Cosmology (Part 3) – Leibniz’s Contingency Argument: Does Everything, Including The Universe, Have An Explanation For Its Existence? (for those interested in philosophy/theology)

THE MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION

G.W. Leibniz said the most important question any of us could ever ask in this life is:
“Why is there something rather than nothing?”

GUIDING PRINCIPLE

Leibniz’s Principle of Sufficient Reason: “Nothing happens without a sufficient reason.”

LEIBNIZ’ COSMOLOGICAL ARGUMENT FOR GOD’S EXISTENCE

1. Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence.
2. If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God.
3. The universe exists.
4. The universe has an explanation of its existence.
Conclusion: Therefore, the explanation of the universe’s existence is God.

PREMISE 1

Premise 1 says, “Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence.”

Leibniz believed that any “explanation” fell into one of his two categories:
1. It “exists necessarily,” meaning it would be impossible for it not to exist (e.g., God and mathematical entities like numbers and sets), or
2. It was externally caused to exist by something else that has made it (e.g., people, planets, cars, galaxies, etc.)

Therefore, to state premise 1 more precisely:
Premise 1: “Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence, either in:
1. the necessity of its own nature, or
2. an external cause.”

Our focus throughout this series has been on God as a being who is:
1. uncaused and past eternal (nothing preceded him),
2. the ultimate reality or greatest conceivable being,
3. necessarily existing (impossible not to exist),
4. the creator of the universe.

ATHEISM’S “MINORITY VIEW”

In response to this, there is a “minority view” within atheism that will say:
“If you’re going to say that God is self-existing, has been there forever and has no cause, why not say the same thing about the universe? After all, the universe is self-existing, has been there forever and has no cause. Why not stop with the universe and say that it is the ultimate reality or greatest conceivable being rather than God?”

Making an exception for the universe: In response to premise 1, which says that “everything that exists has an explanation of its existence,” a minority of atheists would make an exception for the universe by saying that, “Premise 1 is true of everything IN the universe, but it is not true OF the universe itself, so the universe does not have an explanation for its existence.”

SCHOPENHAUER’S RESPONSE TO MAKING THE UNIVERSE AN EXCEPTION

However, the famous philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer said you CANNOT logically say everything has an explanation of its existence and then arbitrarily exempt the universe from Leibniz’s first premise!

ATHEISM’S “MAJORITY VIEW”

The majority of atheists would say:
“It’s impossible to explain the universe’s existence because some state of affairs would’ve had to exist prior to the universe. But that prior state would be ‘nothingness,’ which couldn’t cause it. Therefore, the universe is simply inexplicable. ”

CHRISTIANS’ RESPONSE TO ATHEISM

Arthur Schopenhauer is correct that we cannot logically exempt the universe from this first principle. Trying to make an exception for the universe is entirely arbitrary. However, there must be an explanation for the existence of the universe. The best explanation is that prior to the universe, there was an immaterial, timeless, spaceless God and his will.

CONCLUSION

Weighing probabilities, Leibniz’s first premise that everything has an explanation for its existence appears more likely to be true than false, especially when we further elucidate that the “explanation” can be either:
1. the necessity of its own nature (self-existing), or
2. an external cause (“contingent beings”).

So premise 1 appears to be true: “Everything has an explanation of its existence.”

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