A plausible cosmological argument from the Principles of Sufficient Reason.

Ever since discovering Aquinas’ third way, Copleston’s cosmological argument (in his debate with Russell), and reading Pope Pius XII’s statement in Humani Generis that:

It is well known how highly the Church regards human reason, for it falls to reason to demonstrate with certainty the existence of God, personal and one; to prove beyond doubt from divine signs the very foundations of the Christian faith; to express properly the law which the Creator has imprinted in the hearts of men; and finally to attain to some notion, indeed a very fruitful notion, of mysteries. But reason can perform these functions safely and well only when properly trained, that is, when imbued with that sound philosophy which has long been, as it were, a patrimony handed down by earlier Christian ages, and which moreover possesses an authority of an even higher order, since the Teaching Authority of the Church, in the light of divine revelation itself, has weighed its fundamental tenets, which have been elaborated and defined little by little by men of great genius. For this philosophy, acknowledged and accepted by the Church, safeguards the genuine validity of human knowledge, the unshakable metaphysical principles of sufficient reason, causality, and finality, and finally the mind’s ability to attain certain and unchangeable truth.

I have never been able to shake the sense of rationalistic romance the PSR elicits in me. I often feel as though, when the principle is criticized (however cleverly), I am more certain that the principle is sound then I am that the arguments against it are sound (a Moore-ian response), in the same way as I’m more certain about libertarian freedom than I am any of the clever arguments against it. However, since love is blind, and since to some extent a lot is at stake (if not the existence of God, or even it’s demonstrability, at least the Catholic faith as propounded by the Ordinary Magisterium which binds Catholics to believe in God’s demonstrability by, among other things, the principle of sufficient reason; not to mention my rationalistic tendencies), perhaps I am wrong to hold onto the PSR in light of criticisms. Maybe I need to adopt a weaker more modest version of the principle, strong enough to demonstrate the existence of God, and weak enough not to run into the alleged problems of modal collapse et al. What kind of principle could satisfy this? What is interesting is that, I think, that very line of inquiry leads right to an extremely plausible argument for the existence of God which is (almost) necessarily more plausible than EVERY cosmological argument for the existence of God.

Let’s say that the Principle of Sufficient Reason should be construed the way it is most often construed, namely as that “every contingently true proposition has some explanation of it’s being true.” This, we are told, is too strong, because it seems to imply modal collapse altogether and would be, therefore, self-defeating (or trivially true).

Suppose for the sake of argument, then, that we say that the PSR is dubious, since some formidable challenges to it can be, and are, posed. We may opt, therefore, for a weakened principle, maybe something like this: “every fact which logically possibly has an explanation does have an explanation” (inspired in part by Pruss & Gale, as well as by Timothy O’Connor). This principle may exempt certain libertarian facts from requiring explanation in the strictest sense (and perhaps allow that to the extent that these facts can be explained, they must be). This principle, though, demonstrably demonstrates the existence of God as well (see this paper, and this one). In passing we might note that perhaps Molinism can be purchased with such a weakened principle, given the law of excluded middle and the ‘plausible’ intelligibility of subjunctive counterfactuals of creaturely freedom, and the A-theory of time could still not be preferred to the B-theory, because the A-theory allows for no explanation of why it is ‘now’ whatever time it is, the B-theory can explain this, and therefore it is logically possibly explained unless the B-theory is logically impossible.

Maybe this weakened principle of sufficient reason is still objectionable for some clever reason. Maybe, then, we ‘weaken’ it further (or differently). We can construe it as a metaphysical, rather than a modal, principle. So the Metaphysical Principle of Sufficient Reason (MPSR) says that “every contingent being which exist has been caused to exist by another being.” So long as we can make the whole contingent world out to be one contingent being, the MPSR is strong enough to obviate Theism. I note that Pope Pius actually called the principle a ‘Metaphysical’ Principle of Sufficient Reason, though I think it may be a mistake to read too much into that. This may be open to objections as well though, such as Russell’s objection given his view that “a subject named can never be meaningfully said to exist.” So that the world, for Russell, cannot coherently be said to exist.

