a) Explain the strengths and weaknesses of Aquinas’ cosmological arguments. The cosmological argument is an a posteriori argument based on the question of the relation of the universe’s existence and God’s existence. This argument focuses on the theory that if the universe exists then something must have caused it to existence, ie. A God or Creator. Supporters of this argument claim that to fully comprehend the existence of the universe, one must rely on a theory of a God however critics would say that due to the inability to prove God’s existence means that the universe cannot be fully explained.
Many who don’t support the cosmological believe there doesn’t necessarily need to be an explanation for the universe’s existence as it simply exists. Some strengths of the cosmological argument is that it gives an explanation and reason for the universe as oppose to thinking everything just exists because it does. People may find comfort in the cosmological argument and believing that a God created the universe as it gives the impression that everything in the universe has a specific purpose instead of just being random.
Another strength is due to the argument being an a posteriori argument and it being from everyday experience of the universe. In other words, our experience of the universe aids our understanding that certain aspects of the universe have specific purposes and exist for specific reasons which gives strong support for this argument. The fact that the argument also helps develop an understanding of popular questions helps it to be a strong theory. A question such as ‘Why is there a universe? can be answered with the cosmological argument as believing that God created the universe provides an answer. The ideas on cause and effect, motion and change and contingency are clear and easy to follow making it comprehendible and easy to support. For many people, the idea that God is the cause of the universe is straightforward and no more explanation is required. Aquinas put forward three questions to answer the inquires about God’s existence whilst forming the cosmological argument.
There were five proofs which he came up with but his three ways are commonly used as the cosmological argument for the existence of God. The first way is motion, the second is causation and the third way is the idea that God as a necessary being. The first way which Aquinas provided was very focused on the fact that the universe constantly changes and experiences motion which he went on the relate to the change being caused by an original Creator or God. He believed that we can observe that things in the world are always in motion or changing and is changing from a potential state to an actual state.
A chain of events causes things to change from one state to another through the process of motion but the chain of movers cannot continue the process of change and motion forever as then there would be no first mover (I. e. God) and then there would be no other movers. Aquinas emphasised that the first mover was not put into motion by anyone else and is essentially God. This makes the cosmological argument a strong argument to support as helps explain the reason why the universe is constantly changing. Aquinas produced the second way of causation also known as the First Cause Argument.
This argument concentrated on the fact that cause and effect existed in the world. Aquinas stressed that all events that happened had a cause and must either be infinite or have its starting point in a first cause. Aquinas couldn’t believe in an endless chain of causes and effects and therefore assumed there had to be some first cause, which was God. Aquinas continued this argument to say that nothing can be a cause of itself. This is a large strength of Aquinas’ cosmological argument as things cannot simply bring themselves into existence so the explanation of a first cause is extremely logical.
Aquinas theory of a first cause gives way for God being called the first uncaused cause as he came to existence unlike anything else. The third way of Aquinas’ cosmological argument is about the idea that God is a necessary being. This argument states that because everything in the universe is contingent and dependant on something else for its existence, the universes explanation leads back to something non-contingent. Everything in the universe is dependant on something else which means that once there was a time when nothing existed. This means that the being which created the niverse must have been external to it and also must be a necessary being, aka, must have always existed. Aquinas continued to argue that this necessary being is God and that if God didn’t exist, nothing else would. This logically explains the existence of the universe without it being contradictory of God’s existence, making the argument strong. However, Aquinas’ cosmological argument did receive some criticisms from David Hume. Hume put forward several responses to the cosmological idea, provided an alternative argument to Aquinas’ beliefs.
Hume believed that the idea of the necessary being was incoherent and illogical. Also, he questioned the relation between causes and effects and that every event has a cause. His response to this is that the argument provided no proof for events having causes and as humans, we never actually experience causation therefore providing an argument against the first and second way which Aquinas produced. Hume also criticised the idea of the first cause as he implied it was too confusing to follow.
The word ‘cause’ itself creates confusion as the first cause doesn’t have anything to do with the actual cause which we understand. There is a contradiction as the world ‘cause’ implies a finite thing whereas a God would be infinite. Hume pointed out that calling God a cause made him seem like he belonged with all the other finite beings. Another one of Hume’s arguments against Aquinas’ idea of a first cause was his criticism that there is no proof saying there should be only one first cause or that that first cause was the Christian God.
The ‘uncaused cause’ that Aquinas described is a largely different character to the Christian God and Aquinas doesn’t specify of any qualities which God is supposed to behold. Hume labelled this idea illogical as the God Aquinas described was a being out of touch and indifferent to the universe he apparently caused. Hume questioned the necessity of claiming the whole universe has a cause just because it can be explained by a chain of causes. Hume argued that you cannot claim the universe has a cause just because all things in the universe supposedly has a cause.
He also claimed that since the universe is beyond our experience, how can we know that the universe has a first cause? Aquinas believed that the universe could not have just come into existence yet Hume’s argument implied that there is nothing saying that this is not correct and now science can efficiently explain that the universe may have just come into existence randomly. This argument successfully defeats Aquinas’ view about a first cause causing the universe to exist.
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