Swinburne’s Cosmological and Teleological Arguments – Part 3

I am exploring a concern about, or potential objection to, Swinburne’s inductive cosmological and teleological arguments for the existence of God. The objection I have in mind is something like this, for the cosmological argument:

Although the one factual premise of Swinburne’s cosmological argument is supposed to be the ONLY contingent factual claim or assumption upon which the conclusion of the argument rests, the argument actually rests on a considerable number and variety of contingent factual claims and assumptions, and this casts some reasonable doubt on the argument.

In order to explore this potential objection in a somewhat systematic way, I have made an outline of the general kinds of objections that are made against arguments. An argument has three basic parts (a premise or premises, an inference, and a conclusion). Thus, there are three basic types of objection:

TYPES OF OBJECTION
1. Objection to a premise of the argument (false, dubious, unclear, ambiguous, unknowable)
2. Objection to an inference of the argument (illogical, invalid, dubious, weak)

3. Objection to the conclusion of the argument (false, dubious, unclear, ambiguous, unknowable)

Since an objection is itself an argument, replies to objections are also objections to an argument, and thus there are at least three types of reply:

TYPES OF REPLY TO AN OBJECTION
1. Objection to a premise of the objection (false, dubious, unclear, ambiguous, unknowable)
2. Objection to an inference of the objection (illogical, invalid, dubious, weak)
3. Objection to the conclusion of the objection (false, dubious, unclear, ambiguous, unknowable)

Also, in presenting or developing an argument, one can provide support for any of the three basic parts of an argument: support for a premise, support for an inference, and support for the conclusion. If one gives evidence in support of the truth of the conclusion, however, that amounts to giving another argument or piece of evidence in addition to the original argument.

So, where might contingent factual claims be called up by Swinburne in a discussion about the cosmological argument (TCA)? He might put forward some contingent factual claims in support of the truth of the premise of his argument, or in support of the inference in this argument, or in support of the clarity or knowability of the conclusion of the argument (but not in support of the truth of the conclusion, because that would introduce a whole new argument into the picture).

Like any good philosopher, Swinburne also considers objections to his arguments, so he might put forward some contingent factual claims in response to an objection to the premise of his cosmological argument, or in response to an objection to the inference of his cosmological argument, or in response to an objection to the conclusion of his argument. Here then are the key questions to examine:

1. Does Swinburne use contingent factual claims/assumptions to support the premise of TCA?
2. Does Swinburne use contingent factual claims/assumptions to support the inference in TCA?
3. Does Swinburne use contingent factual claims/assumptions to support the conclusion of TCA (in terms of clarity or knowability)?
4. Does Swinburne use contingent factual claims/assumptions to reply to an objection to the premise of TCA?
5. Does Swinburne use contingent factual claims/assumptions to reply to an objection to the inference in TCA?
6. Does Swinburne use contingent factual claims/assumptions to reply to an objection to the conclusion of TCA?

If Swinburne does use contingent factual claims for any of these purposes, then this would provide some confirmation of my suspicion about his cosmological and teleological arguments. However, one further question would also need to be answered to fully confirm my suspicion: Is Swinburne’s use of contingent factual claims (other than the one premise of TCA) essential to supporting or defending this argument? or is there some other way to support or defend the point in question without use of contingent factual claims, by using only a priori truths, analytic truths, or tautological truths?


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