Would a first cause exist necessarily?

So, let's suppose God is the first cause. Does that mean he necessarily exists? Does He then mean that his effects also exist, contingently or not, so that things that no longer exist do not have that brought about, caused?

Are there any problems with thinking about causing absences?

  • "Causing absences" as in? In Neoplatonism and some versions of Christianity, evil is the privation (absence) of good, but they do not talk of it as "caused" by God. But since God cast down Lucifer he obviously caused his absence from the Heaven. The necessity of God follows from the ontological argument. That argument itself is problematic, but to attach necessity to the first cause one needs a reason to identify the first cause with God, which is a problem with the cosmological argument.
    – Conifold
    Feb 21, 2019 at 17:55
  • Protestantism generally has rejected the validity of the first-cause argument.
    – Bread
    Feb 21, 2019 at 22:07
  • According to Lowrey, Ralph Cudworth's idea of God is an absolutely perfect being which is necessarily existing (whether it be unmade or self-originating). I happen to believe it always existed (i.e. is eternal and can't be destroyed).
    – Bread
    Feb 21, 2019 at 23:00

3 Answers 3


There are questions about whether the idea of a first cause is coherent or required. If the universe has always existed then it does not need and cannot have a first cause. Also if everything requires a cause, then the first cause also requires a cause. Further, if the existence of everything in the universe requires a cause and needs to be explained by other things, it does not follow that everything - the whole - needs to be explained by a single thing, the first cause. (Fallacy of Composition.) There could be separate chains of causation that between them explain everything but which do not track back to and converge on a single (first cause) source.

If the first cause was (as its name implies) the first or ultimate cause of everything that exists, then since nothing preceded it there is nothing to engender it. It originated ex nihilo, out of nothing. If this is possible, it doesn't answer the question whether it emerged necessarily or contingently. Nor do I see on the data how the question could be answered.

One move is to argue that the first cause brought itself into existence - Spinoza's causa sui or self-caused. It is hard to see how this can be literally true; the first cause would have to precede its own existence in order to bring itself into existence. This doesn't do justice to Spinoza's use of the expression, causa sui, but then that use is tied to contestable 17th-century and earlier assumptions about substance, a concept most of us now have difficulty with.

If we do take causa sui literally and can make sense of it, I can't see how we can tell whether the first cause caused itself necessarily or contingently.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Geoffrey Thomas
    Feb 22, 2019 at 9:13
  • I moved the comments to Chat only because I sensed an extended discussion building up, not least due to me, and shunted them across to Chat before somebody else (quite properly) did so.
    – Geoffrey Thomas
    Feb 22, 2019 at 9:43

God necessarily exists.

I. Something cannot be the efficient cause of itself. a) If A exists, another caused it.

II. A thing's continued existence is potential, for it is not actual. b) Therefore if A continues to exist, another keeps causing it.

That another is, simply, the Sustaining Principle, or, God. Were the Sustaining Principle nonexistent, there would be nothing. There are not "absences" between realities determined by the timing of actualization, but the constant reduction to actuality from potence of everything that we are informed of by the body.


Depends what do you mean by a first cause.

I highly recommend Edward Feser's book "Aquinas", because there he presents the five ways that Saint Thomas Aquinas argue for a first cause in a more precise sense. In that metaphysical background, the proffs are deductive arguments, so the necessity of the conclusion follows from the premises (some Aristotelian metaphisical assumptions).

For something to be necessary, i think you mean logical necessity, then a deductive argument is the kind you are trying to find, maybe.

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