So, we weaken the principle further to something like “out of nothing, nothing comes, and therefore anything which exists contingently comes out of something” (one needs to be careful not to slip into linguistic traps here, since ‘come out of’ is being used here in a very odd eclectic sense). This principle, which is really just a logical elaboration of the ex nihilo nihil fit, seems to get us to God as well. I’ll assume that there may be some clever objection to this too.

Maybe we weaken the principle further, therefore, to something like this: “for any contingent being or set of beings, it is more plausible than not that such beings were brought into existence by at least one other being.” Again this principle will lead us straight to an incontingent being with the ability to bring the whole aggregate of contingent beings into existence, and this incontingent being will more plausibly exist than not.

Maybe we weaken the principle further, making it an epistemological principle stating that “if some fact has some possible explanation, then it is unjustifiable [Ceteris Paribus?] to maintain that it does not have an explanation” which may give us a good reason to think that if God can possibly serve as an explanation for the world (and is the only available option in this cosmological-case) then Atheism and Agnosticism are unjustified.

Let’s assume we continue to enumerate various different principles of sufficient reason, and let’s assume for the sake of argument that each one can be plugged into an argument which validly leads to the conclusion that God exists (and which would be ‘sound’ just in case the principle were correct). Now, surely the weakest versions of these principles, being less objectionable than their stronger peers, will seem more plausible than their peers, and (I think obviously) more plausible than not. Now we must ask the following question: is it more plausible that every single one of these principles is wrong, or that at least one of these principles is right? If the later is more plausible all things considered, then all things considered Theism is not just a rationally tenable conclusion; failure to assent to Theism appears unjustified since it appeals tacitly to the position which is less plausible. However plausible any one of the principles are, this argument will be at least as plausible, and, unless no principle other than a single (extremely weak) one is plausible at all, it will follow that this argument just combines the plausibility of ALL cosmological arguments, and so inherits a greater plausibility than any one argument.


About tylerjourneaux

I am an aspiring Catholic theologian and philosopher, and I have a keen interest in apologetics. I am creating this blog both in order to practice and improve my writing and memory retention as I publish my thoughts, and in order to give evidence of my ability to understand and communicate thoughts on topics pertinent to Theology, Philosophy, philosophical theology, Catholic (Christian) Apologetics, philosophy of religion and textual criticism.
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17 Responses to A plausible cosmological argument from the Principles of Sufficient Reason.

  1. William says:

    Admittedly, none of these versions of the Principle of Sufficient Reason are supported by sufficient scientific evidence. They may be intuitive, but there is nothing supporting them of the kind that supports a well confirmed theory in physics, say, or the theory of evolution. So, how would you respond to the criticism that since we don’t have any more reason to accept these principles than we have to believe in God in the first place, arguing to God from these principles is circular?

    • That’s an interesting thing to say. After all, the Principle of Sufficient Reason (or some version thereof) is the single most empirically verified principle there is. The theories in physics, as well as everywhere else in science, are based on some principle like the PSR (even if weaker, making it non-committal metaphysically speaking). Quantum Mechanics is considered surprising in large part because it seems to be a possible counterexample to the principle, but insofar as that’s the case it’s the exception that proves the rule. Everywhere else in science this rule is obeyed (and, I would say, it is also clearly not disobeyed in quantum mechanics properly understood).

      Moreover, maybe we do have other reasons for believing these principles, such as that they are intuitively self-evident (in the same way as belief in the Principle of Non-contradiction is self-evident, even if we can’t give ANY scientific evidence in favor of it, or put it to any test). Thus, reasons for accepting the PSR may come from modal-logical considerations, and there the PSR fares surprisingly well.

      • William says:

        What about quantum mechanics? Some interpretations of quantum mechanics are indeterministic, which seems contrary to the Principle of Sufficient Reason.

