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12/10/2018 11:53 pm  #1


A better argument from contingency.

Ibn Sina's Contingency Argument

P1) If the totality of all contingents is contingent, then a necessary being exists
P2) The totality of all contingents is contingent
Conclusion: A necessary being exists


Defense of premise 1)

Contingent beings are beings that depend on an external cause or explanation to grant their existence while a necessary being is a being that does not depend on an external explanation to grant their existence. A being here simply means anything that exists.  

Since the totality of contingent beings is contingent then it must have an external explanation. This external explanation either has an external explanation (contingent) or it does not have an external explanation (necessary). If it is necessary, then this premise is true. If the explanation is contingent, then it would, by definition, be a part of the set of all contingents, and since it is the explanation of all contingent beings then it would be the explanation of its own existence in which case, it would not be dependent on something external and so it would not really be contingent but necessary (Ibn Sina makes this point in Kitab-Al-Najat).


Defense of Premise 2)

Any being either relies on an external explanation outside itself or it does not. If the being(s) that exist are necessary, then we can skip to the conclusion. However, if the being(s) that exist are contingent, then it is the case that there are contingent beings and so there is a group or a totality of contingent beings (cited as BCF hereafter). This totality itself either has an external explanation (contingent) or it does not have an external explanation (necessary). If the totality is contingent, then this premise is true. If the totality is necessary, then there is a necessary being and so we can skip to the conclusion (although as we will see in the conclusion that the BCF cannot be necessary because it does not have the properties of a necessary being). Initially, I did not catch this point by Ibn Sina but after re-reading the Kitab-al-Najat in Arabic, this point was clearer. Notice that Ibn Sina does not preclude an infinite causal series of contingent beings but allows for that possibility. This would mean that the BCF has an infinite number of contingent beings. 


Conclusion


The conclusion that there is a necessary being, that is not dependent on anything to grant its existence. By definition a being that does not depend on anything outside of it to grant its existence is self-sufficient.


A being with parts is contingent on their individual parts and their combination but since the necessary being is not contingent on anything. Then the necessary being has no parts making it simple.


 A thing could only change if it has parts (specifically actual and potential parts)* but since the necessary being has no parts, then the necessary being can not change.  Since the necessary being can not change, then it is immutable or unchangeable.  



Two beings can only be different if there is some difference between them. If they are exactly the same with no difference whatsoever then they would be identical and actually the same being. So there could only be multiple necessary beings if one had a differentiating feature that another lacked. But this lack of the feature would entail a potential to obtain that feature. But since the necessary being has no potential, then there can not be multiple necessary beings (there can only be one necessary being entailing monotheism).   


 Material beings are composed of parts (molecules, atoms, etc.) but the necessary being is not composed of parts, so the necessary being is incorporeal.  


 Nor can the necessary being be matter like quarks or matter. Matter can change by changing location, changing its structure by coming together and breaking apart and so on. But the necessary being cannot change so the necessary being is immaterial. 


  Moreover, the necessary being must be spaceless and timeless. If the necessary being can be located in space then that would entail an ability to change spatial location. But since the necessary being can not change, then the necessary being is spaceless.    


If the necessary being was subject to time, then it can change and become older than it is now, but since the necessary being can not change, the necessary being is timeless. 


  Coming into existence or ceasing to exist would be an instance of change. But since the necessary being can not change, then the necessary being must be beginningless and everlasting.  


 Now there is only one necessary being so anything else that exists apart from it must be contingent and so part of the BCF. But since the necessary being explains or causes the BCF  (more precisely every being outside of itself since there is only one necessary being) and therefore the cause of every contingent being that exists or could exist, it must be All-Powerful or omnipotent.  


 A cause can not cause what it does not contain in itself somehow (either immanently or formally) because if an alleged cause did not have the ability to produce the effect in question, then by definition, it can not be the genuine cause. Since the necessary being is the cause or explanation of all beings then it must contain all things in itself somehow. Something can be inside another either materially or immaterially (like how the mind contains thoughts and knowledge). But since the necessary being is immaterial, then the necessary being has all beings inside him immaterially in a way like knowledge so the necessary being knows all beings or everything that exists making him an omniscient mind
 


Now, this argument is superior to the Rationalist proof in many ways:

1) No need to defend the PSR (I think this point alone is enough).


2) Notice that being is defined very loosely unlike "fact". This allows for nominalism.


3) The argument is much faster and only has two premises making it more organized and is not susceptible to objections like modal fatalism or the objection from brute facts (Under this, a brute fact has no external explanation so is just necessary yet for what was said in the conclusion, brute facts or necessary beings can not be composites or material, etc.)


4) The proof for P2 is not based on an inference from parts to whole (like Ed Feser's argument is and so circumvents any potential accusations of the fallacy of composition rendering Hume's objections useless here). My argument for premise 2 is not based on an inference from composition. The argument is not that because every part is contingent, then the BCF is contingent. The argument even allows the skeptic to assume that the BCF is necessary which means that we can skip to the conclusion that there is a necessary being.


This style of contingency arguments are called Burhan Al Siddiqin (Proof of the Truthful) and they were developed by Ibn Sina for those who are interested.

 * = (http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2009/05/act-and-potency.html) This post is a brief intro. Edward Feser, a professional Catholic Philosopher defends this premise in his own blog post. DM me about concerns or questions.

Last edited by Noble_monkey (1/05/2019 11:55 pm)

 

12/31/2018 1:54 am  #2


Re: A better argument from contingency.

There's a lot here, but I just want to look at one thing you said. 

Noble_monkey wrote:

Every property the necessary object has must be a property it necessarily has

This is problematic. If every property the necessary being has is necessary, then its property of having chosen to create the universe is necessary. One potential problem that comes up here is the freedom of the necessary being. If you believe that alternative possibilities are required for freedom, then it follows that the necessary being is not free.

But more importantly, if the choice to create the universe is necessary, then it follows that the universe itself is necessary. If there is no possible world in which A does not exist, and no possible world in which A does not cause B to exist, then it follows that there is no possible world in which B fails to exist, which is another way of saying that B exists necessarily. 

This of course contradicts the starting premise that there are contingent things. 

 

12/31/2018 11:16 am  #3


Re: A better argument from contingency.

Noble_monkey wrote:

Every property the necessary object has must be a property it necessarily has. So if there are two necessary objects, they have the same properties. But two objects, that are identical with no difference whatsoever, are actually just one object. So there is only one necessary object.

I concur with Jimbo's comment about the first claim here. The last claim is also problematic, as it relies on the Identicality of Indiscernibles, a principle which, although I am personally sympathetic to it, will require at least as much defense as the PSR itself.

 

1/02/2019 5:39 am  #4


Re: A better argument from contingency.

Jimbo28 wrote:

There's a lot here, but I just want to look at one thing you said. 

Noble_monkey wrote:

Every property the necessary object has must be a property it necessarily has

This is problematic. If every property the necessary being has is necessary, then its property of having chosen to create the universe is necessary. One potential problem that comes up here is the freedom of the necessary being. If you believe that alternative possibilities are required for freedom, then it follows that the necessary being is not free.

But more importantly, if the choice to create the universe is necessary, then it follows that the universe itself is necessary. If there is no possible world in which A does not exist, and no possible world in which A does not cause B to exist, then it follows that there is no possible world in which B fails to exist, which is another way of saying that B exists necessarily. 

This of course contradicts the starting premise that there are contingent things. 

Ibn Sina does not have the same thing in mind as you have by property. Perhaps, "attribute" is a better word.

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1/03/2019 1:12 am  #5


Re: A better argument from contingency.

I am probably going to make some major renovations anyways.

     Thread Starter
 

1/03/2019 2:55 am  #6


Re: A better argument from contingency.

Noble_monkey wrote:

Ibn Sina does not have the same thing in mind as you have by property. Perhaps, "attribute" is a better word.

I'm afraid not. Property, attribute, feature, etc. all have various senses that have to be split off from one another (e.g. the sense opposed to substances, the sense opposed to tropes, the sense restricted to the irreducible versions of each of those, etc.). You should try to define what Ibn Sina means by property.

The problem Jimbo has raised is a variation of a well known problem for all classical theists (see another here), not just Ibn Sina. I'm not convinced that much is gained by raising it in this thread. (I would be interested in hearing how you all reply to it some time, though.)

 

1/03/2019 2:57 am  #7


Re: A better argument from contingency.

Check the update, their objections are to an older argument.

Last edited by Noble_monkey (1/03/2019 2:57 am)

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1/03/2019 2:59 am  #8


Re: A better argument from contingency.

Noble_monkey wrote:

Check the update, their objections are to an older argument.

I just noticed that. I was going to edit in the following comment:

(I see, on posting this comment, that the offending sentence has been pulled out. I'm going to leave the comment anyway. I hope no one is terribly bothered by it.)

 

1/03/2019 1:46 pm  #9


Re: A better argument from contingency.

Noble_monkey wrote:

Since the totality of contingent beings is contingent then it must have an external explanation. 

This is a very controversial claim. Problem is that it seems totality of contingent beings(if there is one , this might also be controversial just like "conjunction of all contingently true propositions" is) is not itself some further contingent being or a being at all. Its a heap and that could have merely internal explanation.
 

 

1/03/2019 4:31 pm  #10


Re: A better argument from contingency.

Calhoun wrote:

Noble_monkey wrote:

Since the totality of contingent beings is contingent then it must have an external explanation. 

This is a very controversial claim. Problem is that it seems totality of contingent beings(if there is one , this might also be controversial just like "conjunction of all contingently true propositions" is) is not itself some further contingent being or a being at all. Its a heap and that could have merely internal explanation.
 

Contingent here is a being that has an external explanation so it is not very controversial but rather follows from the definition of the contingent. That would be like saying that "A bachelor is unmarried" is a very controversial claim when it is true by definition. You are free to treat the BCF as a set or heap although I do not; I treat it as a totality. It does not matter if it is a totality since the totality exists and since it exists, then it is a being (recall the definition of a being was just anything that exists).

Last edited by Noble_monkey (1/03/2019 5:16 pm)

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