause. Some of the most widely received ideas are the big bang, a committee of supernatural beings or a less than perfect being. The big bang theorizes that the Universe was once so blazingly hot that the heat caused it to expand. It is also speculated that supernatural beings like aliens could exist and be controlling our universe. Some believe that a less than perfect being rather than the perfect being, God, created the earth. Others challenge this belief by asking why is God specially the first cause? Another objection is against the third argument of contingency. Contingency, the state of uncertainty leaves things up to chance. The concept of free will counters chance. Free will is ability to make choices that are not limited by anything, including contingency. Chance does not exist because one has control over what happens. Contingency can also be challenged by the theory of determinism. Determinism is the notion that the past sets way for the present and the present decides the upcoming future. In determinism, there is no room for chance to affect an event. These are the two most known objections to the Cosmological Argument. There are rebuttals against the objections that further affirm Aquinas’ Cosmological Argument.
To reply to the opposition that first cause could be a multiple of theories, these theories are only speculations. The big bang theory is unbelievable because it is not reasonable that climate could’ve produced the earth we live in now. Supernatural beings like aliens have still not been discovered despite the many outer space ventures the US has funded. Lastly, the idea that a less than perfect being is the first cause is not plausible because humanity itself is already so flawed. But, since humanity is so inadequate, it is even more believable that God must be the first cause. God is synonymous with perfection because He is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent. The religion Christianity and Catholicism is devoted to God. These religions have a countless following. If so many people believe in these religions, God must exist and must be the first cause. To reply to the counterargument against contingency, free will and determinism does not exist. Free will suggests that we have the power to decide our lives. But there are exterior targets that always affect our choices. If it were to rain, we would not be able to choose to wear certain things or abide by certain plans. Our choice would be limited by an outside factor, which means that free will does not exist. Determinism states that the past determines the present and the present leads to the future. Although it is possible for the three timelines to be linked to each other, things do not happen just because of what happened in the past. Since every outcome is dependent on chance, the past does not control what happens. God is a necessary force because he is the controller of life. He is the first cause and so determines everything that happens. Previously, in terms of religion, I believed that God was the first mover, the first cause, and a necessary force. It was interesting to see these familiar beliefs in a different context in the philosophical stance. After evaluating Aquinas’ Cosmological Argument through its supporting three arguments and through an opposite viewpoint, two objections, I still am sure of belief in the existence of God.