      • Yes, well, I was trying to get away with gesturing in the direction of the answer rather than giving it myself, but I suppose I’ll have to say a bit more. I will preamble, though, with a recapitulation of what I just said; namely, that some version of the PSR is best understood as a logical principle (a priciple, that is to say, of modal logic), and insofar as logic undergirds and informs science (rather than vice versa) it cannot be impeached on the grounds that we don’t have enough scientific evidence for it. The PSR, like the PNC or the LEM (law of excluded middle), is one of the principles without which we couldn’t even do philosophy (by which I mean think about the world) let alone do science (by which I mean rationally investigate the natural world). Moreover if put to the test, the PSR (or at least a principle like the ex nihilo nihil fit) is spectacularly well verified by science. Quantum mechanics is surprising because it is sometimes taken to be the exception – and thus it serves as an exception which proves the rule.

        Now first, not all (or, to my knowledge, even most) of the available competing theories about quantum mechanics on the scientific market of our day are indeterministic. The Copenhagen interpretation may be, but there are deterministic competitors. So, we can’t even license the claim that one area of physics, which is one area of natural science, poses or presents itself as a counter example to the PSR. However, let’s pretend for the sake of argument that the Copenhagen interpretation is vindicated in times to come (and isn’t subsequently overturned). Would that provide a counterexample? No, not necessarily. Alexander Pruss points out in his book on the PSR that somebody could always in principle appeal to a possible metaphysical interpretation, such as that quantum events are caused by future contingencies (which we could therefore not predict) or that God is causing what we see at the quantum level. Such explanations may be wrong, but at least they aren’t impossible, and to suggest that the PSR is possibly wrong is a bit like saying the same of the PNC; it is one of the basic logical principles by which we measure possibility and impossibility in the first place.

  2. William says:

    I agree that there is a causal principle which undergirds science, but this causal principle just says that entities can’t act contrary to their natures. The idea is that since every entity has a specific nature, and properties are always properties of entities, every property is an expression of the nature of the entity that has it. So if my computer malfunctions, then that cannot be happening for no reason – there must be something about my computer that is making it malfunction. It is impossible for this principle to be violated, because for it to be violated an entity would have to exhibit contradictory attributes.

    This principle covers all of the examples that the PSR is brought out to account for. It explains why we are sustained by our cells, which are sustained by chemical reactions in our cells, which are sustained by… and so forth. However, it does not guarantee that there will be an explanation for the tiniest physical constituents of the universe or for the existence of the universe as a whole. It just guarantees that their properties will be consistent.

    • I don’t where to begin with this. My first thoughts are that this is clearly a medieval view of science, and not a modern one (which, by the way, doesn’t bother me one bit). Science today is not thought to be the investigation of ‘natures’ but the investigation of Nature. Whatever entities you pick out, they only have what properties they have because those entities are arranged in certain ways, but it is the whole universe or the whole of ‘nature’ which has those properties observed.

      Moreover, science often comes across ‘contradictory’ attributes, and sometimes responds not with a small change in the theory or auxiliary assumptions, but by a paradigm shift altogether. Entities are themselves, in science, theory-laden objects of observation. When the theory changes, so does the object. As when the shift from Newtonian to Einsteinian physics took place, the objects of physics looked entirely different (‘mass’ doesn’t even strictly mean the same thing, though I think some scientists have been able to offer a translation scheme). So, contradictory attributes in science motivate new theories, and sometimes even new paradigms (which change even the entities observed, so that entity X1 in paradigm P1 is observed to have contradictory attributes, while a whole new entity X2 in a whole new paradigm P2 is not thought to have contradictory attributes – so that the identification of entities (the process of picking them out) is itself set by the theory itself, making it hard to see how your principle can undergird science. However, maybe you could just say that any entity postulated on any theory and in any paradigm can’t be said to have contradictory attributes if the theory-paradigm is acceptable. That’s problematic too, though, since science is in the habit of tolerating contradiction. So, if you mean that at any given time, provided a paradigm, science will not tolerate a thing having attributes which are contrary to the attributes permitted by the theory, then you’re clearly wrong.

