Aquinas Cosmological Arguments about the Existence of God
Thomas Aquinas, a medieval European theologian formed his arguments about the existence of God based on the earlier works of Aristotle and Avicenna in which case he made use of five ways to explain the existence of God. He used motion, causation, goodness, design and contingency in explaining the existence of God. The argument from motion and that of causation are referred to as cosmological arguments since they are based on the study of the cosmos. In fact, they are as a result of study carried out on the physical universe and are based on observation of the nature and use of logic as opposed to faith (Nicholas, 2003, pp. 98).
In the argument from motion, Aquinas tries to explain God’s existence in the context of motion. In this regard, he argues that almost everything in the world has a motion and that this motion results from the action of something or someone else. In this regard, he argues that nothing can be moved unless it has the movement potential within it. In essence, for a thing to move something else, that something must be in existence and in this context, the act of moving something means actualizing the potential within it. In essence, it is right according to this argument to say that something can only be moved by something or somebody who is already actualized. He goes further to argue that something cannot be both the mover and the moved at the same time thus there must be the existence of the prime mover and in this regard, Aquinas calls this prime mover God.
Despite the fact that the argument from motion is the most modest and the most cited one, for the purpose of the discussion, the paper will adopt the argument of causality.
As stated earlier, it was Aristotle who first put forth the argument of the first cause later to be adapted by Aquinas. In this regard, Aristotle named the first cause as the unmoved mover or the prime mover and this prime mover is what Aquinas later sought to elaborate to be God. The work of Aristotle which acts as the foundation for the cosmological arguments placed by Aquinas were largely based on metaphysics in an effort to prove that the universe was and will always be in existence. According to this great philosopher, the cosmos was organized in a manner that it became an object of aspiration as opposed to being organized physically and that the prime mover presented a process of pure thought.
Later Aquinas adopted the works of Aristotle to show that the first cause was the major idea behind the cause of the universe in the sense that the universe must have been caused by something which had to be uncaused and this he asserted was God. In general, the argument starts with the notion that for every contingent and finite being, there is a cause. Secondly, the argument asserts that these two kinds of being can never cause themselves thus there was a cause behind them. The argument further argues the causal chain formed around the existence of any finite and contingent beings can never be of infinite length which brings the entire process of argument to assert that there must be a first cause in existence and this first cause is therefore not an effect. Finally, the argument further asserts that the first mover is the cause behind the creation of the universe and this is the very explanation of the existence of the universe (Nicholas, 2003, pp. 99).
In the universe, there exists an order of efficient causes with no known thing being an efficient cause of itself. In this order of efficient causes, there is an impossibility of infinity length owning to the fact that the cause are arranged in an order with the first being the intermediate cause of another and this intermediate cause forms the ultimate cause. In this regard, the intermediate cause can be seen as composed of several causes or just one cause. If in this context, if the cause is taken away, by extension the effect is also eliminated. Still, the absence of a first cause will imply that there will not be an intermediate cause neither will there be an ultimate cause thus by extension we will not have an order of efficient causes. On the other hand, if it is possible to go for an infinity length in regard to efficient causes, there will be an absence of a first efficient cause and by extension, the absence of an ultimate cause or effect. Further, this there will be no intermediate efficient causes and all this is explained by Aquinas as being a fallacy (Mackie, 2000, pp. 83)
The argument from causation sees God as the ultimate cause of all other causes. In this regard, if one could be seen as the cause behind the construction of a building, then a question as to the cause of the existence of that person arises. According to the argument of causation, this cause is the uncaused cause or what everyone terms as God or the unmoved mover.
The argument from causation or the big bang argument as it is referred in the modern times has had many criticism or objection from a variety of scholars in many fields. The idea that the universe has always been in existence poses a further argument that time has always be there and if this is so, then the efficient causes can be seen as having an infinite length as opposed to a finite one. It can be argued that the universe is itself infinite in both time and space and that the only finite form of the universe being the current one. On the other extreme, any finite portions of the so called the infinite universe are currently in evolution thus the finite aspect of the universe. This atheist argument of the infinite universe does not actually helps in resolving the problem of the uncaused cause but further complicate the matter by presenting the universe as uncaused.
The proposition that the universe is eternal implies that it has no cause from the fact that anything that has always being in existence cannot have been as a result of another cause thus posing the problem of the uncaused cause again and giving a contradiction on the side of atheist. On the other hand, it is beyond logic to show that everything in the universe is a result of a certain cause keeping in mind mechanical aspects of the universe as explained by the laws of nature. In this context, the notion of infinity and finite causes a big problem not only in the field of philosophy but also to other fields. In dealing with this, Aquinas sought to avoid this problem by the cause of existence of the universe was external and this cause must be greater than the creation of the universe itself and cannot be subjected to the limitations observed from the universe. In other words, the external cause is an uncaused cause (Nicholas, 2003, pp. 112).
