Monday, August 22, 2016

Against infinite causal regression

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The Infinite causal regress is an important issue in dealing with the cosmological argument, especially the Kalam version, and the argument form final cause. It basically means that any infinitely recurring causality for any event is impossible, since one never actually arrives at a cause. The importance of this argument applies not only to the now largely abandoned notion of an oscillating universe, but to any finite causes of space/time. This is because in light of the impossibility it means that the ultimate cause of the universe must be a final cause, that is to say, the cause behind all other causes, but itself uncaused and eternal. These are two major issues because they indicate why the ultimate cause of the universe has to be God. Since arbitrary necessities are impossible, the ultimate cause cannot be something which is itself contingent, such as an eternal singularity. The ultimate cause, or "final cause" must be God, since God is a logical necessity.

I have been discussing this argument with Eric Sotnac on another thread. It really comes down to  a standoff as he argues there is no formally logical self contradiction in an infinite series of cause since each event in the series is caused it's not something from nothing. I can't really show a formally stated reason why it is a contradiction, or logically impossible, except that it doesn't account for the origin of things. If we trace back the links (say in big bang, big crunch) toward the origin of things, we just go back eternally. We never arrive at an origin so we never have one. That is not satisfying, where did the universe come from that does not do it for me.


Moreover, I get the impression that since we never get to the origin there's no reason to assume ICR. That means It's warranted. Technically it may not be a contradiction but it's warranted as a solution either. There is a good reason not accept it, besides the fact that it doesn't deliverer the goods: It's an arbitrary necessity. By that I mean there is logical reason or even a physics reason for it to be. It's a contingency (naturalistic origin or the cosmos such as big bang) but over as a necessity (eternal necessary series of cause and effects) with not actual origin or reason for being. It's only real function is to avoid a God argument. Eric argues that it's not arbitrary but the arbitrary aspect is that it's a contingency with no real reason and never supplies an origin.

At this point we might look at it in terms of my brute fact tie breaker. We could look at the ICR as a brute fact. It just is, there is no reason for it we can't privilege belief and assume there must be a reason so that's all there is. But it's not satisfying because it doesn't really explain. When we compare this to the notion of being itself and Tillich's idea of being having depth we can contrast arbitrary no reason with purpose and reason. Being Por Soir gives reason (in religious parlance is love) to think there is meaning and purpose. Being has to be necessary and eternal since something can't come from nothing. Eternity might yield necessity in an ontological since because it would need no cause. But in choosing between purpose and brute act I think I would rather choose purpose. Granted, at bottom line that is intuitive.

Then there is an empirical reason not to accept ICR, or to see it as unwarranted. Atheist Philosopher Quentin Smith argues that the universe is both finite (not eternal) and uncaused. He gives good evidence that the universe is not eternal but can't provide good evidence that is uncaused, Thus he winds up sup-lying Good evidence for the Cosmological Argument.[1] He argues for a finite past based upon the amount of radiation and entropy. Each new cycle would the universe getting bigger and longer thus as we go back in time it get's smaller and shorter. “This disallows an infinite regress into the past, for a regress will eventually arrive at a cycle that is infinitely short and a radius that is infinitely small; this cycle, or the beginning of some cycle with values approaching the values of this cycle, will count as the beginning of the oscillating universe.”  [2]The amount of radiation present in the universe Indicates a finite past.Infinite past would mean infinite radiation, but the radiation present in the universe is finite. [3] "The conclusion that the past is finite also follows from facts about entropy; if an infinite number of previous cycles have elapsed, each with increasing entropy, then the present cycle would be in a state of maximum entropy-but in fact it is in a state of relatively low  entropy.” [4]See my article about Smith's article. [5]

There are other theories such M theory, string theory on steroids. That is too complex to go into here. There is no empirical evidence for the theory. It is not certain it would provide an origin story anyway.  There's self causation through quantum tunneling but that is self contradiction at it's core. That is answered by DC's "flashpoint,"  although I prefer "Crisis on Infinite Earths." 


