The Cosmological Argument For The Existence Of God Essays On Education

The term cosmological comes from the Latin word ‘cosmos’ meaning the universe. The cosmological argument is an argument that starts from the existence of the universe and tries to prove from this god exists. The cosmological argument is a priori argument but it is based on a aposteriori evidence. This makes it an inductive argument. Nothing comes from nothing, therefore the best and simplest explanation for the universe is God.

The argument is in three forms; motion, causation and being. These are also the first three ways in the five ways presented by Aquinas through which he believed the existence of God could be shown. The cosmological argument and is a posteriori, meaning we all have experience of the universe, making the argument easier to understand. This being one of the main strengths of the argument since we can relate to the universe and how it works and noticing that something or someone must have designed it.

The First Cause Argument is concerned with the fact that all things have a cause, and if we trace back the chain of causes, there must be an initial cause which began everything else. People take this uncaused cause to be God. Thomas Aquinas argues for dependency, that every object in the universe is directed to a purpose, for example a leaves existence is to photosynthesis. However the leaf does not have the intelligence to know to photosynthesis, so it must have a director.

This is Aquinas’ believe that there is motion and change in the universe, from experience, so there must be a first mover which controls these motions and changes. If someone presses a button on a lift to go up, who directs that button to make the lift go up? This argument results to a God every time. Overall, Aquinas believes that the Universe is dependant on a God for its continued existence ‘A play only lasts as long as the actor keeps acting’

Richard Swinburne is in favour of the probability argument. The existence of the universe puzzles everyone, however the hypothesis and belief of God brings reason and an easily understandable answer to the most challenged question. If we question the director or the creator of our universe its easy enough to put the answer to the question, that god is the creator.

Swinburne argues that to believe in God is a much easier explanation to the universe rather than suggesting it is uncaused because you are then still left with doubt and wonder. The belief that god created our universe solves many unanswered questions; to were the universe came from. Things such as miracles and religious experience are explained by the belief of God, as it seems easier to trust this was the result of God, rather than believe ‘it just happened’.

Another arguer for the cosmological argument is Kalam, he argues the favour for the beginning, in the universe everything must have a cause, something that is so complex as the world we live in and the universe around us, everything that exists must have a cause, he argues that the planet cannot just be it has to have something or someone to direct it. Also take the example of an aeroplane, it’s to complex and designed just to be there by it self the plan cannot just be. If we take the example of the plane and compare it to the universe and see how complicated they both are we can understand that, there must be a causer or director for the Universe, as again, it can not just be. Overall its what your belief is and how you see each argument to see which one you’d agree and go along with.

The main strengths of the argument are that, there is a first cause something has to be started off by someone else, if simple questions can be answered like, ‘How did the lift go up’ – because of the electric system that enables it to moves, this means the universe could be caused by someone, this is God. It is also strengthened with the fact that there is something rather then nothing we have experience of the universe so we can see how complex it really is, so no one can deny that is nothing, there is actually something. This leads us to the belief in God. Lastly another strength of the cosmological argument, is that its simple and easy to understand. We can all see that the universe is, but still all the questions that are asked ‘why it is?’ an easy explanation for this is a belief in God.

‘Comment on the view that the strengths and weaknesses are equally balanced’

Although there are some, criticisms of the cosmological argument. Swinburne also argues that the natural state of things could be one of change, for example it is just natural for a leaf to photosynthesis and not need a director. For example, the argument of dependency, that every thing has been caused, means that the argument against it asks ‘what caused God? This then becomes a weakness because then the questions become harder to answer, ‘were did god come from?’ ‘Who caused god?’ This then leads to questions being unanswered. Also Occam’s razor is a main weakness of the cosmological argument as he believes that ‘We should not multiply causes beyond necessity’ so we should go for the simplest answer.

Then argument is attacked by, the question ‘If everything requires a cause, why doesn’t God require a cause?’ If we can’t say the universe ‘just is’ than why can we say god is? This would mean that a list of causers would go on forever and not answer anything rather than believing that nothing needs a causer, therefore ruling out God. By suggesting that the creator is god, carries out more questions like ‘what purpose was the universe created for?’ If god, is believed to be omnipotent, benevolent, and omniscient, if it was created so god could carry out all of these, looking at the world it’s hard to believe.

The cosmological argument is balanced out with for and against arguments, because for every argument in favour for the cosmological argument, there is an argument against it. For example the argument of dependency has been caused, means the argument that is going against it is ‘what caused god?’ The most strengthened argument, which is easiest to understand, is to believe in something rather than nothing. However Occam’s razor replies to this bus saying it is easier to believe in the simplest explanation that the universe just is.

