First, I am not a philosopher, but rather an applied mathematician. However, the Cosmological Argument has always intrigued me. At times I feel that all attempts are necessarily hopeless, at other times I feel that a clever argument could actually get somewhere. Trying to read the literature on this is daunting: Continuous back and forth arguments and counter-arguments, and as a non-professional, finding time to keep up is difficult.
In any case, my hope is to simplify matters for myself to see how far we can even go with one assumption, and was hoping that somebody could check my logic.
Assumption 1: Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR): For every entity X that exists, either X causes itself, or some other entity Y causes X.
Now, I am not schooled on the metaphysics of causality, but if we're using human intuition as a guide, I assume we can talk about this in a semi-acceptable way. Anyway, the argument is as follows:
Given that the universe exits, we begin by asking what caused the universe U. If the universe didn't cause itself, then something, call it external cause C1, causes the universe, and and we write C1<U to mean that C1 caused U. Then either C1 causes itself, or some external cause C2 exists and causes C1, in which we write C2<C1<U to mean that external cause C2 causes U.
Now, if there are a finite amount of external causes, at least one causes itself, as you cannot have a finite amount of entities, each with an antecedent, and not have a loop (such as Cn<C'<...<C''<Cn.)
Contrapositively, if no external cause causes itself (neither directly nor through a loop), you must have an inifinite chain of such causes (with no loops).
Hence, it seems that with only the PSR, we are left with three distinction options:
- The universe caused itself.
- There's an infinite chain of causes which did not cause themselves (either directly or through a loop).
- There exists at least one external cause (other than U) which caused itself (either directly or through a loop).
Making no other assumptions, this seems to be the choices we are given. Of course, proponents of the Cosmological Argument will have reasons to exclude possibilities 1 and 2. But am I on decently solid ground at least narrowing this down to these three choices, given that we buy the PSR? Thanks in advance!