Also known as argument from universal causation and argument from first cause, with three varying but related approaches. The key element of the argument centers around causality and ends with a conclusion of a first cause – or unmoved mover(s) or prime mover(s) – which equate to a God or gods that were the initial cause, or mover or force that created our existence and universe.
The Argument from First Cause not only establishes, philosophically and rationally, the existence of a God or gods, but sets the foundation for all right reasoned first principles. Other arguments that add to the philosophical proof for the existence of a God or gods include teleological argument -aslo know as argument from design – and argument from reason.
The philosopher Rene Descartes expanded upon concepts of dualism first articulated by Plato and Aristotle. Descartes’ famous saying epitomizes the dualism concept. He said, “cogito ergo sum,” “I reflect therefore I am.” Descartes held that the immaterial mind and the material body are two completely different types of substances and that they interact with each other. He reasoned that the body could be divided up by removing a leg or arm, but the mind or soul were indivisible.
Aquinas’ Cosmological Argument
The great Christian thinker, philosopher, and theologian St. Thomas Aquinas summarized his cosmological argument in the Summa Theologia. In this theological masterpiece, St. Thomas writes five “ways” that we can know God exists. His first three ways deal with the cosmological argument:
- St. Aquinas argues that there are things in the world in motion (this simply means that things are changing) and that whatever is in motion must have been put in motion by another thing in motion. Aquinas holds that, “whatever is in motion must be put in motion by another,” and that, “this cannot go on to infinity, because then there would be no first mover.” Hence St. Thomas argues that in order to eliminate the infinite chain of motions, there must be a first mover and source of all motion, God.
- The second way is very similar to the first. It argues that” 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.” By this, he means that anything, circumstance or event cannot change itself, but can only change something else (concept of efficient cause). Since there is a string of causes in which the string cannot be infinite (see premise #1), then all causes must attribute themselves to a first cause: God.
- The third way also argues using the notion of a chain of causes. St. Thomas notes that things in our world owe their existence to something else in the world. Aquinas calls this the way of “possibility and necessity,” meaning that all things made possible, necessarily attribute their existence to some pre-existing thing. Only God can be the source of all things since he is a being having its own necessity and does not need a pre-existing thing to cause him to exist. All things existing can trace themselves in a chain back to God.
A second shorter version of the cosmological argument can be formulated as:
- Every being (that exists or ever did exist) is either a dependent being or a self-existent being.
- Not every being can be a dependent being.
- So there exists a self-existent being.
Finally, a third rendition of the cosmological argument:
1. The existence of something is intelligible only if it has an explanation.
2. The existence of the universe is thus either:
a. unintelligible or
b. has an explanation
3. No rational person should accept premise (2a) by definition of rationality
4. A rational person should accept (2b), that the universe has some explanation for its being.
5. There are only three kinds of explanations:
a. Scientific: physical conditions plus relevant laws yield the Event explained.
b. Personal: Explanations that cite the desires, beliefs, powers and intentions of some personal agent.
c. Essential: The essence of the thing to be explained necessitates its existence or qualities (for example, if you ask why a triangle has 3 sides, I would respond that it is the essence and necessity for a triangle to have 3 sides by its definition.
6. The explanation for the existence of the whole universe can’t be scientific because there can’t be initial physical conditions and laws independent of what is to be explained. Even the Big Bang theory fails to explain the existence of the universe because modern science cannot explain where the original Big Bang singularity came from. The universe as a sum total of all natural conditions and laws cannot be explained unless we have an Archimedean reference point outside the system.
7. The explanation for the existence of the universe can’t be essential because the universe cannot exist necessarily. This is because it could have been possible for the universe not to have existed (if the Big Bang had been slightly different it is possible for large-scale structures to not have existed). Thus the universe is not something the must necessarily or essentially exists.
8. Thus a rational person should believe that the universe has a personal explanation.
9. No personal agent but God could create the entire universe.
10. A rational person should believe that there is a God.