Still, it is worth acknowledging the aspect of time in the existence of the universe since absence of the universe would also mean that there is no time. In this context, it would be right to argue that the universe has existed at each and every point in time. This is very close to the notion of eternity or infinity. Applying the concept of beginning as it is usually used will then create a non perceived difficulty because such a notion will assume that there was the past or simply “time before” the beginning in which the universe was non-existence. The dilemma is that at the very beginning of the universe, there was no time (Mackie, 2000, pp. 78).
Another objection to the argument can be developed around the notion of God being the uncaused cause. According to this argument, it would not be wrong to argue that there must be a cause behind the existence of God since everything has a cause. This would then lead to a regress of the infinite. If then the argument placed by most of the believers and proponents of this argument that God does not require a cause was to be taken as true, then the same could be applied for the universe. In this case, the universe would not require a cause for it to be in existence. The bigger question raised by the argument that God does not require a cause is why does God or the first cause for that matter an exemption of the causality chain?
Though the proponents of this argument have argued that the first premise stated that an entity needs a cause only if it has a beginning and thus God needs no cause owing to the fact that he had no beginning, they have never taken the initiative of expounding on the concept of ‘beginning’ and why God has no beginning. In other words, they have never explained why God ‘just is’ and why the universe cannot ‘just be’. They offer no explanation as to why God must be eternal and why the universe cannot be analyzed as eternal.
Another objection to this argument is the probability of existence of the first cause does not necessarily prove that God exists. The argument here is that though the first cause has is the cause behind all the efficient causes, it does not warrant to be labeled God and consequently can be seen as unworthy of worshipping or revering in the sense that it does not poses all the qualities associated with God (Nicholas, 2003, pp. 108).
In addition to the above, it can be argued that the causality premises results from the process of inductive reasoning which itself is dependent on experience. On the other hand, casual relations based on this process of reasoning are highly untrue when we apply the process of deductive reasoning. In this context, the mere application of causality in a world that is known does not imply that it can apply to the whole universe thus the application of causality in an effort to draw conclusions that are beyond experience is totally unwise.
Moreover, it is only in the context of time that the rules of causality make sense and since there is ignorance of the concept of time while explaining the existence of the first cause, then it can be argued that any discussion about the origin of time in this context lacks sense. Furthermore, when time is excluded from the picture, the concepts of cause and effect cease to apply despite their undisputable importance in any cosmological argument (Nicholas, 2003, pp. 110).
As the argument runs, the uncaused cause or the first cause can be seen as being absolutely infinite. In essence, reality can be seen as being this and not that and consequently, the state of all finite things is contingent, need further explanations and dependent on other causes. The fact that the first cause does not depend on anything else or through the argument that it does not require anything to explain it and then it cannot be finite in any way. Such an explanation further implies that the unchanged cause is changeless. In other words that it is impossible to change the first cause from what is not to what it should be. In this context, to be nothing involves an aspect of finite or non-being or even a limitation. Furthermore, a changeless reality is beyond the aspect of time since the process of change is what represents time thus the word eternity means timeless (Michio, 1995, pp. 89).
Still, Aquinas proposition that God can be seen as an infinite or an eternal first cause presents another implication of the argument. In essence, there can only be one uncaused cause and neither can there be two realities that are absolutely infinite. If this were so, each of the two realities would not be the same as the other thus would be limited. On the other hand, the first cause must always be seen as totally simple because any other view would create a notion of internal limits that further creates a difficulty in differentiating an aspect from the other.
All the above leave us with an incomprehensible uncaused cause characterized by infinity, eternity, simplicity and immutability besides unity. All this forms a collection of negative ideas including no change, no limit, no time among others. In essence, these are not the real descriptions of the uncaused cause but on the contrary, admissions of the fact that the uncaused cause is beyond the comprehension of a human mind (Mackie, 2000, pp. 82).
In conclusion, we can say the causation argument though not totally disprovable proves the existence of a philosophical God or an uncaused cause that is totally absolute and incomprehensible. It also represents the uncaused cause or simply the God of many philosophical theologians who argues that the existence of God can be proved as a reasonable option for any given reflective and intelligent individual. The intelligent reflection as used in the argument however proves to be very abstract in that it lacks empirical backing and distant. Instead of solving a mystery, it further complicates the mystery for any human mind to ponder owing to the fact that humans set themselves on the infinite path while seeking through intelligence the ultimate cause in their lives and all other related answers (Michio, 1995, pp. 86).
Michio K. 1995, Hyperspace: A scientific Odyssey through Parallel Universes, Time Warps and the Tenth Dimension. Oxford University Press, New York. pp. 86, 89
Nicholas E. 2003, The Non-Existence of God. Routledge, London. pp. 98, 99, 108, 110, 112,
Mackie J. 2000, The Miracle of Theism: Arguments for and against the Existence of God. Clarendon Press, New York. pp. 78, 82, 83