Friday, June 29, 2012

An argument for a necessary being from healthy wonder

  1. (Premise) A constitutive part of wondering why p is a desire to know why p.
  2. (Premise) A healthy wonder has only healthy desires as constitutive parts.
  3. (Premise) Some people have a healthy wonder why there are contingent beings.
  4. (Premise) A desire for an impossible state of affairs is not healthy.
  5. So, some people have a healthy desire to know why there are contingent beings. (1-3)
  6. So, it is possible to know why there are contingent beings. (4 and 5)
  7. (Premise) Necessarily, if someone knows why p, then there is an explanation of why p.
  8. So, it is possible for there to be an explanation of why there are contingent beings. (6 and 7)
  9. (Premise) If there is no necessary being, there cannot be an explanation of why there are contingent beings.
  10. So, there is a necessary being. (8 and 9)


Sarraclab said...

Don't many people, especially children, healthily wonder why God exists? Does this mean it is possible for us to know why God exists? Aren't there two problems with this, one being that the existence of a necessary being isn't further explained, and second that even if there is an explanation of God's existence, it is plausibly not possibly known by us?

Alexander R Pruss said...

Interesting objection!

Perhaps necessary truths don't need explanation. It does seem odd to wonder why 1=1, and maybe that's not a case of healthy wonder.

Or perhaps there is some deep explanation of why God exists, such as that the necessary being's essence is the same as its existence.

Unknown said...

Sarraclab: I would say that it is a healthy wonder if the child is conceiving of God as a contingent being which it seems that almost everyone done naturally unless they are a genius, but the healthy wonder is satisfied once the child understands that the referent of the question is a necessary being, and that his existence is explained by the fact that his non-existence would entail a contradictory state of affairs. To ask why a necessary being exists is akin to asking why married bachelors do not exist. Both questions are asking why a state of affairs is not actual that could not possibly have been actual. Necessary truths it seems, do not need explanations even if some might have an explanation. Why is ~(P Λ ~P), not possibly true? It just seems that it cannot be otherwise.

Unknown said...

Sarraclab, I find that question fascinating, but not very useful as an objection. Lets say that God does in fact require an explanation. For one thing, how does this negate the conclusion of the argument that God does exist (or at least something like God)? And second of all, why do we need to explain the explanation in order for it to be a good explanation? More fascinating to me, however, is the question; if God has an external explanation of His existence, is He truly God? It seems to me this leads us to a choice; either not everything has an explanation, and so God doesn't need one, or everything must have an explanation and so God could never exist.

Anonymous said...

oooh, I like this argument.

Sarraclab said...

Prof. Pruss & Chad:

Perhaps (strictly) logically necessary truths don't need explanation, such as 1=1. But typically, God's necessary existence isn't understood like this. God's existence is typically understood as broadly logically necessary, or metaphysically necessary. And it seems to me that we can have healthy wonder about whether metaphysical necessities. For instance, why is the range of metaphysical possibilities narrower than the range of logical possibilities? So, my wonder about why God exists isn't negated by realizing that his non-existence is contradictory, because perhaps it's not. At any rate, I can't identify the contradiction.

In the case of God, perhaps the relation of God's essence to his existence is an explanation of his existence. But this has the problem of the explanandum being a relatum in the explanans.


My objection is as follows. Change (3) to (3'): Some people have a healthy wonder why God exists. Given (1)-(4), it follows that:

(6') It is possible to know why God exists.

Two reasons to doubt (6'): plausibly, God's existence is unexplained; and, plausibly if God's existence is explained, we cannot know the explanation. This problematizes the argument, no?