Friday, November 24, 2006

A Prolegomena to Any Future Cosmological Argument

Let's consider Taylor's cosmological argument for the existence of God seriously this time. I have heard it before many times. But this time, I will honestly consider it. I will start at the beginning.

First, what of the principle of sufficient reason? It states that for every positive fact or truth there is a sufficient cause or reason why that fact obtains or why that statement is true. I think we ought to accept this because not doing so would lead us to other undesirable problems. There is a sufficient reason for the universe existing. The prove that, suppose there is not a sufficient reason. If there wasn't a reason, there also would not be cause, and the universe would not exist. But the universe does exist, so there is a sufficient reason as to why. But we have to follow the principle all the way through. We cannot pick an arbitrary point to stop simply because the theists stops at an arbitrary point, or the non-theist stops at an arbitrary point. We cannot let the standards of the other position determine ours. That way, we're not taking it seriously, we're only trying to deface the other's position.

Arguing cosmologically, the theist says that the universe must have a cause and its cause is God. The theist stops after "Therefore God exists." We can ask, using the principle of sufficient reason, "Why does God exist?" He says, he always existed. Then we ask further, what is the sufficient reason for His existing always? Likewise, the non-theist says "The universe existed forever". But what is the sufficient reason for the universe existing forever? The argument stops there, as Russell says, because the theists stops shortly after that as well.

The crucial issue, then, with cosmological arguments is that the theist and the nontheist are going to accept different stopping-off points in their respective applications of the principle of sufficient reason. The nontheist then says that he explains the universe's existence in fewer steps, and does not multiply entities beyond necessity. Therefore God is not necessary. "I have no need of that hypothesis," as Laplace says.

I have not considered Taylor's argument yet, because we cannot get off the ground. Before I can get to that point, I have to settle the problem of sufficient reason. I haven't gotten very far! See what taking something seriously gets me! I referred to this in other posts about absurdity. I'm embracing the absurd at this moment. It is not a contradictory position, I contend. Pyrrhonism, ultimate skepticism, has always intrigued me. But I see it as something to at least try to escape from. I always end up falling back into it, however.

I think I'll stop there.

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