January 2011 Exam Question With Answer

Jan 2011

(b) (i) Examine three of the following in relation to the cosmological argument for the existence of God. [21]

  • Unmoved mover
  • Uncaused cause
  • Necessary being
  • Kalaam argument

The cosmological argument is the argument from cause; that everything that exists has been caused by something; the universe exists, therefore the universe too must have a cause; that cause is God. The whole argument rests on a rejection of the idea of infinite regress: the idea that there can be an infinite chain of causes and effects with no beginning or end.

One of the key proponents of this argument is Aquinas who formulated his Five Ways three of which are pertinent to this particular argument.

He posited in Way 1 that everything in the universe is in motion and that since nothing moves itself therefore it has to have been set in motion by something outside of itself. If you go back far enough he suggested, there has to have been a first mover, one thing which itself was not set in motion by anything outside of itself and from whom all things derive their motion. As he said ‘Now whatever is moved is moved by another… but this cannot go on to infinity… therefore it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, moved by no other; and this everyone understands to be God.’

He went on to explain that there was a potentiality and an actuality e.g. for the wood to burn there needs to be something which precipitates that change in state and ultimately he regarded that initiator as God. Even proponents of the Big Bang Theory are at a loss as yet to explain what caused it!

Aquinas’ 2nd Way goes on to express his view that as there cannot be an infinite chain of causes and effects there must be a First Cause and again this is what we call God. The important thing is that there has to be something outside the whole process which is not itself caused by anything else. This Aquinas calls a Necessary Being as opposed to beings like us i.e. contingent beings, dependent for our existence on something outside our control. This being is necessary to cause in all other things their existence. Which he expands upon in his 3rd Way: the way from Possibility and Necessity.

As John Hick expressed it ‘if everything can not-be then at one time there was nothing in existence… it would have been impossible for anything to have begun to exist and thus even now nothing would be in existence… therefore … ‘ he concluded there must be something which changed this situation; something whose existence is necessary; if there was no Necessary Being then there would be nothing here! As Copleston put it such a being is one which must and cannot not exist!

In summary what Aquinas was pointing out was the observation that the world is part of a process; there is a clear sequence of development and change but the point is that it needs explanation and this is what the cosmological argument does.

Opponents have pointed out that the third law of thermodynamics states that everything eventually falls into chaos or decay this is called the principle of entropy. And according to Newton’s first law of motion objects will either continue at rest or in motion until affected by something but that there is no explanation for what he calls ‘ultimate motion.’ In addition it is now known that down at the smallest level of creation [the atomic level] there are indeed particles which move or stop for no, as yet, known reason. Maybe our understanding of causes and effects is as Hume said, incomplete.

(ii) Comment on the view that the cosmological argument is open to debate and there are no firm conclusions about its success or failure. [9]


To include Sufficient Reason; nothing can be the cause of itself; Russell why look outside the universe for supernatural explanation; 2 possible states therefore for one to pertain there must be an initiator; God exempt from the very argument which attempts to explain the ultimate cause! Fallacy of composition i.e. assumption that what is true of the parts is equally true of the whole e.g. I have a mother, you have a mother therefore the whole human race has a mother! Likewise where it may be true that some individual things within the universe have a maker, it does not necessarily follow that the whole universe has a maker….. though this argument was regarded as a failure by Hume and others it nonetheless provides an answer to the question how did we get here. We need to remember that it presupposes faith; it does not lead to it!…


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