For in everything there is a portion of everything – Anaxagoras
Argument from Contingency – Response Theologica37
This is going to be a response to Theologica37 and his video entitled Arguments from Contingency: Thomistic/Leibnizian. Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hsEvxew8YOs
Theologica37, which from this point on I’ll be referring to as Theo, puts forth the argument from contingency as he uses both Leibniz and the Thomistic versions of the argument. The argument from contingency goes as such: “For every contingent entity that exists requires an explanation for its existence. Since an explanation for all contingent entities cannot be itself contingent, it thus requires an explanation that exists by necessity, this necessary explanation is God”.
The PSR Defined
The main presupposition within this argument is in the form of a reductio ad absurdum as it argues the absurdity of an infinite regress of causal explanations, which cannot go on ad infinitum, so therefore we must posit a necessary explanation. Now I will grant that Theo is correct in that we must posit a non-contingent explanation in order to explain why contingent entities exist. But what I do reject is the regression argument. Theo seems to view existence as some sort of succession and from what we know of existence this is simply not true.
The regression argument is sort of self leading, as it wants you to use or keep using sufficient explanations which we eventually have to do away with using, because a sufficient explanation would require an explanation that is dependent, and therefore contingent upon something else to explain it, and that in turn would require another explanation, and eventually we’ll have to come up with an infinite series of explanations that could go on ad infinitum. Now this may seem frustrating and it can be, philosophy can be a scary thing. But the questions within the argument from contingency are obviously fallacious as its rhetoric presupposes a causal oversimplification. It’s responses are limited to singular explanations of causal events rather than a multiplicity of causal events, when the person asks “well what causes this event and then what causes that event“? If you didn’t catch it you should already see the problem within the initial question, you could not possibly account for existing entities using an infinite series of causal explanations. What the theist is trying to do here is get you into a position where you’re forced to omit that since an infinite series of causal explanations is impossible to account for pre-existing entities we must therefore conclude that there was this singular explanation that is contingent upon a necessary being (God).
So basically casual events occur and since they occur then they must be explained by an external cause that is contingent upon it. The argument presupposes the idea of predeterminism. Now predeterminism, not to be confused with determinism, would argue that contemporary states of events are ultimately determined by a chain of prior states of events leading back to its origins. Now I think this is where me and Theo part ways metaphysically. I think the disagreement lies mainly in how we view existing entities to be accounted for, which is either sequentially, as he would put it, entities being sufficient upon prior states of events, or in a monistic manner, as I would put it, entities being relational to its foundational properties. Now to put it simply my rebuttal to this argument is that… to account for existing entities is non-sequential as existing entities have unity within essence and are also limited within essence; & I’ll of course explain what this means.
But first let me show the logical implications I’m working from, when I speak of unity within existence I’m of course speaking of the monistic idea of reality. Monism or more specifically substance monism fundamentally is the idea of substance having universal qualities within every kind of existing thing, every kind of thing is relational in some sense. All entities have some form of relatable substance that is foundational, this is quintessential of existence. The laws of physics even complement substance monism. I’m sure we’ve all heard the old mantra energy may not be created nor destroyed it simply changes. You may have heard of other laws based off this, such as the conservation of energy and the conservation of mass, these laws of physics are monistic in the sense that they all agree that change is constant and is not quantifiable. So we can understand at least on both an axiological and scientific sense in how the monistic theory of metaphysics shows that substance/essence is axiomatic for all contingent entities to exist because substance/essence is the primary state of existence.
Now the idea that entities are both limited and have unity is where we get the concept of potency and act. Theo mentions the Thomistic version. But for clarity I’m going to use the original Aristotelian version. We can understand potency to be the potential or foundational substance that to which can remain itself while taking on new modifications. And the act, or actual properties, is the change by which the potency becomes actualized or overtly present within itself. So potency is the essence that persist within every kind of change that is potential for every kind of actual property and act is what limits potency within an actual property.
But as Aristotle points out, potency is necessary for any act, in that act can only occur if there is some foundational substance in which it is capable of becoming another kind of existing thing. You may have heard the saying “there are no contraries to substance”, this is Aristotle. Substance has no contraries to itself. There must be a foundational substance for any potency to be possible in becoming another existing thing.
So potency is this foundational substance, and it is itself axiomatic because nothing that exists or nothing that which could exist could be caused without a preexisting foundational substance to account for it. So potency can be said to have unity within every Act; it is the foundation that persists through every actual existing thing. And act, the thing that is modified or formed, is what becomes limited through potency. So this is where again we get the idea of entities having unity within essence, as there are no contraries to substance, every kind of existing thing is related to substance. And entities also being limited within essence as entities, or actual existing things, are limited by what makes it distinct, given its accidental properties.
Now I don’t think Theo himself even disagrees with this concept as he even admits in his video that a foundational substance is necessary, as he uses the metaphysical Thomistic version of potency and act: “Contingent beings are composed of potency of act and essence of existence, there must be a proportion between any act and the potency which receives it”. Now we see that Theo freely acknowledges that there must be some form of proportion as he puts it, that must exist between potency and any act which receives it. Now he defines potency as, or I should say rather, the principle by which the proportion/substance is obtained in the act. And the act or the accidental property is well pretty much the same in the original Aristotelian version – the change by which the potency becomes actualized or overtly present within itself.
So the very fact that a contingent entity requires a necessary explanation ‘granted’, than that necessary explanation is potency the foundational substance for all existing things; for there can be no act or cause without first establishing some aspect of a necessary foundational substance which could have influenced it.
Given that there is this potency/foundational substance that persist through any & all actual existing properties, then there is no reason to assume that there is this sub-sequential limit to existing entities, and this is really the only point I’ve been making, because all existent entities can be accounted for by a universal foundational substance found in all existing or potential properties, therefore the argument from contingency fails, because to ultimately account for existing entities can be explained through its relation, not causation.
– Jubilee Nunnallee