Refutation of the Argument from First Cause

(1/3) This is a criticism of the argument from First Cause, which is intended to prove the existence of God. For quite some time, I considered this argument to be a valid proof for the existence of an abstract, first-cause. But upon reflection, it ultimately fails.
I will be criticizing a steelmanned form of the 3rd argument in the Quinque Viae, as it appears in Aquinas’s Summa Theologica. The first two are weaker forms, which ultimately rely on the outdated Aristotelian system of physics. Now I will examine the argument point by point.

>Every being is contingent on some state of affairs. A being that is “necessary” is a being that exists in all possible universes, and is itself contingent on the possibility of the universe it is in. Suppose that “x being contingent on y” means nothing more than that “if y is true, x exists”.

There is really no reason at all to accept this premise. Why should we take it for granted that every possibly existing “thing” satisfies this relationship? There could exist a being that is both unnecessary and uncaused, i.e., a being which does not logically follow from the possibility of the universe, nor is it dependent on some other existing state of affairs, and yet exists (this is Bertrand Russell’s objection). There’s no reason to suppose that the universe is algorithmic in this sense.

The notion of “cause” or “contingency” as an abstract, metaphysical notion appears to me to be fundamentally ill-founded. All examples given of “cause” are purely physical processes, and it is quite fallacious to state scientific truths as though they were metaphysical truths. I don’t believe this premise can be saved by making small tweaks.

>There must therefore exist either an infinite regress of contingent beings, OR a necessary first cause

This step logically follows

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  1. 2 months ago
    Anonymous

    >Therefore, there must either be an infinite regress of beings dependent on other states of affairs, which are themselves contingent, OR there must be a necessary being on which all things are contingent

    This step does logically follow from its premise

    An infinite regress is impossible.

    The most common response to this premise (and to this argument in general) is that infinite regress IS possible. However, I actually agree with the theists on this proposition (which is what led me to accept this argument in the first place). Given the premise, if the infinite regress exists, the regress itself must be either contingent or necessary. If it is contingent, then this leads to another regress, which again must be necessary or contingent. In order for its existence to be justified without a first cause, there must be a regress which is itself necessary, but has all contingent parts. This cannot be, because if each being x in the regress is contingent, then there exists a world in which x does not exist, and there must therefore be a world in which no contingent beings within the regress exist at all. In such a world, since there exist no parts of the regress, the regress cannot exist, and therefore it is contingent. So this step is fully justified by its premise.

    Therefore a necessary first cause exists

    This step does necessarily follow, but I would like to point two rather objectionable consequences of this argument.

  2. 2 months ago
    Anonymous

    The first is that if x implies y implies z, then x implies z. It follows from this that if God is necessary, and all things are contingent on him, then all things are necessary, for God would have caused them to exist in all possible worlds. This has the effect of nullifying the idea of “contingency”, and has some interesting implications. I am not an Eleatic, so I will affirm as my premise that time and space do truly exist, and that some things exist in one place but not in another. If all things are necessary, and yet still vary across space and time, then this would mean that y implies x here, and yet does not imply x there. This is not an impossibility, but it does imply a sort of “modal æther theory”, in which not all points in space/time are metaphysically indistinguishable, but have logical properties exclusive to them.

    Most theists avert this by claiming God to have free will, so that things caused by him are not themselves necessary. But this is a rather cheeky way of contradicting our first premise, by introducing beings that are not necessary, and simultaneously not contingent on the first cause

    The second consequence: Gödel’s incompleteness theorem states that a given foundational system of mathematics, there will always exist at least one statement which is true, and yet unprovable within the system. I mention this because the entire system of “existence” provided by this principle of sufficient reason seems to function like a sort of mathematical theory; The membership within a universe can be an undefined relation, as is “∈” in set theory. The concepts of contingency can be considered as rules of inference, as in logic. The “possibility of the universe”, on which necessary beings are contingent, can be considered as axioms of the system. A being can be “proven” to exist if you apply sufficient transformations to the initial state of affairs.

    • 2 months ago
      Anonymous

      >But this is a rather cheeky way of contradicting our first premise, by introducing beings that are not necessary, and simultaneously not contingent on the first cause
      What beings would those be Anon? You have reversed these properties. That God is necessary means His existence is contingent on nothing, and that everything is contingent means God is necessary to its existence, yet you have made it that God is contingent on His creation's existence which is now prior to Him. That it is contingent means it could not exist without God, not that it must exist with God; the argument proves the necessity of God's existence, not His actions in time.