ICR is based upon circular reasoning, or something like it. They need the universe not to be created, they need a naturalistic cause. They need that cause to be eternal since a limited cause would need an explanation. So they loop the process back around. The premise the universe is a never ending series of beginnings and endings, rests upon the conclusion, that the universe is eternal.




Sources




[1]Quentin Smith, “The Uncaused Beginning of the Universe.” The British Journal of the Philosophy of Science, (1988, Vol., 55, no. 1), 39-57.


[2] Ibid
[3] Ibid
[4] Ibid

[5] Joseph Hinman, "Universe is finite but is it uncaused Atheist Philosopher herlps." The Religiojs a priori, online resource, accessed 8/22/16 http://religiousapriori.blogspot.com/2016/03/universe-is-finite-but-is-it-uncaused.html





14 comments:

Ryan M said...

Here is my attempt at forming your argument:

1. If there is an ICR then there are no causes.
2. There are causes.
3. It is not the case that there is an ICR.
4. If it is not the case that there exists an ICR then there exists a uncaused causer.
5. There exists a UC.
6. A UC must be necessary.
7. If God exists then God exists necessarily.
8. Therefore God exists and God = UC

Without changes the argument is invalid which might be my fault. You seem to infer that if there is a UC then it is God since God is logically necessary. Well that is both false and begs the question against the non theist. By defining God as logically necessary you may as well argue this:

1. God is logically necessary.
2. Everything logically necessary exists.
3. Therefore God exists.

The non theist will not accept premise 1 by definition. You need a sub argument to show that "God exists" is a logically necessary proposition.

The main issue with your argument is here:

"I can't really show a formally stated reason why it is a contradiction, or logically impossible, except that it doesn't account for the origin of things"

You assume that there must be a first cause so an ICR is impossible. But unless you can pinpoint a logical contradiction from within the assumption of an ICR then you cannot show it is impossible without begging the question.

You also assume the following proposition:

Assumed proposition - [If the cause of the universe is not God then it is contingent].

The assumptions you make show that your post is a essentially an exercise in begging the question. I cannot stress enough that you need to stop begging the question if you want to make convincing arguments.

Eric Sotnak said...

I wrote the following reply before reading Ryan M's comments, which I think nicely (and probably more articulately) highlight some of the same concerns I had.

it's not satisfying because it doesn't really explain.

- This raises one concern I have about PSR: It presents itself as a metaphysical principle, but it often functions as a psychological principle. We WANT everything to make sense, and we want it to make sense TO US. I think this is a good thing, but only in a pragmatic sense. It drives us to seek deeper and clearer understanding. But who says reality has to conform to the demands of our understanding? (Well, maybe Kant, I suppose, but not in a rationalist sort of way.)

“Then there is an empirical reason not to accept ICR”

- There is an empirical reason to think that this particular universe had a beginning, and therefore that there is no ICR within it. But that is not the same as ruling out the possibility that an ICR may apply to the universe as a whole, unless the concept of causation only makes sense when applied within the universe (this is a viable line of argument, and one well worth exploring, I think).

In any case, though, neither of these points is really relevant to the grander claim you have made, which is that an ICR is impossible. But I notice you have apparently conceded that it is not: I can't really show a formally stated reason why it is a contradiction, or logically impossible, except that it doesn't account for the origin of things So it seems to me you should give up trying to claim that an ICR is impossible and instead simply say that you find explanatory recourse to ICR unsatisfactory.

”The ultimate cause, or "final cause" must be God, since God is a logical necessity.”

Here I’ll just repeat something we’ve discussed before: I don’t agree that logical necessity applies to existence. Ontological arguments all fail on this point: they attempt to move from the way something is conceived or defined to something that actually instantiates or satisfies that concept or definition. I consider Kant’s refutation adequate on this point.

Finally, here is a question for you: Suppose I grant (for argument’s sake) that sense can be made of the concept of “being itself”. What explains the possession by being-itself of properties such as love or purpose? If you say that these are somehow necessary properties, how can this be shown? If they are not necessary properties, then how are they not arbitrary in the sense the coherence of which you oppose?