In conclusion the arguments for and against are both balanced as for every strength, there is a weakness. In my opinion you cannot decide which argument to go for because whatever strength there is to the argument there is a weakness to back it up, or no evidence to make it enough to be able to believe. This could even try to change the opinion of someone trying to be convinced, therefore the arguments are overall balanced but with not enough evidence to be sufficient.

In natural theology and philosophy, a cosmological argument is an argument in which the existence of a unique being, generally seen as some kind of god or demiurge is deduced or inferred from facts or alleged facts concerning causation, change, motion, contingency, or finitude in respect of the universe as a whole or processes within it.[1][2] It is traditionally known as an argument from universal causation, an argument from first cause, or the causal argument, and is more precisely a cosmogonical argument (about the origin). Whichever term is employed, there are three basic variants of the argument, each with subtle yet important distinctions: the arguments from in causa (causality), in esse (essentiality), and in fieri (becoming).

The basic premises of all of these are the concept of causality and the Universe having a beginning. The conclusion of these arguments is first cause, subsequently deemed to be God. The history of this argument goes back to Aristotle or earlier, was developed in Neoplatonism and early Christianity and later in medieval Islamic theology during the 9th to 12th centuries, and re-introduced to medieval Christian theology in the 13th century by Thomas Aquinas. The cosmological argument is closely related to the principle of sufficient reason as addressed by Gottfried Leibniz and Samuel Clarke, itself a modern exposition of the claim that "nothing comes from nothing" attributed to Parmenides.

Contemporary defenders of cosmological arguments include William Lane Craig,[3]Robert Koons,[4]Alexander Pruss,[5] and William L. Rowe.[6]


Plato (c. 427–347 BC) and Aristotle (c. 384–322 BC) both posited first cause arguments, though each had certain notable caveats.[7] In The Laws (Book X), Plato posited that all movement in the world and the Cosmos was "imparted motion". This required a "self-originated motion" to set it in motion and to maintain it. In Timaeus, Plato posited a "demiurge" of supreme wisdom and intelligence as the creator of the Cosmos.

Aristotle argued against the idea of a first cause, often confused with the idea of a "prime mover" or "unmoved mover" (πρῶτον κινοῦν ἀκίνητον or primus motor) in his Physics and Metaphysics.[8] Aristotle argued in favor of the idea of several unmoved movers, one powering each celestial sphere, which he believed lived beyond the sphere of the fixed stars, and explained why how motion in the universe (which he believed was eternal) had continued for an infinite period of time. Aristotle argued the atomist's assertion of a non-eternal universe would require an uncaused cause — in his terminology, an efficient first cause — an idea he considered a non-sensical flaw in the reasoning of the atomists.

Like Plato, Aristotle believed in an eternal cosmos with no beginning and no end (which in turn follows Parmenides' famous statement that "nothing comes from nothing"). In what he called "first philosophy" or metaphysics, Aristotle did intend a theological correspondence between the prime mover and deity (presumably Zeus); functionally, however, he provided an explanation for the apparent motion of the "fixed stars" (now understood as the daily rotation of the Earth). According to his theses, immaterial unmoved movers are eternal unchangeable beings that constantly think about thinking, but being immaterial, they're incapable of interacting with the cosmos and have no knowledge of what transpires therein. From an "aspiration or desire",[9] the celestial spheres, imitate that purely intellectual activity as best they can, by uniform circular motion. The unmoved movers inspiring the planetary spheres are no different in kind from the prime mover, they merely suffer a dependency of relation to the prime mover. Correspondingly, the motions of the planets are subordinate to the motion inspired by the prime mover in the sphere of fixed stars. Aristotle's natural theology admitted no creation or capriciousness from the immortal pantheon, but maintained a defense against dangerous charges of impiety.[citation needed]

Plotinus, a third-century Platonist, taught that the One transcendent absolute caused the universe to exist simply as a consequence of its existence (creatio ex deo). His disciple Proclus stated "The One is God".[citation needed]

Centuries later, the IslamicphilosopherAvicenna (c. 980–1037) inquired into the question of being, in which he distinguished between essence (Mahiat) and existence (Wujud). He argued that the fact of existence could not be inferred from or accounted for by the essence of existing things, and that form and matter by themselves could not originate and interact with the movement of the Universe or the progressive actualization of existing things. Thus, he reasoned that existence must be due to an agent cause that necessitates, imparts, gives, or adds existence to an essence. To do so, the cause must coexist with its effect and be an existing thing.[10]