      • 2 months ago
        Anonymous

        I never made the point that God was contingent on anything except the possibility of the universe.

        suppose god has free will to create x. x is dependent entirely on God's choice, which is not itself necessary (else it would not be free will), neither is it contingent on anything else. How does this not contradict the first premise of the argument, that all things must be either necessary or contingent?

        You do not know what the word "metaphysical" means, apparently, and think it refers to something immaterial and non-physical

        do you have an argument?

        • 2 months ago
          Anonymous

          This is only problem if you consider things like “lordship” or “ruler” or “creator” as essential attributes of God. I would argue they are NOT. If God is essentially “lord” or “creator”, then God needs the universe (so God is dependent in some sense of the existence of the universe), for you cannot be a creator without a creation, just like you cannot be a mother without a child, the child is the condition that causes a woman to become “mother”, but this is not an essential attribute of woman, and she can exist in the absence of said child. Likewise, God is beyond all attributes. God is absolute, not relative. The cosmos is “really” related to God in that the cosmos has no inherent existence of its own and “borrows” it from God, but God is *not* really related to the cosmos, because nothing has been produced. From God’s pov, the cosmos is just like a dream and has no separate or distinct reality apart from God

    • 2 months ago
      Anonymous

      You are, of course, correct in saying that there could be an unnecessary, uncaused being from the possibility of the Universe. However, that merely expands our scope. When we say that something is unnecessary, that means it could've been otherwise. Therefore, you're saying that this being did not have to exist. However, how do you determine this? There is some basis according to which you conclude that this is possible or otherwise. Your objection clears the way for the Universe, but not for your hypothetical, unnecessary being. What is the origin of the potential?

      >The notion of “cause” or “contingency” as an abstract, metaphysical notion appears to me to be fundamentally ill-founded. All examples given of “cause” are purely physical processes, and it is quite fallacious to state scientific truths as though they were metaphysical truths.
      Granted. But, OP, can we not say that physical processes are merely the way in which underlying metaphysics actualises? You are assuming that observed processes can tell us nothing about underlying systems.

      Yes, it does lead us to essentially either accepting or rejecting the Copernican principle. One can, however, reply by saying that this is the only world, at least for now, and allow both the possibility and save the Copernican principle.

      I do not have enough background in metamathematics to elaborate on other properties of this system, nor can I do so completely, as those who use this argument do not claim to know all of the “axioms” of reality. But they do presuppose that such axioms exist, thus making it subject to Gödel’s theorem, appearing here to imply that there exists at least one being or state of affairs “x” which exists but cannot be “proven”, and to prove here means to make it contingent on another being. It appears that the first premise of the argument is contradicted by the mathematical nature of the system itself!

      All in all, I believe that this argument has thoroughly fallen flat due to the consequences of its premise, a weaker form of the principle of sufficient reason. When reading Aquinas’s five proofs for the existence of God, this one appears to be the strongest because it is not at all physical; one does not need to accept any pre-modern concepts of motion, efficient cause, maxima, or design in order to accept it. Unfortunately, a philosopher cannot abstract physical concepts and pretend as though he has discovered something metaphysical, and this is an example of the disastrous implications of doing such.

      One can reject the notion that reality can be fully reduced to mathematics.

      I'll not even waste time reading. The only way to prove God is through experience. If you don't do what is needed to experience God, then you'll not be able to prove His existence.

      Various famous personalities did this, Jesus among them. and they proved God for themselves. They cannot prove God to you because they cannot experience God for you. You have to experience It for yourself.

      How to experience God? There are ways. I'll not tell you any of them because if you're really interested and if you're not just another disbeliever wasting peoples times, you will find out. Seek and you will find.

      >b-but muh logic
      If logic is all you can achieve, how will you be able to go beyond it? I don't know if you know, but God is not limited by logic or anything else.

      Whilst "your metaphysics is in error" makes sense for one's own standpoint, it's useless in a debate.

