Cosmological Argument – an introduction CA1(i)

Why is there something rather than nothing?

If you think about this question for a few moments, you might begin to realise it is a pretty deep question.

Why is there something rather than nothing?

Why is there anything in existence at all?

Why do I exist rather than not exist?

Why is the world here?  Why is anything here?

It is questions like these that have driven what we know as the Cosmological Argument.

At its  most basic, the Cosmological Argument is arguing that there has to be an explanation for all of this; it can’t just exist, there has to be a reason why there isn’t nothing.

There are many forms of the Cosmological Argument from Aristotle and the ancient Greeks all the way through to modern day versions such as from William Lane Craig.

Our focus is on the Thomist Cosmological Argument, the argument of the 11th century theologian and philosopher, St. Thomas Aquinas, one of the most influential of all Christian thinkers.

St. Thomas Aquinas by Carlo Crivelli

But before we study his version of the Cosmological Argument, it is worth noting some key characteristics of all Cosmological Arguments.

  1. it is an a posteriori argument – this is a Latin term that means ‘from experience’, hence the word ‘post’ meaning ‘after’, just as 3pm meaning 3 hours post-meridian means three hours after midday.  This means that argument is based on observations of the world around us, it is built on evidence and experience.
  2. it rejects the idea of infinite regress.  This is the idea that if everything has a cause, then this sequence of causes can be followed back infinitely.  The Cosmological Argument rejects this saying there must be a start, a beginning to explain why we are here.
  3. it is an inductive argument.  As we have seen with the argument from religious experience, an inductive argument is one where the premises support the conclusion.  The Cosmological Argument claims that what we observe around us supports the claim that there is an ultimate explanation, God.  However, like all inductive arguments, it cannot prove this.  Your job as a philosopher is to judge how strong, how persuasive the argument is.