Kreeft’s Case for God – Part 25: Clarification of Argument #7

Kreeft’s Case for God – Part 25: Clarification of Argument #7 May 25, 2018

WHERE WE ARE AT

There are only two more arguments in Kreeft’s case that we need to evaluate:  Argument #7 (the Argument from Contingency) and Argument #6 (the Kalam Cosmological Argument).  In Part 24, I did an initial analysis of Argument #7, and I pointed out some significant problems with that argument, based only on the conclusion of the argument.

At best, the argument shows the existence of a bodiless being (i.e. a bodiless thing, not necessarily a person) that is the cause of the current existence of the universe:

  • it does NOT show the existence of an omnipotent person
  • it does NOT show the existence of an omniscient person
  • it does NOT show the existence of a perfectly morally good person
  • it does NOT show the existence of an eternal person
  • it does NOT show the existence of a person who is the creator of the universe
  • it does NOT show that there is JUST ONE being that is the cause of the current existence of the universe

Furthermore, the conclusion of Argument #7 asserts that the cause of the current existence of the universe is OUTSIDE OF TIME, which means that this being is absolutely UNCHANGING, which means it cannot be the creator of the universe,  which means it cannot be God.  Thus, even if Argument #7 was a sound argument, it would prove the existence of a being that was NOT God.

 

SUMMARY OF ARGUMENT #7

In this post,  I will work on further clarification of Argument #7:

1a. If something exists at time t1, then there must exist at time t1 what it takes for that thing to exist at time t1.

2a. The universe–the collection of beings in space and time–exists at time t1.

THEREFORE:

3a. There must exist at time t1 what it takes for the universe to exist at time t1.

4a. What it takes for the universe to exist at time t1 cannot exist within the universe or be bounded by space and time.

THEREFORE:

5a. What it takes for the universe to exist at time t1 must exist at time t1 and must transcend both space and time.

NOTE: the phrase “at time t1” doesn’t have a specific meaning; it is a placeholder.  It is intended to be a clarification of the word “now”.  But we can fill in this placeholder expression with something more definite, like “at 9:40 pm Pacific Time on May 21st, 2018”.  Once we specify a particular point in time, the premises become meaningful factual claims that can be evaluated as true or false.

The ultimate conclusion of the argument is based on (5a):

6. There is EXACTLY ONE being that is the cause of the current existence of the universe, and this being exists right now and is OUTSIDE of both space and time, and this being is NOT finite or material.

 

CLARIFICATION OF PREMISE (1a)

Here is the first premise of the Argument from Contingency:

1a. If something exists at time t1, then there must exist at time t1 what it takes for that thing to exist at time t1.

Although adding the reference to a specific moment in time clarifies the meaning of this premise, it is still ambiguous.  Here are three different possible interpretations of it:

1b. IF something exists at time t1, THEN: there must exist something else at time t1 that is what it takes for that thing to exist at time t1.

1c. IF something exists at time t1, THEN: if that thing depends on something else for its existence at time t1, then there must exist something else at time t1 that  is what it takes for that thing to exist at time t1.

1d. IF something exists at time t1, THEN: if that thing depends on something else existing at time t1 for its existence at time t1, then there must exist something else at time t1 that is what it takes for that thing to exist at time t1.

Premise (1b) generates an infinite regress of current causes of existence.  One thing exists at t1, so a second thing must exist at t, so a third thing must exist at  t1, and so on.  According to (1b) if God exists at time  t1, “then there must exist something else at time t1 that is what it takes” for God to exist at time t1.  But God is supposed to be the exception to the rule; the one thing that does NOT depend on something else for its existence.  God is supposed to be what stops the regress of causes of existence.  So, it appears that interpretation (1b) will not work, because it implies the existence of the very infinite regress that this argument seeks to deny.

Premise (1c) on the other hand, only has implications when a “thing depends on something else for its existence at time t1,” so this leaves open the possibility that there could be things that DO NOT depend on something else for their current existence.  The same is true of premise (1d); it also leaves open the possibility that there could be things that DO NOT depend on something else for their current existence.

The main point of (1c) appears to be that in order for one thing X to cause the current existence of some other thing Y, the thing X must exist at the very same moment in time as the moment of Y’s existence that it is causing.  This assumption seems contrary to our intuitive belief that things that currently exist will tend to stay in existence.

If something vanishes into thin air, we are surprised and perplexed, because we expect things to continue to exist.  It is when something ceases to exist that we seek a cause or explanation.  But if a table was here in the dining room a few seconds ago, we are not surprised if we see that the table is still here in the dining room now.  Tables, chairs, people, rocks, and trees all tend to stay in existence.  Why is there a table here in this room right now?  Because there was a table right here in this room just a second ago.  Therefore, a natural explanation for the current existence of this table here and now, is that this table existed here just a moment ago.  The CAUSE of the current existence of this table appears to be the existence of this table a moment ago.

The chair here in the room did not cause the current existence of the table.  The air in the room did not cause the current existence of the table.  If the table had been built by some person in the room, we might be tempted to say that this person is a cause of the current existence of the table, but it seems more accurate to say that the person who built the table caused the table to come into existence, but once the table came to exist, it no longer depended upon the existence of the person who built it.  The table can continue to exist even if the person who made the table ceases to exist.  So, although this specific table would not exist here and now if it had not been built by the person who made it, its current existence does NOT depend on the current existence of its maker, so the person who made the table is NOT the CAUSE of the current existence of the table.

