In A New Cosmological Argument, Richard Gale and Alexander Pruss offer up a cosmological argument for a personal God, from the weak principle of sufficient reason (among other premises, but the WPSR is their unique contribution).
They argue for the existence of a "first explanation", a proposition that explains the actual world's Big Conjunctive Fact (BCF), the conjunction of all true propositions. They introduce the constant q to refer to this explanation, and in premise 8 claim that:
- q is either a personal explanation or q is a scientific explanation. Some sort of a conceptual truth
They justify it by saying:
What kind of a proposition is q? It is the burden of the remainder of our argument to flesh out q. We already know from 7 that q explains p. But just how does q explain p? The only sort of explanations that we can conceive of are personal and scientific explanations, in which a personal explanation explains why some proposition is true in terms of the intentional action of an agent and a scientific one in terms of some conjunction of law-like propositions, be they deterministic or only statistical, and one that reports a state of affairs at some time. There might be types of explanation that we cannot conceive of; but, in philosophy we ultimately must go with what we can make intelligible to ourselves after we have made our best effort.
Though the details of their argument are unique, it is this premise that interests me here. Gale and Pruss frame their cosmological argument in terms of explanation (not causation), but I am thinking that premise 8 might relate to the notions of agent causation and event causation (and some versions of the cosmological argument are indeed causal instead of explanatory).
I often see a similar premise in other cosmological arguments to argue for the personhood of such a first cause or explanation (for the sake of arguments about the existence of God, I take the defining qualities of a person to be that it possess an intellect and a will). This is the juicy bit of the cosmological argument in my opinion, since even atheists can (and sometimes do) say things like "sure, there might be a necessary first principle, cause, or something like that, but why think that this entity is God?" The partition of all possible explanations or causes into personal/agent-causal on the one hand, and scientific/event-causal on the other, followed by an argument that the first explanation/cause cannot be (i.e. is necessarily not) scientific or event-causal, makes the theist's reasoning explicit.
Is premise 8 justified? Are all conceivable explanations either personal or scientific? And are all conceivable instances of causation either agent-causation or event-causation? Or are there arguments that try to introduce a third type of explanation or causation?