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Hello to all philosophers!

A while ago my professor was going through the First Cause Argument and formatted it as such:

  1. Everything has a cause.

  2. The chain of causes cannot reach back indefinitely; at some point, we must come to a First Cause.

  3. The First Cause we may call “God.”

During one of the classes, he presented a second version of the First Cause argument:

  1. Anything that begins to exist has a cause.

  2. The universe began to exist.

  3. Therefore the universe has a cause.

  4. The first cause we may call "God."

My question is why is the 2nd version of the argument an improvement over the 1st?

PS: I know that the 2nd argument is still flawed. I would just like to know how it is better than the 1st argument. I understand intuitively that the 2nd argument is better likely because it specifies only things that "have a beginning" in the 1st premise. But I'm not too sure if there is an exact flaw that the 2nd argument manages to escape VS the 1st argument.

Edit: I do understand that the 2nd argument is better, but I'm not too sure how to really phrase why it is better (likely due to the fact I can't pinpoint the exact difference between the two arguments).

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    The first argument has the issue that the alleged "First Cause" must also have a cause by premise 1, so it could not have been a first cause.
    – causative
    Commented Sep 23, 2021 at 18:04
  • The main reason why the first argument is not convincing is that it is too informal. It would be non deductive reasoning. The 2nd argument is very formal & can be rewritten as a deductive argument where the conclusion follows from its premises by the rules of deductive reasoning. You would hVe to add a missing premise to the 2nd argument to get it to be fully formal. You would see if the premises were true the conclusion follows also.
    – Logikal
    Commented Sep 23, 2021 at 18:57
  • IMO are quite similar... The second one use the ambiguous term "universe": based on the correct reading of 2 and 3 the purported conclusion must be: "The cause of the universe we may call 'God'". Commented Sep 24, 2021 at 6:46
  • You don't have 0, so the whole construction is not correct.
    – user56114
    Commented Sep 24, 2021 at 7:00
  • Thus we have two parts: an argument showing that (under the stated assumptions) there is a cause of the universe, and a definition: "we call God the cause of the universe". Thus is not a proof of God existence: it is a proof of: "if Anything that begins to exist has a cause, then There is a cause of the universe". Commented Sep 24, 2021 at 7:10

2 Answers 2

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The first version starts of with Everything has a cause, and ends in "God".

According to the bible, God (doesn't matter if this is the same god) does not have a beginning or an end. So therefore "God" can't be a part of everything, as he does not have a beginning (cause).

You now have the issue of everything not encompassing everything, and can therefore not be everything, and you can't base anything (the rest) on a falsehood.

The second version starts of with everything that has a beginning, has a cause. Thereby excluding the God from our prior example. Of course this also leaves open the possibility there were many things that have always existed, and one of those (or many) were the first cause.

TLDR: Second version doesn't counter it's own argument that EVERYTHING has a cause...

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The first argument is logically invalid, because the premise that there is a first uncaused cause contradicts the premise that everything has a cause, while the second argument at least is logically valid, so it is definitely an improvement.

The gain is substantial because the second argument helps us pinpoint what we need to prove to make the argument "sound", namely, that the universe began to exist.

However, the two arguments are also totally ridiculous in pretending that it is enough to call the first cause "God". What we would need to prove is that the first cause would necessarily be God, and God as believers believe that He exists, not just anything that caused the universe, which we can always call "God". Frankly, you might just as well want to call the Big Bang "God".

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  • Right, Aristotle is totally ridiculous... While the start of your answer seems like a good analysis, the last, evaluative paragraph is completely off imho. The first cause argument is not to be confused with ontological arguments for the existence of an Abrahamic God.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Commented Sep 24, 2021 at 19:13
  • @PhilipKlöcking "Aristotle is totally ridiculous" I didn't say or imply that. Please quote Aristotle calling the first cause "God". - 2. "* imho*" As you have obviously developed an obsessive grudge against me, I would prefer if you could spare me your opinion. - 3. "ontological arguments for the existence of an Abrahamic God" I am answering the question, not addressing Aristotle's argument about the first cause or any ontological argument. The arguments proposed in the question include the following statement: "The First Cause we may call 'God.'" See? Commented Sep 25, 2021 at 11:00
  • In Metaphysics XII he concludes his arguments building on the cosmological argument from Physics VIII with that the first divine cause must be eternal, living, immaterial thought thinking itself (and the first good-itself). In 1072b he writes that we call the "eternal, best living being" god. Thus, it may not any unmoved mover that "we may call 'God'", but of the final cause and first principle of everything (including eternal and non-eternal unmoved movers) he does basically say that we call it god (singular plural, like "man"). That is why I criticised you here.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Commented Sep 25, 2021 at 19:14
  • @PhilipKlöcking Good for Aristotle, but as is perfectly obvious I was commenting on the argument presented in the question. There isn't the faintest suggestion in my answer that it was about Aristotle's argument. You don't have a leg to stand on. You should really take a step back and question your prejudiced attitude towards many of my answers. Commented Sep 27, 2021 at 16:23

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