      Remember that the planet Mercury’s orbit was a huge problem for Newtonian physics and that the planet ‘Vulcan’ was an invented postulate which was supposed to explain why Mercury moved the way it did around the sun (because, Vulcan being a planet even closer to the sun, it’s gravitational pull on Mercury would explain why Mercury wasn’t moving the way Newtonian physics would have led us to believe). However, when no such planet was found the hypothesis was scrapped (only to be picked up in future science fiction, like Star Trek, but never to be picked up in science again). Newtonian physics tolerated Mercury as an unsolved problem. Clearly then, for this whole period in the history of science, Mercury was acting contrary to it’s attributes (as seen through the lens of science). But surely you wouldn’t say that this period was non-scientific! The history of science is full of such examples, including today when we still don’t have a way to solve the antinomy between quantum mechanics and Einstein’s theory of relativity. Science puts up with contradictory attributes all the time. So I’m not sure how to make sense of the suggestion that it’s a principle which underlies science that no postulated entity can have properties which stand in contradiction to the properties the entity has ex hypothesi – there must be a more basic, maybe even more modest, principle behind the one you stipulate.

      Moreover, what does the PSR say? It says, here, that for any phenomena, there is some explanation. Imagine, then, that physics postulated entities with properties, and that some entities were just thought to be able to act in various ways in various circumstances. Imagine, for example, the analogy of a perfectly spherical ball standing balanced on the highest point of a perfect dome – on Newtonian physics it was perfectly consistent for the ball to remain exactly where it was at the top of the dome, or for it to roll down the dome in any direction (given the constant pull of gravity towards the base of the dome). Suppose we saw such events today, on the macroscopic level, such as a planet moving in one of two ways – would science be content whichever way the planet moved, given that the theory stipulated that it may have moved in ‘either way’? No. Even if science could account for either one by appealing to the properties an entity (as a theory-laden object of observation) has, science would not be satisfied with this. Scientists would want to know why the planet moved this way rather than that. They would embark on a quest for the sufficient reason the planet moved this way rather than that, or that way rather than this. So even if science could account for observation by appealing to entities and the properties they have given some theory by which entities are picked out in the first place, science would not be satisfied with that – science would continue investigating until unearthing the sufficient reasons behind observations.

      Also, clearly the ex nihilo nihil fit undergirds science, since science always presumes that the ex nihilo nihil fit isn’t violated (and if it ever is, then all of science is in a lot of trouble, since it has operated this whole time on a false assumption). Nowhere in science is this principle ever violated (even the quantum vacuum is clearly a physical entity with physical properties).

      • William says:

        Your claim that science is about investigating nature as a whole rather than the individual natures of entities is puzzling. What is the difference between the two? It seems like investigating nature as a whole just is investigating the individual natures of entities. Ascribing the results of science to nature as a whole could at best be a sort of linguistic convention for presenting the results of science, not a genuinely distinct methodology from investigating individual natures.

        I deny your claim that science ever permits entities to have contradictory natures. When an entity seems to have a contradictory nature, scientists know that they have misinterpreted the data somewhere, and immediately begin looking for a rational resolution. This is true of all of the examples you present – for example, it is why physicists are looking for a way to resolve the conflict between quantum mechanics and relativity, rather than just saying “oh, I guess there are contradictions.” This is all in accordance with the causal principle I propose.

        Finally, I agree with the principle ex nihilo nihil fit, but that is neither equivalent to the Principle of Sufficient Reason nor sufficient to argue for the existence of God as traditionally conceived.

      • The ex nihilo nihil fit might be sufficient to argue for a monotheistic panentheism. Granted Panentheism isn’t ‘traditional’, that still gets one to Theism, which is all the post above endeavored to prove. Also, not that it doesn’t preclude anything like classical Christian theism either – maybe other arguments can be appended to this one once this one has done the work of minimally making us all ‘theists’.

        What you say about science is interesting. I’ll have to think it over again. In particular I’ll talk to my philosophy of science professor, himself a naturalist, and ask him if your causal rule requires the presumption of universal generalizations, and then, if it does (as I suspect it does) why the Naturalist shouldn’t (on his view) construe science as involving any universal generalizations.

