On the Cosmological Argument, Part 11
Introduction and The Nature of Contingencies
Back in 1994, Quentin Smith reported2 that world-renowned theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking had “recently argued that there is 'no place for a creator', that God does not exist.”
Has Hawking ever so explicitly denied God? Or, is this Smith's own interpretation – possibly a misinterpretation - of what Hawking wrote?
Regardless, even if Hawking has explicitly “argued that … God does not exist”, is this denial supposed to be a fact of science? Or, is this yet another example of the hopelessly tiresome scientism which itself amounts to nothing more than a combined pseudo-scientific and pseudo-philosophical adulation for what the fawning scientism-ists allege to be the most rational and most productive of all disciplines, that field of endeavor called “science”?
The fact of the matter is that there is at least one philosophical argument commonly taken as being necessary for there to be a God which both science and scientism are yet to overcome – even in light of Hawking's work. That argument is the Cosmological Argument.
The Cosmological Argument in any of its forms3 is most often regarded as an argument in support of there having been a First Cause for all that was, is, and ever will be. Of course, it is in the very nature of being a first cause to be also uncaused. Being both first and uncaused, this First Cause seems especially suitable for what are taken to be some very basic notions about the God of Western theisms in particular, and this explains why, as an historical matter, the Cosmological Argument has come to be regarded primarily as an attempt at establishing the mind-independent reality or existence, the actuality of God.
Despite the now prevalent way of thinking about it as an argument for the existence of God, a successful Cosmological Argument, as conventionally explicated, goes no further than to demonstrate the need, the necessity for there having been what is most frequently referred to as a First Cause.
Of this First Cause, one may be inclined to say, “and this we call God”, but, since it goes no further than to establish a First Cause, the Cosmological Argument in and of itself does not establish the fact of existence for either a theistic or even a deistic God.
As Robert C. Koons notes in “A New Look at the Cosmological Argument”4:
What Koons refers to as the “result” of the Cosmological Argument is likely ordinarily identified with the conclusion of the argument. This identification of result with conclusion, the interchangeability of “result” and “conclusion”, would certainly be wholly appropriate were it the case that the entire content of the argument provided no basis whatsoever for objection or doubt.
It turns out, however, that there have been objections to the Cosmological Argument. Accordingly, the “result” of the Cosmological Argument is something other than, something broader than the conclusion, because, even if the argument succeeds despite any and all objections, the objections and the manner in which they are overcome serve to produce content or results in addition not only to the conclusion but also the premises.
This content or these additional results are important inasmuch as they become relevant to any and all other arguments which in any way rely upon or refer to the conclusion of a Cosmological Argument. In effect, the additional results or content born of overcome objections explicate or define the conclusion.
All forms of the Cosmological Argument proceed from the fact that something – whether the world, the universe, experience, what have you – is or exists, and the differences in the forms of this argument arise from differences in the manners employed for characterizing this something which is or exists.
In general, the most common forms of the Cosmological Argument concentrate on either the notion of causal qualities or the notion of contingency or some combination of both. All forms of the argument conclude with either an uncaused cause or something otherwise non-contingent as necessary to either the description or explanation for all that is, ever has been, or ever will be.
Accordingly, the objections to the Cosmological Argument pertain to the characterization of causality (including whether causes are mind-independent facts as distinguished from mind-generated concepts) as well as to the nature of contingency (and, thereby, certain versions of necessity). As a consequence of such objections, some versions of the Cosmological Argument also involve considerations about the nature of infinity.
In any event, it is clearly the case that the “result” of the Cosmological Argument involves more than just its conclusion regardless of the form of argument employed. As the assorted objections to the argument(s) make clear, the Cosmological Argument pertains not just to the conclusion of an uncaused cause or the necessity of an origin for reality other than the universe itself. Rather, the “result” of the Cosmological Argument – and, hence, the argument itself – primarily regards the most basic characteristics of the universe: cause and effect as well as contingency and necessity. This is to say that, in the case of a successful argument, the “results” go beyond the fact of the First Cause to indicate characteristics of this uncaused necessity which should, in turn, be taken into account by whatever are the other “important arguments for theism” which Koons has in mind.
The Cosmological Argument proceeds from the observation (or interpretation) that all things which come to be do so as the result (or as the effect) of having been caused by some other things. All caused things are regarded as being contingent at least inasmuch as their having come to be is dependent on other things.
Sometimes this contingency is expanded and described in terms of it being in some way possible that the caused things might not have come to be (or might not have come to be precisely as they are). This is to say that, in addition to a dependency for having come to be, contingency can also indicate the possibility of alternatives to the things which have come to be.
But, even with this type of contingency, all caused things remain dependent on other things in order for those caused things to have come to be.
It is not yet established that possible alternatives are themselves things that come to be without being dependent on some mind(s); this is to say that it is not yet established that possibilities are mind-independent things as distinguished from merely mind-dependent conceptions or conceivabilities. Since the Cosmological Argument, to be as broadly successful as possible, cannot – and, indeed, does not - presume that caused things are all dependent on minds, the contingency within the argument is, at least initially, most properly regarded in terms of dependency rather than in terms of alternatives.
At its most basic, contingency indicates dependence.
Part 2 of 'On the Cosmological Argument' will consider 'The Natures of Beginning and the Infinite'
1 This series of five blogs on the Cosmological Argument was born out of a forum discussion which can be found at , and these blogs are an example of one purpose of The Galilean Library: Providing an area for further development of the thoughts stimulated by the information and challenging interactions that come of participation in the discussion forum.
2 Smith, Quentin, “Stephen Hawking's Cosmology and Theism”, Analysis, Volume 54, No. 4, pp. 236-243; also available at http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/quentin_smith/hawking.html .