  3. 2 months ago
    Anonymous

    I do not have enough background in metamathematics to elaborate on other properties of this system, nor can I do so completely, as those who use this argument do not claim to know all of the “axioms” of reality. But they do presuppose that such axioms exist, thus making it subject to Gödel’s theorem, appearing here to imply that there exists at least one being or state of affairs “x” which exists but cannot be “proven”, and to prove here means to make it contingent on another being. It appears that the first premise of the argument is contradicted by the mathematical nature of the system itself!

    All in all, I believe that this argument has thoroughly fallen flat due to the consequences of its premise, a weaker form of the principle of sufficient reason. When reading Aquinas’s five proofs for the existence of God, this one appears to be the strongest because it is not at all physical; one does not need to accept any pre-modern concepts of motion, efficient cause, maxima, or design in order to accept it. Unfortunately, a philosopher cannot abstract physical concepts and pretend as though he has discovered something metaphysical, and this is an example of the disastrous implications of doing such.

    • 2 months ago
      Anonymous

      You do not know what the word "metaphysical" means, apparently, and think it refers to something immaterial and non-physical

    • 2 months ago
      Anonymous

      >I do not have enough background in metamathematics to elaborate
      i do and i say that you're wrong

      • 2 months ago
        Anonymous

        No argument?

  4. 2 months ago
    Anonymous

    The Quinque Viae can be summed up as:

    >There must have been something before the universe existed that set everything in motion, therefore that thing is the christian God.

    This is the extent of the genius of christianity's greatest mind.

    • 2 months ago
      Anonymous

      It's almost like the Five Ways are but the first step in a longer series of argumentation demonstrating the truth of Christianity

      • 2 months ago
        Anonymous

        Christianity isn't true, it's a lie just like all religions

        • 2 months ago
          Anonymous

          You were crying when you typed this, weren't you

          • 2 months ago
            Anonymous

            No I wasn't. Anyway, all religions are obviously lies.

            Why don't you believe in the Greek gods like Zeus and Hermes? There's as much evidence for them as there is for the Christian God: no evidence at all.

          • 2 months ago
            Anonymous

            Greek mythology is metaphysically incoherent. The historic evidence for Christ's resurrection is quite strong as well.

          • 2 months ago
            Anonymous

            >historic evidence for Christ's resurrection
            "Some guys wrote about it, so it must be true."
            That logic doesn't follow. Also why not believe in Islam or Hinduism or Judaism if you're going to believe holy texts without questioning them?

          • 2 months ago
            Anonymous

            It was an exceedingly fortuitous concatenation of events that was close to impossible that facilitate the rise and spread of Christianity; it could have only been Providential. Given the Pauline Epistles as well as no convincing evidence that the Synoptic Gospels were lucubrated posterior to the destruction of the Second Temple, it is readily apparent that Jesus Christ believed himself to have been identical to the figure of the Wisdom of God from the Wisdom literature, described as the force that interacted with the Hebrews across the events of the Pentateuch and was God's helpmeet through which He created the world; given the following that accrued in Judea at the time, it is clear that he was a most intelligent and lucid man. It thus makes it most strange that such a perceptive and otherwise sane man would come to such an outlandish belief; it is most strange furthermore that so many people would come to believe that he had risen from the death, a theological claim with no precedence in the Hebrew tradition. And most seredipitously, the man who contributed most to the spread of Christianity turned out to be a man who fanatically persecuted the sect until a miraculous occurance convinced him of its truth. The likelihood of all that occurring is quite slim.

          • 2 months ago
            Anonymous

            Miracles are a myth, just like God is a myth. I've never seen miracles or God.

  5. 2 months ago
    Anonymous

    I'll not even waste time reading. The only way to prove God is through experience. If you don't do what is needed to experience God, then you'll not be able to prove His existence.

    Various famous personalities did this, Jesus among them. and they proved God for themselves. They cannot prove God to you because they cannot experience God for you. You have to experience It for yourself.

    How to experience God? There are ways. I'll not tell you any of them because if you're really interested and if you're not just another disbeliever wasting peoples times, you will find out. Seek and you will find.

    >b-but muh logic
    If logic is all you can achieve, how will you be able to go beyond it? I don't know if you know, but God is not limited by logic or anything else.

  6. 2 months ago
    Anonymous

    >There could exist
    wrong.
    checkmate

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