Posted: Aug 14, 2013 3:31 pm
by Mick
I offer argument for the existence of a deity. My argument is valid; my premises are more plausible than their contradictories, and no question is begged.


Change: the transition between potency to act. Changing things change only in virtue of one of their potentials (a potency) being brought into actuality (act). For example: I have brown hair (act), and my potential (potency) for red hair is brought out by red dye.(1)

Causal principle: Every change in something is brought about by something distinct from it, and every changed or changeable thing has a distinct cause of some sort.

Accidental causal series: Each member of the series is independent of each other. A family lineage would be an example of this. I exist and change without a continuous causal force from my father, and the same is true for his father, and so on.

Essential Causal Series: This causal series is simultaneous: Each member of the causal series is affected only inasmuch as the first member ('first' in the sense of being ultimate source) continuously imparts an effect. For example, a locomotive train moves only inasmuch as the locomotive empowers it, because neither one of the carts nor any collection of them has that causal power on its own. There cannot be an infinite regress in an essential causal series.

A Cosmological Argument

1. Something changes.

2. Whatever changes is changed by another (non-identical to it).

3. If something changes, then there is either a first, unchanged changer or an infinite, essential causal series.

4. There is no infinite, essential causal series.

5. Thence, there is a first, unchanged changer.

Premise 1

Premise {1} is evident: Some apples turn red. Animals change. Evolution depends on such change. Thus, things change.

Premise 2

Premise {2} refers to an essential causal series only. Consider the alternatives to premise {2}. I can think of two: self-change and change from nothing.


Nothing self-changes. Consider animals. Change in an animal is brought about by something distinct from the animal himself. If an animal grows, dies or moves, it is because of some change in or by one of his parts, or some outside actor, each distinct from the animal himself. I can reason similarly for any scenario.

Furthermore: something changes only if there is a transition from potency (potential) to act (actuality) by something already actual (because only actualities are causally efficacious). But if that which changed underwent self-change, then it would have actuated itself before it actually existed, and that is unintelligible. Besides, change is brought about by a distinct thing; and so it cannot be both the same (since we are talking about a self-cause) and distinct.

Change from Nothing

There are two ways to interpret this: nothingness caused some change, or something changed from or by nothing, inexplicably.

The first way is incoherent. Nothingness is non-being; and so it has neither potency nor act. Thus, nothingness is causally inert.

How about inexplicable change? That way should be a last resort, because we live and conduct some of our best sciences with the prima facie presumption that changes have causes. An arbitrary abandonment of that presumption constitutes a taxi-cab fallacy; and hence abandonment must have good reason, but I know of none.

But if there is regularity concerning inexplicable changes, such as there being a certain sort of thing that changes without a cause, or that a thing changes only under a certain sort of condition, then that regularity needs explanation. For if these changes were brought about from nothing or by nothing, then why would there be that regularity?

Consider a common example of “acausal” beginnings: virtual particles. Why is there a regularity of virtual particles emerging into being "from nothing" or "by nothing"? Why not zebras too? That last question seems silly, but nothingness has no potentialities or delimitations; and so there is nothing to regulate that there be a certain sort of change or emergence over any other. Therefore, if virtual particles can come from nothing or by nothing, then there seems to be no reason why zebras are excluded from this. (2)

But if virtual particles came from or by something, then that would explain the regularity. Why? Because on the classical view, all things are immanently restricted from certain ends and directed toward others. Virtual particles themselves would be restricted and empowered by their potencies and actualities. Thus, given the kind of thing they are, their form and final cause, we can expect that virtual particles emerge only in such-and-such vacuum state (or whatever else); and in turn we can know that that vacuum state itself has the potency for allowing for emerging virtual particles but not zebras.

If this sort of causality is debased or denied, we are left with the problem of enumerative induction. Consider this. David Hume argued that our causal knowledge is nothing more than constant conjunctions and regularities. Everything else, this idea of necessary connection and causative action, are just projections or habits of the mind.

Therefore, for Hume, there is no knowledge that a cause will create one sort of effect over any other; and hence he could neither justify enumerative induction nor the proposition that the future will resemble the past. A harsh price to pay, indeed. It doesn't seem worth it.

That aside, suppose an objector insists: "Quantum mechanics reveals that on the subatomic level some causation is irreducibly probabilistic; and thus even if we knew all of the causes, it would still be a matter of chance (to some degree) whether the effect occurs." Does this refute the causal principle? No, it doesn't.

Firstly, whether that example is probabilistic is contentious: it depends on philosophical interpretations. Philosopher of science Carl Horefer argues that despite popular opinion "...quantum mechanics is one of the best prospects for a genuinely deterministic theory in modern times." (3) He then cites several works in support of this idea. Thus, it is far from clear that this objection is correct, and it might even be very wrong.

Secondly, this objection presumes that the causal principle exclusively refers to a deterministic efficient cause, but that presumption is false. Indeterminism is acceptable. Moreover, the principle is Aristotelian; and hence there are 3 other sorts of causes for which it refers: material, formal and final. Each of those 3 could save the causal principle from refutation even if quantum mechanics implied the existence of some change without a deterministic efficient cause.