Mike Gerow said...

It strikes me that, in the final analysis, an ICR is nothing but chaos -- "one thing leads to another without end" (Or perhaps, more likely, something like Meillasoux's "hyperchaos"--a chaos so chaotic that it might even become orderly sometimes--but that's besides the point here.)

So, my question is, if such a "chaos" is a logical impossibility, how can you feel not absolutely required to adopt a strict "creation-ex-nihilo" stance by this argument?

Sorry, but that's what i just can't see....

Joe Hinman said...

Without changes the argument is invalid which might be my fault. You seem to infer that if there is a UC then it is God since God is logically necessary. Well that is both false and begs the question against the non theist.

the problem there is I didn't say there are no causes, i said there has to be a final cause, There are causes all around us but without final cause there is no origin,



By defining God as logically necessary you may as well argue this:

1. God is logically necessary.
2. Everything logically necessary exists.
3. Therefore God exists.

logically necessary's a misleading term because I don't mean like all husbands are married men,I mean ontologically necessary really,

The non theist will not accept premise 1 by definition. You need a sub argument to show that "God exists" is a logically necessary proposition.

see above. It's mya fault or using the wrong term

The main issue with your argument is here:

"I can't really show a formally stated reason why it is a contradiction, or logically impossible, except that it doesn't account for the origin of things"

You assume that there must be a first cause so an ICR is impossible. But unless you can pinpoint a logical contradiction from within the assumption of an ICR then you cannot show it is impossible without begging the question.



Having no origin is a logical contradiction I'm not sure how it should be worded, I think formal logic get's in the way of thought, you should do continental some,no insult intended,


You also assume the following proposition:

Assumed proposition - [If the cause of the universe is not God then it is contingent].



Not exactly. But if it is the result of laws of physics then its nature and this continent,I could accept ultimate origins that are not God per se and are not naturalistic I don't know what they are, they would have to make sense so earth sitting on a giant elephanor turtles all the way down would not cut it,



The assumptions you make show that your post is a essentially an exercise in begging the question. I cannot stress enough that you need to stop begging the question if you want to make convincing arguments.

Joe Hinman said...

The assumptions you make show that your post is a essentially an exercise in begging the question. I cannot stress enough that you need to stop begging the question if you want to make convincing arguments.

I think that is due to misuse of term Logical necessity. really what i mean is something like PSR--also contributing factor may have been unclear impression that Easy there are no causes that'snot really what I meant,

Here's the deal I have a right to hold an opinion about what I find valid and sound in terms o explaining the world, I do not find this in the explanation of ICR. It does not satisfy what itches when I say "why are we here?": The answer to hat as"because there's an ICR I don't find it satisfying,k

there is nothing question begging about that,I have the right to demand a better explanation,

Joe Hinman said...

So, my question is, if such a "chaos" is a logical impossibility, how can you feel not absolutely required to adopt a strict "creation-ex-nihilo" stance by this argument?

I don't know mike I believe in creation ex nihilo

Joe Hinman said...


it's not satisfying because it doesn't really explain.

- This raises one concern I have about PSR: It presents itself as a metaphysical principle, but it often functions as a psychological principle. We WANT everything to make sense, and we want it to make sense TO US. I think this is a good thing, but only in a pragmatic sense. It drives us to seek deeper and clearer understanding. But who says reality has to conform to the demands of our understanding? (Well, maybe Kant, I suppose, but not in a rationalist sort of way.)

we should probably have a principle that says take it as far as you can as long as it still makes sense


“Then there is an empirical reason not to accept ICR”

- There is an empirical reason to think that this particular universe had a beginning, and therefore that there is no ICR within it. But that is not the same as ruling out the possibility that an ICR may apply to the universe as a whole, unless the concept of causation only makes sense when applied within the universe (this is a viable line of argument, and one well worth exploring, I think).

the same issues would obtain against the backdrop of a larger mutiverse




In any case, though, neither of these points is really relevant to the grander claim you have made, which is that an ICR is impossible. But I notice you have apparently conceded that it is not: I can't really show a formally stated reason why it is a contradiction, or logically impossible, except that it doesn't account for the origin of things So it seems to me you should give up trying to claim that an ICR is impossible and instead simply say that you find explanatory recourse to ICR unsatisfactory.

formal logic a real barrier to thinking, it puts a straight jacket on knowledge, then you tell yourself it;s helping clarify everything but it's really also screening out things that would help. Like Heideggger's thing about metaphysics revealing and hiding at the same time



”The ultimate cause, or "final cause" must be God, since God is a logical necessity.”

