Is the cosmological argument deductive or inductive

Richard Swinburne: The Existence of God - The Cosmological Argument

Table of Contents

1 The reasoning in the text
1.1 Object of consideration: the universe
1.1.1 The problem of the uniqueness of the universe
1.1.2 The state model of the existence of the universe in time
1.1.3 Finite vs. Eternal Universe
1.2 Argumentation
1.3 Approaches to the state model
1.3.1 Laws of Nature
1.3.2 Quantities
1.3.3 The existence of the entire chain
1.4 Possible explanations for the scientifically inexplicable
1.5 Approaches to decision-making
1.5.1 Thomas Aquinas' approach
1.5.2 Leibniz's approach based on the principle of sufficient reason.
1.5.3 Swinburne's Confirmatory Approach
1.6 Extension of the argumentation to any objects

2 criticism
2.1 The inner probability of the universe
2.2 The inner 'probability of God
2.3 The concept of simplicity
2.4 The possibility of personal explanation

3 conclusion

1 The reasoning in the text

1.1 Object of consideration: the universe

Any cosmological argument is an attempt to infer its existence from the existence and / or properties of something other than God. According to Kant's definition of a cosmological argument, this can be any thing ("indefinite experience, i.e. any existence"1 ) be; Swinburne understands ‘cosmological’ more in the scientific sense of the word and restricts himself to the universe when he looks at it.2 This is characterized, among other things, by three important properties:

It is physical, "a physical object made up of physical objects all spatially related to each other but not to any other physical object"34. It is our universe: the earth is one of its physical parts; and it is complex: the physical parts mentioned are numerous and different in their properties. 5

1.1.1 The problem of the uniqueness of the universe

In order to be able to argue from the existence of the universe, one more objection has to be cleared out, namely that no statements can be made about it as the only (or at least only known) object of its class.

Swinburne first relates the objection to reality: if it were valid, all statements of the individual sciences about single things (such as those of astrophysics about the universe or anthropology about humanity) would have to be unjustified, which seems hardly plausible.5 Even if it were valid, however, the objection could easily be avoided for the universe, since for the sake of argument it could be broken down into several parts, which would then undoubtedly be objects of one and the same class.

However, this bypassing is not even necessary, since for Swinburne "uniqueness always only relative to the nature of a description"6 ) is; every object can be described as unique. Yet every object shares properties with others - the universe is no exception.

1.1.2 The state model of the existence of the universe in time

Swinburne finds a model for illustrating the historical existence of the universe in Leibniz. This describes the fictional example of a book that has existed for ages and is passed on from copy to copy in order to establish an analogous state model of an eternal universe:

Quod de libris, idem de Mundi diversis statibus verum est, sequens enim quodammodo ex praecedente (etsi certis mutandi legibus) est descriptus.7

Like Leibniz, Swinburne is not primarily concerned with the fact, nature or manner of the present existence of the universe, but with the course of its existence in time.

In the notation used, the universe is currently in the state Zi this is preceded by Z2, Z3, ..., whereby each state is of short but finite duration. The totality of the laws of nature N causes in every Zn + 1 the development to its successor state Zn.8

1.1.3 Finite vs. Eternal Universe

For a universe that has a beginning in time, there would be a very first state in the chain Zf. Swinburne finds it difficult to argue that such an initial state could have existed. For this it would have to be proven that the tracing of the effect of the laws of nature between the individual states would have to lead at some point to a point in time when the universe is in a "physically impossible [...] or [...] materialless state"9 would have found. However, a physical universe cannot assume such a state, since it must be physically possible by definition and must contain matter. The universe could necessarily have come into being after that point in time.

In Swinburne's assessment, however, the natural sciences are still a long way from providing this evidence.10 It is therefore assumed that the universe has existed for eternity, even if the assumption of a beginning would offer another starting point for the cosmological argument.

This is Swinburne's second self-limitation after that to the universe as an object of observation: He can now only argue from the existence and nature of the universe, not from its possible nature.

1.2 Argumentation

Swinburne does not choose a deductive, but an inductive, confirmatory approach, as described in the first chapter11 is described. The aim is not to show that the existence of God follows logically necessary from that of the universe, but only to prove that the assumption of the existence of the universe makes the assumption of the existence of God in the sense of a good C-inductive argument more probable.

