The Cosmological Argument for the existence of God, as propounded by Thomas Aquinas, hinged on the five general principles. This, in Aquinas’ masterpiece was entitled “The Summa” (The Five Ways). In what follows, we would be critically discussing the first, second, fourth and the fifth pillars of his argument while reserving a more elaborate discussion on the third premise as it contains the composite argument of the entire thesis and because it was practically, reinforced and embodied the very paradigm of his cosmological arguments. This paper would explain the Cosmological Argument and present the opposing view to the argument with an evaluation of the argument in conclusion.
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The first one, derived from the argument of motion, stipulates that for bodies to be in motion, they have to be moved by other bodies. Since it is contended that the two states of being ‘potential’ and ‘actual’ are mutually exclusive, it is not possible for a “mover” and the “moved” to be the same, i.e. automated movement is axiomatically ruled out. The second postulate is in terms of the nature of ‘efficient causes’. This posits that, it is not possible for a thing to become an efficient cause for itself. For an efficient cause, there has to be a ‘first’ cause, proceeding an ‘intermediate’ cause. Hence, if there were no first cause, there would be no intermediate or ultimate causes. (Aquinas, 100-101) The fourth principle hinges on the gradation of different things in the world from less good to good, noble etal. Just as there are gradational conditionality in different physical properties of things, (from being in the states of hot, hotter and hottest), Aquinas, held ‘God’ to be ultimate something, which was the cause of other beings down the causal order, as the primordial embodiment of ‘goodness’ and other means of perfection. The fifth principle was based on the idea of ‘governance’ in that, Aquinas argued, just as natural bodies, bereft of knowledge, acted in terms of an underlying objective. This actually is ‘the design’, to achieve a best end, there existed some intelligent being, as the repository of all the superior knowledge and perception, referred to as God, who directed natural things, down the physical order, to move towards their respective ends.
The third postulate is ideated in terms of the twin pillars of ‘necessity’ and ‘possibility’. Aquinas premised that in nature, things are ‘possible’ to be or not to be, i.e. they are ‘contingent’ viz., they are generated, mutated/corrupted and may or may not necessarily exist. Following this principle of ‘contingency’, it may be argued that if all things can go out of existence and do not necessarily exist, and then there must be a time when all things would go out of existence. Here, Aquinas appealed to the ‘Principle of Plentitude’. This principal stated that if something was a real possibility, then allowing the passage of an infinite amount of time, it was eminently possible as per the logical conclusion.
In his refutation of the Cosmological Proof of the Existence of God, Kant had, in effect, contended that extraction of a commensurate object from a purely arbitrary idea was an unnatural procedure and an exercise in “scholastic subtlety”. The fulcrum of the cosmological proof of God’s existence rested, according to Kant, on two essential components. The first one is the advocate of the argument initially sought to establish the existence of a necessary being viz., “If something exists, then an absolutely necessary being must also exist”. (Kant, 507) The rational cosmologist then sought to infer that this necessary being is the ‘ens realissimum’ (the idea of supremely real being). According to Kant, the above automatic identification, somewhat surreptitiously introduced the (dialectical) ontological argument.
The chain of command of essential continuation itself would need a rationalization for its continuation. This conclusion states that everything could go out of existence at once, such as ‘now’, if the same was taken as a snapshot splice in the eternal flow of time. However, such a thought was empirically incongruous since we have the confirmation of existent elements which could be sensually professed. Even if someone argued that it could be because everything vanished out of existence, only to come back into existence, Aquinas contended this from the principle of ‘ex nihilo, nihil fit’. In other words, if something vanished out of existence; it could not pop back into existence. Therefore, not all things could be contingent. (Craig, 201)
The Cosmological Argument’s Third Way of Aquinas argued logically for the existence of a God, but did not emphasize on the customary benevolent perception of a ‘Judeao-Christian God’. Aquinas tried to even out this imbalance by contending that by dint of being self-explaining, necessary existence would by nature embody the attributes of nobility suggested to epitomize the very point of perfection (Fourth Point) and chart everything lower down the order according to a grand system of design (the teleological principle of the Fifth Point).
Aquinas, Thomas. The Cosmological Argument. NY: Pocket, 1995.
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Craig, William Lane; The Kalam Cosmological Argument. LA: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2000.
Kant, Emmanuel. “The Impossibility of a Cosmological proof of Existence of Good”. Chapter III. Kant’s Reason of Pure Reason. Westport: IBL, 1989, pp 507-519.