Steven Duncan writes that "it was first formulated by a Greek-speaking Syriac Christian neo-Platonist, John Philoponus," who claims to find a contradiction between the Greek pagan insistence on the eternity of the world and the Aristotelian rejection of the existence of any actual infinite." Referring to the argument as the "'Kalam' cosmological argument", Duncan asserts that it "received its fullest articulation at the hands of [medieval] Muslim and Jewish exponents of Kalam ("the use of reason by believers to justify the basic metaphysical presuppositions of the faith)."[11]

Thomas Aquinas (c. 1225–1274) adapted and enhanced the argument he found in his reading of Aristotle and Avicenna to form one of the most influential versions of the cosmological argument.[12][13] His conception of First Cause was the idea that the Universe must have been caused by something that was itself uncaused, which he claimed is that which we call God: "The second way is from the nature of the efficient cause. In the world of sense we find there is an order of efficient causes. There is no case known (neither is it, indeed, possible) in which a thing is found to be the efficient cause of itself; for so it would be prior to itself, which is impossible. Now in efficient causes it is not possible to go on to infinity, because in all efficient causes following in order, the first is the cause of the intermediate cause, and the intermediate is the cause of the ultimate cause, whether the intermediate cause be several, or only one. Now to take away the cause is to take away the effect. Therefore, if there be no first cause among efficient causes, there will be no ultimate, nor any intermediate cause. But if in efficient causes it is possible to go on to infinity, there will be no first efficient cause, neither will there be an ultimate effect, nor any intermediate efficient causes; all of which is plainly false. Therefore it is necessary to admit a first efficient cause, to which everyone gives the name of God."[14][dubious– discuss] Importantly, Aquinas' Five Ways, given the second question of his Summa Theologica, are not the entirety of Aquinas' demonstration that the Christian God exists. The Five Ways form only the beginning of Aquinas' Treatise on the Divine Nature.

Versions of the argument[edit]

Argument from contingency[edit]

In the scholastic era, Aquinas formulated the "argument from contingency", following Aristotle in claiming that there must be something to explain why the Universe exists.[dubious– discuss] Since the Universe could, under different circumstances, conceivably not exist (contingency), its existence must have a cause – not merely another contingent thing, but something that exists by necessity (something that must exist in order for anything else to exist).[15] In other words, even if the Universe has always existed, it still owes its existence to an Uncaused Cause,[16] Aquinas further said: "...and this we understand to be God."[17]

Aquinas's argument from contingency allows for the possibility of a Universe that has no beginning in time. It is a form of argument from universal causation. Aquinas observed that, in nature, there were things with contingent existences. Since it is possible for such things not to exist, there must be some time at which these things did not in fact exist. Thus, according to Aquinas, there must have been a time when nothing existed. If this is so, there would exist nothing that could bring anything into existence. Contingent beings, therefore, are insufficient to account for the existence of contingent beings: there must exist a necessary being whose non-existence is an impossibility, and from which the existence of all contingent beings is derived.

The German philosopher Gottfried Leibniz made a similar argument with his principle of sufficient reason in 1714. "There can be found no fact that is true or existent, or any true proposition," he wrote, "without there being a sufficient reason for its being so and not otherwise, although we cannot know these reasons in most cases." He formulated the cosmological argument succinctly: "Why is there something rather than nothing? The sufficient reason [...] is found in a substance which [...] is a necessary being bearing the reason for its existence within itself."[18]

In esse and in fieri[edit]

The difference between the arguments from causation in fieri and in esse is a fairly important one. In fieri is generally translated as "becoming", while in esse is generally translated as "in essence". In fieri, the process of becoming, is similar to building a house. Once it is built, the builder walks away, and it stands on its own accord; compare the watchmaker analogy. (It may require occasional maintenance, but that is beyond the scope of the first cause argument.)

In esse (essence) is more akin to the light from a candle or the liquid in a vessel. George Hayward Joyce, SJ, explained that "...where the light of the candle is dependent on the candle's continued existence, not only does a candle produce light in a room in the first instance, but its continued presence is necessary if the illumination is to continue. If it is removed, the light ceases. Again, a liquid receives its shape from the vessel in which it is contained; but were the pressure of the containing sides withdrawn, it would not retain its form for an instant." This form of the argument is far more difficult to separate from a purely first cause argument than is the example of the house's maintenance above, because here the First Cause is insufficient without the candle's or vessel's continued existence.[19]

Thus, Leibniz' argument is in fieri, while Aquinas' argument is both in fieri and in esse. This distinction is an excellent example of the difference between a deistic view (Leibniz) and a theistic view (Aquinas). As a general trend, the modern slants on the cosmological argument, including the Kalam argument, tend to lean very strongly towards an in fieri argument.[citation needed]

Kalām cosmological argument[edit]

Main article: Kalam cosmological argument

William Lane Craig gives this argument in the following general form:[20]

  1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
  2. The Universe began to exist.
  3. Therefore, the Universe had a cause.

