The following series of posts summarizes Father Spitzer’s article on metaphysical arguments for God’s existence and nature. The full article can be found here.
In our last post, we discussed how philosophy can provide proof for God’s existence. Here we will be using metaphysics to discuss the nature and existence of God. Metaphysics is the division of philosophy that is concerned with the fundamental nature of reality and being. A metaphysical proof starts with the nature of reality or the totality of being and from this vantage point deduces certain logical arguments. In this series we’ll:
- First, show the logical necessity for the existence of an uncaused being (existing through itself) which is the cause of everything else that exists.
- Then demonstrate that the uncaused being must be absolutely unrestricted and utterly simple.
- Next, show that there can only be one unrestricted being.
- Finally, see if philosophy can discern any more attributes of this one, uncaused, and unrestricted being.
Let’s get started:
There must be at least one uncaused being that exists through itself and is the cause for all caused beings.
If there were not at least one uncaused cause in the whole of reality (i.e., everything that exists) then the whole of reality would be constituted by only caused beings – that is, beings that require a cause in order for them to exist. This would mean that there would need to be something beyond the whole of reality that caused (or is causing) everything to exist. Without such a cause, there would be nothing in existence.
But how can there be something beyond the whole of reality if the whole of reality equals everything?
That’s like saying, “I ate the whole pie but fortunately I saved you a piece!” Denying that there is an uncaused being within the whole of reality is an intrinsic contradiction. Therefore, there must be at least one uncaused being in the whole of reality. And as indicated above, this uncaused being must be the direct or indirect cause for all caused beings.
One question that frequently comes up in these types of discussions is: “Can one arrive at a sufficient explanation for a particular being by postulating an infinite regress of caused beings?” The reason that this approach will not work is because the insufficiency of the causes in the series is not quantitative in nature but qualitative. If the insufficiency was quantitative then the addition of insufficiencies might make a sufficiency (e.g., twenty horses could pull what two could not). But the insufficiency in the series is not quantitative but qualitative.
Two parallel mirrors will create an infinite series of images only if there is some “unmirrored” source image that is the cause of the mirrored images. The infinite series of mirrored images (caused by the mirrors) depend upon an original image (one not caused by the mirrors) for their existence. Thus, even an infinite number of insufficiencies does not equal sufficiency. Therefore, one cannot get a sufficient explanation for a being’s existence by postulating an infinite number of insufficient causes.
For a more thorough treatment of these arguments by Karlo Broussard, an apologist for Catholic Answers, check out this post on the Strange Notions blog.
In the next article we’ll show how boundaries/restrictions are limiting and exclusive and how they relate to the long held philosophical concept of simplicity. and how this ultimately leads to the notion of “absolute simplicity” (i.e., a being with no boundaries or restrictions that is able to unify all being).
Joseph Miller is the Executive Director of the Magis Center