        Finally, the difference between the study of ‘Nature’ and the study of discriminate natures involves a bit of philosophy or ‘metaphysics’. To speak as though there are various different kinds of things, and different ‘things’ in nature, is a presumption which seems to appeal to a hidden commitment; that of substance realism. However, science is generally thought to be metaphysically neutral with respect to the existence of ‘things’ with ‘properties’. If there are such things, then we can in principle say that a certain drug reduces one to sleep because it has a dormitive quality. Modern science generally disregards any such turn of phrase, unless meant in the most metaphorical way.

      • William says:

        You will need to explain how ex nihilo nihil fit can be used to argue for panentheism. I don’t see how the principle could be used to argue for any notion of God, unless it’s a vague, uncontroversial notion like “God is the universe.” No one is arguing about whether or not the universe exists, of course.

        The position that there are things doesn’t seem to involve substance realism, if that means that there is a “substance” in which all of a thing’s “accidents” “inhere.” It’s just the claim that there are things like tables, chairs, cats, and so forth, leaving the question of their metaphysical constitution completely open.

      • Notice that Panentheism is the view that the divine nature is exemplified, which means that some being really does exemplify omniscience and omnipotence and all the rest. This being, however, is neither identical to the world (as on pantheism), nor entirely distinct from the world (as on classical monotheism), but rather the world is part of God. Minimally what this means is that some necessary being exists who has all the superlative attributes Theists argue for. The ex nihilo nihil fit says of everything which exists that it cannot have come out of nothing. Panentheism says that the world came out of God. If the world is contingent, if it came into existence (which we can prove philosophically, at least to my satisfaction, that it did, and we can bolster that claim with scientific standards of demonstration which will also show the universe to have come into existence), then on Naturalism/Atheism it did not come from any necessary being, but this will violate the ex nihilo nihil fit unless one tries to postulate a non-necessary set of entities, infinite in number, which led up to the universe. Granted that the whole set’s existence would be brute, that’s not strictly a problem for the ex nihilo nihil fit. So, I guess you might be able to get out of the argument that way. However, I think it’s clear that postulating a brute infinite set of (presumably) indescribable entities causally (and not temporally) anteceding the universe is much less plausible than postulating a necessary being with at least all the qualities making it possible for such a being to bring the universe into existence (out of itself).

        Also, I think perhaps you misunderstand the terms ‘substance’ ‘accident’ or ‘inhere’. We should provide a translation scheme here. Substance means a property bearing thing (a thing to which predicates ‘truly’, mind-independently belong). An accident is a property/predicate. Inhering simply means that the property/predicate belongs to some thing, that it is properly about some particular thing. The conviction, it seems to me, common to many or most (or all) naturalists is that the world at bottom can be comprehended exhaustively by an exhaustive physics, because at bottom biology, chemistry, (maybe even logic and mathematics) et al, reduce to physics. That betrays the underlying conviction that science properly construed studies one indiscriminate substance, and not many. Of course, put that way, I suppose even the scientific realist who is a naturalist is also some very modest kind of substance realist.

      • William says:

        Whether or not we opt for an infinite regress of contingent entities, it should be clear that a necessary being from which the universe proceeded is not the same as a God “who has all the superlative attributes theists argue for,” like omniscience and omnipotence. So, either way, it doesn’t seem like ex nihilo nihil fit will suffice to prove the existence of God any more than the Principle of Sufficient Reason will.

        I’m not positing that substances exist, if a substance is “a thing to which predicates ‘truly’, mind-independently belong.” There are things that are more or less similar to or different from one another, but assigning predicates to things is done by minds, by comparing and contrasting the similarities and differences of the things.

      • “Snow is white” is mind independently true. At least it’s the case that “at least one thing is extended in space” is mind independently true. Or that “at least one thing exists” is mind independently true. If there are any mind-independently true facts about the world then they are facts about states of affairs, whether observed or not. States of affairs cannot simply consist of properties or predicates ‘floating’ about or ‘bundling’ about. If there are any true facts (which, expressed as propositions, relate predicates to subjects), then they correspond to a state of affairs.