Craig explains, by nature of the event (the Universe coming into existence), attributes unique to (the concept of) God must also be attributed to the cause of this event, including but not limited to: omnipotence, Creator, being eternal and absolute self-sufficiency. Since these attributes are unique to God, anything with these attributes must be God. Something does have these attributes: the cause; hence, the cause is God, the cause exists; hence, God exists.

Craig defends the second premise, that the Universe had a beginning starting with Al-Ghazali's proof that an actual infinite is impossible. However, If the universe never had a beginning then there indeed would be an actual infinite, an infinite amount of cause and effect events. Hence, the Universe had a beginning.

Objections and counterarguments[edit]

See also: Münchhausen trilemma

What caused the First Cause?[edit]

One objection to the argument is that it leaves open the question of why the First Cause is unique in that it does not require any causes. Proponents argue that the First Cause is exempt from having a cause, while opponents argue that this is special pleading or otherwise untrue.[1] Critics often press that arguing for the First Cause's exemption raises the question of why the First Cause is indeed exempt,[21] whereas defenders maintain that this question has been answered by the various arguments, emphasizing that none of its major forms rests on the premise that everything has a cause.[22]

Secondly, it is argued that the premise of causality has been arrived at via a posteriori (inductive) reasoning, which is dependent on experience. David Hume highlighted this problem of induction and argued that causal relations were not true a priori. However, as to whether inductive or deductive reasoning is more valuable still remains a matter of debate, with the general conclusion being that neither is prominent.[23] Opponents of the argument tend to argue that it is unwise to draw conclusions from an extrapolation of causality beyond experience.[1]

Not evidence for a theist God[edit]

The basic cosmological argument merely establishes that a First Cause exists, not that it has the attributes of a theistic god, such as omniscience, omnipotence, and omnibenevolence.[24] This is why the argument is often expanded to show that at least some of these attributes are necessarily true, for instance in the modern Kalam argument given above.[1]

Existence of causal loops[edit]

A causal loop is a form of predestination paradox arising where traveling backwards in time is deemed a possibility. A sufficiently powerful entity in such a world would have the capacity to travel backwards in time to a point before its own existence, and to then create itself, thereby initiating everything which follows from it.

The usual reason which is given to refute the possibility of a causal loop is it requires that the loop as a whole be its own cause. Richard Hanley argues that causal loops are not logically, physically, or epistemically impossible: "[In timed systems,] the only possibly objectionable feature that all causal loops share is that coincidence is required to explain them."[25]

Existence of infinite causal chains[edit]

David Hume and later Paul Edwards have invoked a similar principle in their criticisms of the cosmological argument. Rowe has called the principle the Hume-Edwards principle:[26]

If the existence of every member of a set is explained, the existence of that set is thereby explained.

Nevertheless, David White argues that the notion of an infinite causal regress providing a proper explanation is fallacious.[27] Furthermore, Demea states that even if the succession of causes is infinite, the whole chain still requires a cause.[28] To explain this, suppose there exists a causal chain of infinite contingent beings. If one asks the question, "Why are there any contingent beings at all?", it won’t help to be told that "There are contingent beings because other contingent beings caused them." That answer would just presuppose additional contingent beings. An adequate explanation of why some contingent beings exist would invoke a different sort of being, a necessary being that is not contingent.[29] A response might suppose each individual is contingent but the infinite chain as a whole is not; or the whole infinite causal chain to be its own cause.

Severinsen argues that there is an "infinite" and complex causal structure.[30] White tried to introduce an argument “without appeal to the principle of sufficient reason and without denying the possibility of an infinite causal regress”.[31]

Big Bang cosmology[edit]

Some cosmologists and physicists argue that a challenge to the cosmological argument is the nature of time: "One finds that time just disappears from the Wheeler–DeWitt equation"[32] (Carlo Rovelli). The Big Bang theory states that it is the point in which all dimensions came into existence, the start of both space and time.[33] Then, the question "What was there before the Universe?" makes no sense; the concept of "before" becomes meaningless when considering a situation without time.[33] This has been put forward by J. Richard Gott III, James E. Gunn, David N. Schramm, and Beatrice Tinsley, who said that asking what occurred before the Big Bang is like asking what is north of the North Pole.[33] However, some cosmologists and physicists do attempt to investigate causes for the Big Bang, using such scenarios as the collision of membranes.[34]

