Taylor's Cosmological Argument for God's Existence
- There is some explanation (either known or not known) for everything.
- This is the principle of sufficient reason (=PSR)
- It says "for every positive fact there is some reason, explanation, or
cause for why it is so and not otherwise."
- Existence requires explanation (non-existence does not, though ceasing to
- The world's (i.e., the universe's) existence requires explanation (as much as
would the existence of a huge translucent ball).
- Even though one is not surprised by the world's existence, it still
requires an explanation
Two points Taylor brings out to respond to possible objections
- (1) Postulating a beginningless world does not explain the world's existence.
- Even if the world has always existed, this fact requires explanation,
since telling us how old something is--even infinitely old--isn't to
explain its existence.
- (Taylor is not denying the possibility of a beginningless world, but he
is denying that such a world's existence needs no explanation.)
- (2) God can be the creator of the world even if the world has always existed.
- Need to distinguish between two sense of creation/causation:
- One: Creation/causation as involving a preceding cause bringing
something into existence for the first time.
- If the earth has always existed, there is no antecedent cause of it
- Two: Creation/causation as ontological dependence (e.g., the way a beam
of light depends on a candle or a thought depends on a mind) and
such dependence can exist even if the dependent being has always
- The reason for the world must either be within it or outside it; if it is within
it, the world is a necessary (=independent) being, if it is outside it, the
world is a contingent (=dependent) being.
- Necessary beings: Couldn't have failed to exist; exist by their own
nature; have their own reason for existence within themselves; have
to be eternal (they can't come into being or perish).
- Contingent beings: May or may not exist; depend on something else
for their existence; perishable.
- Impossible beings: Cannot exist in virtue of their own nature.
- Eternal beings: Those that have always existed and will always exist
(could be contingent or necessary)
- The world is a contingent being (it didn't have to exist), and so the
cause/reason for its existence is outside it.
- Each particular thing in the world did not have to exist (they are all
- So too, it is possible that the totality of all things in the world might
not have existed; this means the world is a contingent being
- This second claim does not follow from the first; claiming it
does is the fallacy of composition
- That on which the world depends is itself either necessary or contingent (it
either exists by its own nature or not).
- Postulating an infinite series of contingent beings as an explanation of the
cause of the contingent world doesn't explain the existence of contingent
beings (why things which might not have existed, do in fact exist)
- And the PSR requires such an explanation
- Therefore, there must be a necessary being (which exists by its own nature
and is not dependent on anything else) on which the world (the totality of
contingent beings) depends.
- This necessary being is God.
- To say God is a necessary being is not to say God is self-caused in the
sense of being a preceding cause who brought him/herself into existence,
for this is impossible (explain why).
- Instead, saying God is a necessary being is to say he is self-caused in
the sense that God has his own reason for existing
- Does Taylor deny that the world could have always existed? Do you think
it is possible the world could have always existed?
- Why doesn't the possibility that the universe has always existed undermine
the possibility of arguing that God must exist to explain the existence of the
- What is the difference between creation as a preceding cause bringing
something into existence and creation as ontological dependence?
- What is a necessary being? A contingent being? An impossible being? An
eternal being? Give examples. Is a necessary being an eternal being?
Might a contingent being be eternal? Is the idea of a necessary being
- According to Taylor, can God exist without a cause? Does Taylor think
God is an exception to the principle of sufficient reason?
- What is problematic about the notion of God as a self-caused being in the
sense of a being who brought him/herself into existence? In what sense
does Taylor think God is self-caused?
- Why can't the world have come into existence without a cause or have
always existed without any cause?