Monday, December 8, 2008

Evil and the cosmological argument

Here is a valid non-deductive argument:

  1. There are some evils whose best explanation involves an evil supernatural agent. (Premise)
  2. Therefore, there is an evil supernatural agent, call him S. (By (1), ampliatively)
  3. If there is a necessarily existing first cause of everything else, it is not an evil agent. (Premise)
  4. There is a necessarily existing first cause of everything else. (Premise)
  5. S is not the necessarily existing first cause of everything else. (By (2) and (3))
  6. There is a necessarily existing first cause of everything who is a cause of S. (By (4) and (5))
  7. The cause of a supernatural being is supernatural. (Premise)
  8. There is a necessarily existing supernatural first cause of everything. (By (6) and (7))
The really controversial premises are (1), which by itself is sufficient to refute naturalism, (3), which I've argued for in this post, and (4), which requires a cosmological argument, which I've defended at length in print.

I bet there are other interesting theistic arguments starting with (2). One might, for instance, be able to argue that an evil agent cannot be simple and unchangeable, and an agent who is not simple and unchangeable must have a cause, and go on from there.


Heath White said...

I do not see how (6) follows from (4) and (5). Why cannot S be necessarily existing himself? That is, how have we ruled out Manichaeanism here?

Alexander R Pruss said...

6 follows from 4 and 5 as follows. Let x be the necessarily existing cause of everything else (by 4). If x is not the cause of S, then x=S. But x is not S by 5. Hence, x is the cause of S.

I think you're trying to see more in the argument than is there. It's a very modest argument, establishing very little. If S is necessarily existing, still by 4 and 5 he needs a cause. If you think necessarily existing beings can't have causes, then 4 and 5 yield the claim that S is not necessarily.

Tom said...

How do you get from (1) to (2), or does (2) just come from the meaning of "best" in (1)?

Alexander R Pruss said...


It's reasonable to believe the best explanation.

The argument is non-deductive.

David said...

What happens if S didn't have the property of being supernatural when the first cause created him, but acquired this property later? I think you need to add either that S is essentially supernatural or that only a supernatural being can cause another being to become supernatural.