Philosopher Edward Feser states that classical philosophers' arguments for the existence of God do not care about the Big Bang or whether the universe had a beginning. The question is not about what got things started or how long they have been going, but rather what keeps them going.[35]

Alternatively, the above objections can be dispelled by separating the Cosmological Argument from the A-Theory of Time[36] and subsequently discussing God as a timeless (rather than "before" in a linear sense) cause of the Big Bang. There is also a Big Bang Argument, which is a variation of the Cosmological Argument using the Big Bang Theory to validate the premise that the Universe had a beginning.[37]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ abcdReichenbach, Bruce (2012). "Cosmological Argument". The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2006 Edition, Edward N. Zalta (ed.) ed.). Retrieved 4 August 2016. 
  2. ^Oderberg, David S. (September 1, 2007). "The Cosmological Argument". In Meister, Chad; Copan, Paul. The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Religion. Routledge. pp. 341–350. ISBN 978-0415380386. 
  3. ^Craig, William Lane; Sinclair, James D. (May 18, 2009). "The Kalam Cosmological Argument". In Craig, William Lane; Moreland, J. P.The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology. Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 101–201. ISBN 978-1405176576. 
  4. ^Koons, Robert (1997). "A New Look at the Cosmological Argument"(PDF). American Philosophical Quarterly. University of Illinois Press. 34 (2): 193–211. 
  5. ^Gale, Richard M.; Pruss, Alexander, eds. (March 2003). The Existence of God. Burlington, VT: Ashgate. ISBN 978-0754620518. 
  6. ^Rowe, William L. (1975). The Cosmological Argument. Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0691072104. 
  7. ^Craig, WL., The Cosmological Argument from Plato to Leibniz, Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2001, pp. 1-5, 13.
  8. ^Aristotle, Physics VIII, 4–6; Metaphysics XII, 1–6.
  9. ^"Cosmological Argument for the Existence of God", in Macmillan Encyclopedia of Philosophy (1967), Vol. 2, p233 ff.
  10. ^"Islam". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 2007. Retrieved 2007-11-27. 
  11. ^Duncan, S., Analytic philosophy of religion: its history since 1955, Humanities-Ebooks, p.165.
  12. ^Summa Theologica, St. Thomas Aquinas
  13. ^Scott David Foutz, An Examination of Thomas Aquinas' Cosmological Arguments as found in the Five Ways, Quodlibet Online Journal of Christian Theology and Philosophy
  14. ^
  15. ^Summa Theologiae, I : 2,3
  16. ^Aquinas was an ardent student of Aristotle's works, a significant number of which had only recently been translated into Latin by William of Moerbeke .
  17. ^Summa Theologiae, I : 2,3
  18. ^Monadologie (1714). Nicholas Rescher, trans., 1991. The Monadology: An Edition for Students. Uni. of Pittsburg Press. Jonathan Bennett's translation.Latta's translation.
  19. ^Joyce, George Hayward (1922) Principles of Natural Theology. NY: Longmans Green.
  20. ^Craig, William L. "The Existence of God and the Beginning of the Universe". Truth Journal. Retrieved 22 June 2008. 
  21. ^Cline, Austin. "Cosmological Argument: Does the Universe Require a First Cause? | Agnosticism/Atheism". Retrieved June 20, 2008. 
  22. ^Clarke, WN., "A Curious Blind Spot in the Anglo-American Tradition of Antitheistic Argument", in The Creative Retrieval of Saint Thomas Aquinas: Essays in Thomistic Philosophy, New and Old, Fordham Univ Press, 2009, Ch. 5.
  23. ^"Deduction & Induction". 2006-10-20. Retrieved 2012-09-02. 
  24. ^Austin Cline (27 July 2015). "Cosmological Argument for the Existence of God". About, Inc. Retrieved 3 August 2016. 
  25. ^Richard Hanley, No End in Sight: Causal Loops in Philosophy, Physics and Fiction, Synthese
  26. ^Alexander R. Pruss, The Hume-Edwards Principle and the Cosmological Argument, International Journal for Philosophy of Religion
  27. ^White, David E. "An argument for God's existence". International Journal for Philosophy of Religion. 
  28. ^Calvert, Brian. "Another problem about Part IX of Hume's Dialogues". International Journal for Philosophy of Religion. 
  29. ^Rota, Michael. "Infinite Causal Chains and Explanation"(DOC). Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association. 
  30. ^Severinsen, Morten. "Principles Behind Definitions of Diseases – a Criticism of the Principle of Disease Mechanism and the Development of a Pragmatic Alternative". Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics.  
  31. ^White, David E. "An argument for God's existence". International Journal for Philosophy of Religion.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *