Cosmological and Teleological Arguments

Sandra LaFave

A Sample Cosmological Argument

Thomas Aquinas’ Second “Way”

Premise 1:

Nothing causes itself; everything is caused by something else.

Premise 2:

Either (1) the chain of causes extends infinitely backward, or (2) there is a First (Uncaused) Cause.

Premise 3:

The chain of causality cannot extend infinitely backward.


Therefore, there must be a First Cause (an "Uncaused Cause"), and that's God.


Objections to the Cosmological Argument

  1. Hume says Premise 1 is unknowable. For the full argument, see the notes on Hume.

  2. Premise 1 is compatible with all states of affairs.

  3. Premise 2 embodies a false dilemma: both options are problematic. Option (1) is inconceivable; option (2) contradicts Premise 1.

  4. The First Cause isn't necessarily the God of Western religions.

Substitute “Motion” for “Cause” and you have Aquinas’ First “Way” (also cosmological).



The Teleological Argument

Also known as the Argument from Design

Thomas Aquinas, William Paley

Premise 1:

The universe is like a watch: it contains many tiny parts that are combined in impressively intricate and complex ways.

Premise 2:

It is obvious when you examine a watch that nothing in the watch is there by chance. Rather, the watchmaker designed the watch such that each component has a specific purpose.


In the same way, it seems obvious that nothing in the universe is here by chance. Rather, a Designer gave each part of the universe a special purpose. This Designer is God.


Objections to the Teleological Argument

  1. It is an argument by analogy (an inductive argument) and thus can at best establish its conclusion with probability, not certainty.

  2. The Designer God is not necessarily the God of Western religion.

  3. Hume and Darwin: The Teleological Argument assumes that any orderly outcome is the result of conscious intention or design. But it seems clear that order can happen without conscious design.

  4. Hume: "order" is in the eye of the beholder anyway.

  5. Hume: we understand the watchmaker concept because we have experience of watchmakers. We have no corresponding experience of Gods. Legitimate concepts must be grounded in experience.

  6. Hume: how far are we willing to take the analogy? Watches might be made by committees, by incompetent apprentices, by females ...





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