Swinburne considers a deductive cosmological proof of God to be fundamentally impossible, since such an argument would have to show that the assumption of the existence of the universe would be totally incompatible with the assumption of the nonexistence of God. However, it is easily possible to combine both if additional assumptions are made (e.g. that all matter has existed forever, that there cannot be non-incarnate persons, etc.).12

1.3 Approaches to the state model

Since, as discussed above, the question of the explanation of the beginning of the chain of states no longer arises, three points remain at which an explanation of the universe, as it is depicted in this model, can begin: on the one hand, the natural laws N, which consist of explain one state to the next; on the other hand, the properties common to all states, which were not caused by N; third, the existence of the entire chain.

1.3.1 Laws of Nature

The transition from one state to another takes place through the action of the natural laws N. N stands for a set of either the most fundamental natural laws or an infinite series of natural laws, each individual law being explained by a more fundamental one within a series. In the latter case, such a recursion should itself be called a law of nature.

In both cases, N cannot be further explained scientifically.13 In Swinburne's terminology, the state Zn + together with N forms the final explanation for the successor state Zn.

1.3.2 Quantities

The second aspect of the consideration of the state model are the quantities: the properties common to all states, which are not a necessary consequence of the laws of nature. Swinburne gives as an example the amount of matter contained in the universe and that of energy.14

Further quantities would be, for example, the natural constants such as the electron mass, the Hubble constant, Planck's quantum of action, etc., perhaps even the number of spatial dimensions.

A quantity is characterized by the fact that it would still be compatible with the laws of nature even with another value.15

1.3.3 The existence of the entire chain

While with a finite chain of states it would have to be explained why it started (or was started), with the infinite chain the question arises why it does not exist: “Inexplicable, however, is the non-existence of a time before which there was no universe gave."16

In the text, a large space is occupied with the question of whether it is necessary to explain the existence of an infinitely long chain of causality at all. The opinion he follows here comes from Leibniz:

Itaque utcunque regressus fueris in status anteriores, nunquam in statibus rationem plenam repereris, cur scilicet aliquis sit potius Mundus, et cur talis.


1 Kant, Immanuel; Schmidt, Raymund (Ed.), Critique of Pure Reason. Leipzig, Meiner, 21930, p. 566.

2 ’A later expansion cannot be ruled out; see also section 1.6.

3 Swinburne, p. 151.

4 Swinburne also calls the properties of the physical parts of the universe "only slightly natural" (op. Cit., P. 152), although it is not clear when an object has "natural" properties for him; I suspect that for Swinburne, natural ’is a category related to simplicity; see also section 2.3. Quite apart from their more or less great naturalness, the sheer variety and shape of the objects in the universe seem to justify calling it complex.

5 see a. a. Cit., P. 152ff.

6 a. a.Q, p. 153.

7 Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm, De rerum originatione radicali. In C. J. Gerhardt (Ed.), G. W. Leibniz / Die philosophischen Schriften. Volume 7, Berlin, 1890, p.302. The English translation was used for understanding: Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm, Of the radical origination of things. In Leroy E. Loekmer (Ed.), G. W. Leibniz / Philosophical Papers and Letters. Volume 2, The University of Chicago Press, 1956, p. 790

8 Swinburne comments on this: "[I] assume [...] that this process is deterministic [...] We may neglect any slight element of indeterminism here, since nothing depends on it for the purposes of the argument." (Swinburne, p. 157) This assumption that the processes in the universe that can be explained by natural law, if perhaps not on a small scale, at least on the whole are deterministic, however, also coincides with the current worldview of the natural sciences. In physics, the uncertainty principle has even allowed a clear line to be drawn between this big picture and the nondeterministic small.

9 a. a.Q, p. 158.

10 "see. Swinburne, p. 159

11 see loc. cit., pp. 13-30

12 cf. loc. cit., p. 156f.

13 See Swinburne, p. 159 £, footnote 10

14 See a. a. Cit., P. 164. Strictly speaking, these examples are wrong, since matter can be converted into energy and vice versa. A conservation law can at most concern the sum of the amount of energy and the energy equivalent of the amounts of matter in the universe.

15 cf. loc. cit., p. 163 £

16 a. a.Q, p.163.

End of the reading sample from 17 pages