        You’re right that a necessary being may not have all the superlative attributes. Panentheism is ‘open’ to all the superlative attributes, but of course one could have a more modest Panentheism. So, one could argue that God is necessary, exists a se, is incredibly powerful, is not essentially temporal or essentially spacial (etc.), is personal (has a will), and so on. That begins to look a lot like Theism. Strictly speaking though, you’re right that the ex nihilo nihil fit won’t get you all the superlative attributes, though an argument can be made from that principle to some sort of minimalistic theism, and from there it may be more plausible for other reasons to ascribe the superlative attributes to ‘this’ being. In the end, what I want the Naturalist to face up to is that there is a necessary being. We’ll deal with the rest when we get there, but first thing’s first: there is a necessary being.

      • William says:

        I would say that “snow is white” is not mind independently true. You need a mind to form the concepts of “snow” and “white” and put them together. It is objectively true, because objectivity is not the same thing as mind independence. A claim is objectively true provided a mind has put itself in the correct relationship to reality to perceive the truth of the claim. But I don’t know what it would mean for a claim to be mind independently true – the most you could say is that there are mind independent similarities and differences that a mind could integrate into the conclusion that, say, snow is white.

        You said that ex nihilo nihil fit leads to the conclusion that there is a God that “is necessary, exists a se, is incredibly powerful, is not essentially temporal or essentially spacial (etc.), is personal (has a will), and so on.” First of all, it only leads to the conclusion that there is a necessary being if we disregard the alternative that there might be an infinite regress of contingent entities, but let’s set that aside. Provided that ex nihilo nihil fit does lead to a necessary being, that might or might not lead to the other attributes you list. We don’t have any other examples of beings with aseity, nontemporality, or nonspatiality, so I don’t know where the justification for your inferences to those properties could come from. The claim that a necessary first cause would have to be personal is also puzzling, since minds seem to be just as contingent as anything else in our experience.

      • “A claim is objectively true provided a mind has put itself in the correct relationship to reality to perceive the truth of the claim.” I suppose you’re not a correspondence theorist then. I should ask whether you think this condition on truth is itself true independently of whether anyone believes or perceives it, for a reductio, but if you’re consistent you’ll just say that it isn’t. Here we’re at an impass, perhaps. No other theory of truth is even intelligible to me.

        Suppose all the apples we’ve ever observed are red, green or yellow. Does that mean that an apple is conceptually defined such that it isn’t possible that an apple be purple or black? No, clearly not; the idea of an apple is not conceptually bound up with being this or that colour. Similarly there is nothing about the concept of a person which makes it the case that it, as a concept, is conceptually demarcated by it’s being either contingent or material. Nothing about the concept of a mind, even if that concept arises only from experiences (which it may not), involves contingency essentially. Any claim to the contrary, being less modest, must carry a burden of demonstration. Moreover, we can see this clearly by introspective analysis, but I’ll leave that point aside for now.

        I do think that there are good philosophical arguments against the possibility of an actually infinite number of subsequent and causally related contingent beings, and that’s the presumption behind my move from ex nihilo nihil fit to a necessary being. Of course, as I indicated, perhaps any argument for the absurdity of an actually infinite number of subsequent and causally related contingent beings will rely in some subtle way on a principle in this ‘family of principles’ about sufficient reason, which will be somewhat stronger than the ex nihilo nihil fit. So, I think I can concede that point to you for now (thank you). For the sake of argument though, assume that we have good reason to regard the suggestion of an actually infinite number of subsequent and causally related contingent beings as illegitimate. If this were the case, then a necessary being follows. Even if a necessary being didn’t follow (i.e., an actually infinite number of beings), surely it’s more reasonable than it’s alternative (it’s more parsimonious, for example).