But if the current existence of a table is caused by the previous existence of the same table, then that table does not depend on “something else” for its current existence.  But when the table was first constructed, its first moment as a table was not caused by the previous existence of the same table, because it did not previously exist.  So, it seems that we should attribute the cause of the first moment of the existence of the table to the person who made the table.  The cause of the first moment of existence of the table is the person who made the table, and the cause of the following moments of existence of the table were caused by the previous existence of the same table:

Person at time t1 –> Table at time t2 –> Table at time t3 –> Table at time t4 –> …

Sometimes things dissolve.  Sometimes things burn up.  Sometimes things fall to pieces.  Sometimes things explode.  Sometimes things melt.  This table has not dissolved; it has not burned up; it has not fallen to pieces; it has not exploded, and it hasn’t melted.  Why not?

Not everything continues to exist in the stable way that most tables continue to exist, so one might seek an explanation for why tables tend to continue to exist while other things quickly dissolve, burn up, fall to pieces, explode, or melt.  A very basic explanation for this is that there are various laws of physics that allow tables to continue to exist in a stable way under “ordinary” circumstances that we find here on Earth.

In short, the laws of physics are such that tables tend to stay in existence, at least for several years or several decades.  For this reason, we might say that the current existence of this table here and now depends upon the laws of physics.  If the laws of physics were different, then tables might tend to quickly dissolve, burn up, fall to pieces, explode, or melt under the typical physical circumstances that we find on the Earth.

In this sense, the current existence of this table depends upon the current character and operation of various laws of physics, and upon various circumstances that are typical on Earth (temperature, pressure, chemical composition of the atmosphere, gravitational forces, etc.), so we might reasonably conclude that the current existence of this table depends upon “something else” other than just the table itself (and other than just the existence of the table in a previous moment of time).  Tables tend to continue to exist for several years because of the operation of particular laws of physics and because of the character of the physical environment here on the Earth.

For a table to continue to exist requires that the laws of physics and the physical environment of the table remain the same, or undergo only minor changes.  Major changes in the laws of physics or in the character of the physical environment around the table might well cause the table to be destroyed, to cease to exist.  To the extent that the current existence of the table depends on the continued stability of the laws of physics and the continued stability of its physical environment, the current existence of the table does depend on the current character and operation of those laws of physics and the current character of various aspects of its physical environment.

This point about tables appears to be generalizable: the continued existence of ANY physical object depends upon the laws of physics and on the physical environment around that physical object, so the current existence of EACH and EVERY physical object depends on the current character of the laws of physics and on the current character of various aspects of its physical environment.  Thus, premise (1c) appears to apply to all physical objects, and it appears to be true, at least about physical objects.

Premise (1d) also appears to be true, but it appears to be a tautology:  IF something requires X to be the case in order to exist, then, of course, that thing would not exist unless X is the case.  But this gives us no significant information.  In order to make use of (1d), Kreeft would need to show that everything in the universe (a) depends on something else for its current existence, and (b) the something else must exist at the very same instant that the thing in question is having its existence caused.  So, premise (1d) although true, does not appear to be useful for the purposes of this argument.  Thus, premise (1c) appears to be the best interpretation of (1a), because it appears to be both true and also useful for the purposes of this argument.

 

REFORMULATED INITIAL INFERENCE

Premise (1c) appears to be the best interpretation of premise (1a), so we should reformulate the initial inference of Argument #7 accordingly:

1c. IF something exists at time t1, THEN: if that thing depends on something else for its existence at time t1, then there must exist something else at time t1 that  is what it takes for that thing to exist at time t1.

2a. The universe–the collection of beings in space and time–exists at time t1.

THEREFORE:

3c. There must exist something else at time t1 that is what it takes for the universe to exist at time t1.

This argument is logically INVALID, because (1c) has an additional condition that has not been asserted to be satisfied: “if that thing depends on something else for its existence at time t1” .

So, to make the argument valid, we need to add another premise that asserts this added condition to be satisfied:

1c. IF something exists at time t1, THEN: if that thing depends on something else for its existence at time t1, then there must exist something else at time t1 that  is what it takes for that thing to exist at time t1.

2a. The universe–the collection of beings in space and time–exists at time t1.

A. The universe–the collection of beings in space and time–depends on something else for its existence at time t1.

THEREFORE:

3c. There must exist something else at time t1 that is what it takes for the universe to exist at time t1.

We already have a reason for thinking that premise (A) is true: the current existence of ALL physical objects depends on the current character and operation of the laws of physics and on various aspects of their current physical environment/circumstances.

 

LOGICAL STRUCTURE OF ARGUMENT #7

Click on the image below for a clearer view of the argument diagram:

 

"That's right, Swinburne says that God is logically contingent. At the same time, he says ..."

The Logic of Miracles – Part ..."
"Some theists may "really don't know what they mean."But many other theists of various sorts ..."

The Logic of Miracles – Part ..."
"Hi Jim JonesWhen you state:"God is the ego projection of the self styled believer in ..."

The Logic of Miracles – Part ..."
"In your part 1 you state: it cannot establish that God caused a particular eventBut, ..."

The Logic of Miracles – Part ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!


TRENDING AT PATHEOS Nonreligious
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment