Not Just Dependent Beings: A key premise in The Cosmological Argument
A key premise of the Cosmological Argument says the universe cannot consist in only dependent beings. In
your own words, state what a dependent being is. Then review the two argument that are used to support this
premise. For the argument that covers an infinite number of dependent beings, say whether explaining the
members of a collection suffices to explain that collection – and be sure to support your view on this. In
the end, do you think these arguments convincingly establish the claim that the universe cannot consist in
only dependent beings?
This is the summary of “The Cosmological Argument” by William L. Rowe
Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR): The principle that everything that exists must have a reason that
explains why it exists and why it has the properties that it does. An alternative formulation of PSR is:
There must be an explanation of (a) the existence of any being, and (b) of any positive fact.
Dependent Being: A being whose existence depends on something outside itself, such that neither its
existence nor nonexistence is logically necessary. It is like explained by actual activity.
Self existent: A being who contains the reason for its existence within its own nature.
Brute Fact: a fact which has no explanation.
1. Every being (that exists or did exist) is either a contingent or a necessary being.
2. Not every being can be a contingent being.
3. Therefore, there exists a self-existent being.
Premise one: A being is explained by a) another, b) nothing or c) itself.
Premise one is guaranteed by PSR.
Premise two: There cannot be an infinite series or if there is an infinite series, there must be an
explanation for the existence of the series.
Objections to Premise two.
1. The stamp objection: Cannot treat a series of dependent beings as though it is a dependent being. I.e.
The collection of stamps is itself a stamp.
Response: A person asking for an explanation of the series is not assuming that the series is the same as
each member of the series. To ask why there is a collection of stamps is not to assume the collection is a
Fallacy of Composition: Arguing from a property of each member of a group to the conclusion that the
property should be attributed to the whole group.
1. Every human being has a mother.
2. Therefore, the entire collection of human beings has a mother.
Response: Fall back to PSR (b) – every positive fact must have an explanation.
3. The explanation of the series is already given: The explanation of the series is given by the fact that
each member of the series has an explanation. (Hume)
Response: Do not accept the assumption that to explain the existence of each member of the collection is
sufficient is sufficient to explain the collection. Two claims:
C1. There is an explanation for the existence of each of the members of the collection of dependant beings
C2 There is an explanation of why there are any dependent beings.
Does satisfying C1 satisfy C2? No.
4. What is wrong with admitting that there are and always have been dependent being? – They are a brute
Response: Premise 1 depends on PSRa and premise 2 on PSRb.
Why should we believe PSR?
1. A truth which one can apprehend by careful reflection. It is intuitively true? – Like “No physical object
can be in two different places in space at one and the same time.”
Objection: Not all agree to its truth.
Response: Is that really a good reason?
2. PSR is a presupposition of reason. It is a basic assumption rational people make.
Objection: Even if it is a presupposition we all share, it still could be false. Hence, the premises of the
Cosmological Argument could be false in which case we are not guaranteed the truth oft he conclusion.
Response: The Cosmological Argument does not provide a rational reason for believing their is a being whose
existence is accounted for by it own nature as not everyone will accept PSR. But, what about a probabilistic argument?