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Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz on the existence of God (cosmological argument)

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Leibniz’s proposed variant, often referred to as “by the contingency” cosmological argument, is enjoying some resurgence in popularity these days. Championed by contemporary philosophers like Alexander Pruss and Joshua Rasmussen, it is based on the distinction between the contingent and necessary beings and posits that since there is something contingent, there must be something necessary. Contrary to the cosmological argument for a first cause, it does not postulate that the universe has a beginning and is therefore intended to be applicable even in the case of an eternal universe. Van Steenberghen puts it this way:

  1. Everything that exists exists either by itself or by something else (principle of sufficient reason).
  2. Something exists.
  3. All that exist cannot exist by something else.
  4. So something exists by itself.

He argues for the validity of the third premise as follows: The proposition ‘All that exist cannot exist by something else’, is obviously contradictory, since what is affirmed as ‘all’ in the subject is denied as ‘all’ in the predicate, since one posits ‘something else’ to ‘all’.

It follows in general among most authors an argument aimed at denying that the universe can be this necessary being, that therefore it is necessary to seek it outside the universe, and finally to bring it closer to the theistic concept of God: to be personal, immaterial, timeless etc.

This argument was often criticized for its first premise: some philosophers denying the principle of sufficient reason advance the idea of ​​a universe described by Russel as “raw fact” during a debate at the BBC, because there would be no reason to to be neither in itself nor in anything else, but which simply would be, for no reason. Other philosophers, finding that the negation of the principle of sufficient reason implies too great a skepticism about the real, prefer rather to maintain that it is not demonstrated that the universe is contingent, and that thus the cosmological argument of Leibniz is not conclusive. This is the case, for example, of Hume: “Why may not the material universe be the necessarily existent Being […] ?”.

(Includes texts from Wikipedia translated and adapted by Nicolae Sfetcu)

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