Here I’ll just repeat something we’ve discussed before: I don’t agree that logical necessity applies to existence. Ontological arguments all fail on this point: they attempt to move from the way something is conceived or defined to something that actually instantiates or satisfies that concept or definition. I consider Kant’s refutation adequate on this point.

I really need to find a new term,I mean roadly logical necessity not all husbands arem arried men kindo LN,

Finally, here is a question for you: Suppose I grant (for argument’s sake) that sense can be made of the concept of “being itself”. What explains the possession by being-itself of properties such as love or purpose? If you say that these are somehow necessary properties, how can this be shown? If they are not necessary properties, then how are they not arbitrary in the sense the coherence of which you oppose?

we know they are real things from experience. because we can philosophize a out them and write theologies of then that make sense we know there's more to them than just amorphous feelings,the experience and the ideas unite to show depth of being there.

Joe Hinman said...

Eric love is a purpose in itself It's like final cause in that there doesn't need to be any higher purpose to justify love, it is its own justification.

Mike Gerow said...

I really need to find a new term,I mean broadly logical necessity not all husbands are married men kind of LN

When I get a minute, I shall put some quotes up on Doxa for you and Jim about 'the other necessity' as Catherine Malabou finds in Kant's 'Critique of Judgement' (from her book on Kant), & perhaps they will help you....

Joe Hinman said...

thanks Mike like to see that, But I suspect I'll call it PSR

Mike Gerow said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mike Gerow said...

So, my question is, if such a "chaos" is a logical impossibility, how can you feel not absolutely required to adopt a strict "creation-ex-nihilo" stance by this argument?

I don't know mike I believe in creation ex nihilo


So how do you work panentheism into this? Living beings, or at least some, participate in God's "pour-soir"--self-knowing--and therefore can become (subsequent) uncaused causes in themselves? As in the so-called "self-model's" capacity to affect the "lower" organism thru neuroplasticity and/or top down causation--is that it?

This statement that God transcends the essential and the existential and that God is not a universal essence may sound like a contradiction with a phrase Tillich uses, creative ground of essence and existence. This is not really a contradiction. Transcendence implies participation in and movement beyond. So God is the ground of the essential and the existential without being based in them. God is the basis of them without being what they are.

... yep, you seem to be thinking along lines like that.

Joe Hinman said...

this is my theoretical rationale for understanding inequality o nature,


God wants free moral agents who willingly choose the good to live in amoral universe (one in which they are free to seek the good). Just sticking people in life and directly mandating the search would only result in resentment on the part of the creature. WE have to have free will to truly desire the good (and to love) but having free will means resenting the imposition of other minds.

But the search for good results in internalizing the values of the good then we don't resent God's rules. As Jesus said he who is forgiven much loves much. When we seek the truth and find it ourselves we have no problem with God's laws. But if the world is constructed such that we all know up front God is real then we have no search and we resent the rules.

so we need a neutral world in which one searches for truth

Mike Gerow said...

God wants free moral agents who willingly choose the good to live in amoral universe (one in which they are free to seek the good)... WE have to have free will to truly desire the good (and to love) but having free will means resenting the imposition of other minds.

K, but I'm not sure that directly answers inequality issues? Is "natural inequality," as Lowder sketches it, really necessary for achieving those ends? Does there have to be a "gap" of that particular kind (assuming that there really is one)?

OTOH, does God have to provide only the minimum "gaps" to achieve sufficient ambiguity in the first place?

Yes, THESE are the thorny, unanswered questions...