If the Principle of Sufficient Reason is not known to be true, what conclusion should we draw about the Cosmological Argument? What is Anselm’s Ontological Argument? What is a teleological system? Is it reasonable to believe that the universe is a teleological system?
Although there are arguments that are true, using something that is not known to be true can make an argument seem false. St. Thomas Aquinas uses the Principle of Sufficient Reason, which is false, to try and justify his Cosmological Argument that “everything has a cause, there must have been a first cause [God], and that this first cause was itself uncaused [self-existing]” (Cosmological Argument). Although the Principle of Sufficient Reason appears to be logical, it actually goes against Aquinas’ argument. For instance, the Principle of Sufficient Reason states that “there must be an explanation of the existence of any being and of any positive fact whatever.” (Rowe, 23). However, if every being was a dependent being then there would be no explanation for its existence. Basically, there would be no first cause if everything needed an explanation of its existence. If the Principle of Sufficient Reason goes against Aquinas’ argument but is used to justify it, then we can conclude that the Cosmological Argument is false because there must be an explanation for the first cause to exist, which creates an “an infinite series of explanations” (A Critique of the Principle of Sufficient Reason).
An a posteriori argument is an argument developed from our experiences. For example, you are one of many people who do not believe in ghost. But one night you’re sitting in your room and all of a sudden a ghost appears. The next day, you go online and around town developing an argument that states the existence of ghost. Although there are many people who don’t believe you, whether for lack of evidence or that everyone knows your crazy, you can still make this claim because it “can be known only by means of [your] experience.” (Rowe, 19). Another example of an a posteriori argument can be the rain. You know that it is raining based on your experience of being out in it. These two examples also show that an a posteriori argument can either be realistic or nonrealistic. One final and essential example of an a posteriori argument is the Cosmological Argument itself. The Cosmological Argument is an a posteriori argument because of Aquinas’ experience of the knowledge of God; he developed this argument after ascertaining knowledge of God’s existence. In other words, an a posteriori argument’s conclusion is based on experience.
In contrast, an a priori argument is an argument “known independently of our experience.” (Rowe, 19). This means that no experience is needed to make a claim. To be specific, at a traditional American wedding the bride is supposed to wear white to symbolize purity. I’ve never been to a wedding, but I can say this based on common knowledge. Another common knowledge example is that President Obama and his family all live in The White House. I didn’t have to sneak into the white house to find this out. The whole United States knows this. In brief, an a priori argument is an argument whose conclusion was developed on knowledge prior to experience.
Anselm’s Ontological Argument states that there’s a being “that is so great that nothing greater can be conceived.” If that non-greater thing does exist, then it would only exist in the mind, not in reality. If that non-greater thing somehow existed in reality, then it will still remain non-greater than that which is so great that no other thing can be greater than it (Anselm’s Ontological Argument).
Anselm’s key idea in his argument is that, “If something exist only in the understanding and might have existed in reality, then it might have been greater than it is.” (Rowe, 41). To illustrate this key idea, consider the following example using Santa Clause:
- Santa Clause exist only in the understanding (only in our minds)
- Santa Clause might have existed in reality (the real world)
- Therefore, Santa Clause might have been greater than what he is
Basically, if Santa Clause existed in the understanding, and might have existed in reality, then he would be greater than himself which exists in the mind.
Teleology is, “The study of design and purpose in nature.” For everything made, there’s a maker (Teleology – The Study of Design and Purpose in Nature). For instance, the program, Microsoft Word, didn’t just come into existence on its own, someone designed and created it. A teleological system is any system of parts that work together to achieve a specific purpose. The individual parts that make up the system may also be teleological systems (Rowe, 57). A teleological system, to be specific, can be a cell phone. All of its sub teleological systems, such as the buttons, the battery, and its overall operating system (OS), come together under proper conditions to enable people to talk, text, or surf the web. All parts of the system have a purpose, and the system as a whole also have a purpose. When one part of the phone (system) breaks down, then the whole phone breaks down; this is known as Irreducible Complexity.
Based on my understanding of a teleological system, it is reasonable to believe that the universe is a teleological system. The universe, just like the previous example of a cell phone, also have sub parts that makes up the whole part. For example, by definition, the word, “universe” means “all of space and everything in it including stars, planets, galaxies, etc.” (Merriam-Webster). If all of these things were not included into our universe, then there would be no universe. What’s important to remember about this is that the universe, which is a teleological system, did not just come into existence on its own. Some being had to create it, and that being is God.