In short: the objector's failure emanates from a misunderstanding of what classical metaphysicians mean when they proffer the causal principle.

Premise 3

Premise {3} is exhaustive. The causal series referred to in {3} is either finite or infinite. If the series is finite, then it has a first changer. But we know from the content of premise {2} that if there is a first changer, then it is itself unchanged (otherwise it, too, has cause for its change); and hence I therein pose a first, unchanged changer in {3}. But if the series is infinite, then there is no first changer.

Premise 4

How about premise {4}? An essential causal series requires a first member or an ultimate source of the empowering effect, since the series only exists inasmuch as an effect is continuously imparted onto the each member of the series. Contra Hume, an infinite number of moving carts on a locomotive train would not explain why the train itself is moving, because none of the carts move unless there is a locomotive. Likewise, the music from a flute is sustained here and now only by an empowering breath.

Thus: If there is no first member, then there is no essential causal series. (4)

The final proposition is {5}, and it is the deduced conclusion. My argument is deductively valid; and hence I need no support for {5} save the support for the truth of the aforementioned premises.

Thus, we have deduced the existence of a first, unchanged changer.

But Is the Changer Unchangeable?

Why think that there is an unchangeable, unchanged changer? That is, why think that there is an unchanged changer capable of some sort of change (has potencies) but does not, qua first mover, change?

Consider this essential causal series: a paint brush changes upon some hand simultaneously actualizing some potency within the paint brush; and the potency of this hand to move is simultaneously actualized by certain muscles; and a relevant potency of the muscles is actualized by certain neurons; and a relevant potency of those neurons is actualized by a specific nervous system; and a relevant potency of that system is actualized by its atomic structure; and that, in turn, is actualized by electromagnetism and gravitation, and so on, all simultaneously.

In that example, that specific nervous system, atomic structure and gravitational force operate in specific ways over others and take particular forms. That is, the specific atoms and molecules for which I am materially constituted could now operate in some other way, or in some other system, and they could change into some other thing (this will be the case when I die). Even gravity and the laws of nature could be different; Steven Hawkings agrees. Hawkings says that "the fundamental numbers, and even the form, of the apparent laws of nature are not demanded by logic or physical principle." (5)

Thus, those things have the potential to be different things and do different things, but they do not. Instead, they exist in this particular way over another; and they operate here and now in this particular way over another; and hence we say that a potency is continuously actuated to sustain those particular ways over any other; and given the causal principle, we know that this continuous actuation is caused by a distinct thing.

However, given the truth of premise {4}, this continuous actuation that sustains the operations and existence of those things needs a terminus. Otherwise, we are faced with the same questions: why does the changer have that operation, and why does it take that form? What sustains it? We therefore appeal to a first, unchanged changer whose very existence need not be made actual. A changer who is identical to its existence: a changer with no potentiality.(6)

Now, every thing either pure potentiality (having no actuality at all), pure actuality (having no potentiality at all), or composite of potentiality and actuality. The first and third options entail a changer with some potentiality rather than none, but we need a changer with no potentiality. Thus, we can only deduce the second option.

Therefore, the changer is pure actuality; and hence this changer is unchangeable, because a changer with no potentialities has no potential to change.

Fleshing It Out

Anything that is pure act does not owe its sustenance to any other thing, for it does not have the potential to be any other way. After all, there is no potency to act upon or fail to actualize. Thus, it can neither perish nor diminish. We know that the laws of nature are sustained by this changer, and that they could be different. Thence, the changer is neither governed by such laws nor does this changer fall within their scope (that is, this changer is supernatural or supranatural). We also know that this changer is neither of matter, energy, nor any physical thing, since they are capable of change. Thus, it is amaterial or immaterial; and if space is capable of change, it is spaceless. We also know that it is responsible for all change; and hence it is causal and extremely powerful.

That description fits abstract objects or an intelligence exclusively. But abstract objects are causally inert; and hence it is an intelligence, what we call a deity. I therefore conclude my argument.


(1) Potency' and 'act' are Aristotelian terms. Aristotle began using them in his refutation to the Megaric school's denial of all change and becoming. Opponents of this Aristotelian view are left to explain the possibility of change, if they believe in it. Please see this link for a better understanding:

(2) In any case, virtual particles do not come from nothing, as philosophers understand the word: non-being itself. Physicists Tipler and Barrow observe: "The quantum mechanical vacuum is not truly 'nothing'; rather, the vacuum state has a rich structure which resides in a previously existing substratum". See: John D. Barrow and Frank J. Tipler, The Anthropic Cosmological Principle (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986), 441.

(3) For more on the impossibility of an infinite, essential causal series, see this link:

(4) Steven Hawkings and Leonard Mlodinow.'The Grand Design'. Page 140. For work on prescriptive laws of nature and to see why many construals fail without God, see this link: ... _draft.pdf

(5) ... al/#QuaMec

(6) I owe this point to philosopher Edward Feser. See his 'Aquinas'. Page 73.