        How I would go about arguing for the other attributes is similar to how Craig goes about this. First, clearly the being is powerful (at least powerful enough to create the entire world – though perhaps that’s adopting the causal adequacy principle, and maybe that’s one of the principles up for contention). If the universe has a cause, then the cause must be altogether distinct from the universe (not temporal, not material, etc), and the only two candidates for this are, it seems, platonic forms and immaterial persons. You may not believe there ARE immaterial persons (I don’t believe there are platonic forms), but clearly you should agree that these are the only two options (can you think of any other?). However, platonic forms are not concrete (by definition) and are causally effete (by definition). If they are causally effete, it seems that they cannot stand in causal relations at all. So the cause must be a person (or, more precisely, a ‘personal’ being). If the being exists necessarily then, I think, the explanation of it’s existence must be identical with it’s nature (it must belong to it’s essence to exist, and necessarily). If that’s right (and I think it is, and obviously so – though the Platonist will disagree) then you get Aseity. Arguments will proceed in this same fashion.

      • William says:

        I am a correspondence theorist, actually. If “a claim is objectively true provided a mind has put itself in the correct relationship to reality to perceive the truth of the claim,” then truth is correspondence to reality, with the correspondence being the relationship between the perceiving mind and the reality it perceives.

        I agree that seeing only red, green and yellow apples doesn’t mean that it’s part of the concept of an apple that an apple has to be red, green or yellow. However, this is because there is a variable, color, of which red, green, and yellow are different measurements. So after you’ve seen red, green, and yellow apples, you can say “apples can be a range of colors from here to here,” and from then on you’re not tempted to deny that purple or black apples are apples, because they fall within the range you’ve set.

        But the range does not go on forever. If an apple was invisible because its color was outside our visible spectrum, we would be tempted to put it in a separate category from other apples. This latter case is more similar to the claim that minds can be necessary than the former case. If we say that minds can be necessary, then we’re saying that they can have their existence like 1+1=2, which is a considerable difference from any mind in our experience. You are not just suggesting that there might be minds that fall slightly further along an axis than the minds we’re familiar with, like purple and black apples fell slightly further along the color axis in your example.

        I disagree with your arguments for the conclusion that the necessary being would have to be nonspatial, nontemporal, and personal. I think that, if we are going to posit a necessary being, the most plausible candidate is the universe, and the universe is spatial, temporal, and impersonal. This argument might clash with some of our intuitions, but it has the virtue of confining itself strictly to experience, and not positing anything based on premises that cannot be reduced to empirical evidence.

  3. Larry Myers says:

    I don’t really see a problem with RSR and quantum mechanical indertemistic properties, because there is sufficient reason for it to be indertermistic, and as you were saying they can be determined by future events. But enough on that.
    Would you mind going into a little more detail how you subscribe to the PSR and complete libertarian free will at the same time? The two seem to me to be contradictory.

    • Yeah, there is an apparent antinomy between libertarian free will and the principle of sufficient reason, because anybody who freely chooses ‘A’, given two options A and B, does so in such a way that many believe there can be no sufficient reason for. I maintain that if a hypothetical person Bill libertarian-freely chooses A, given two options A and B, then there may be a sufficient reason why they did so, which will just be all the reasons they had for choosing A. If they presented with all the same reasons for A or B, chose B, then the reason for choosing B would be all the reasons they had in the first place for choosing B. The reasons may even be distinct in each case. Some will say that this isn’t ‘sufficient-reason’ because they think a sufficient reason will be deterministic, but I disagree. A sufficient reason will need only to be a reason ‘sufficient’. So, if a person has two choices A and B, they must have enough ‘reason’ for choosing A to make it a live option, and enough ‘reason’ for choosing B to make it a live option, so that in either case the reason given for choosing A/B will be ‘sufficient’. The reason was sufficient for a libertarian-free decision to be made in the first place.

      The trouble seems to come in when one asks the contrastive question “Why did Bill choose A rather than B?” and this kind of question is tricky. Even if in a possible world W1 Bill chooses A for reasons R1, and in W2 Bill chooses B for reasons R2 (where R1 and R2 are not identical), one will want to ask a further question. Of course, if they ask why W1 is actual, they will just get R1 as the reason (perhaps in combination with other reasons about truth making). So, the tricky question comes in if they ask of Bill in W1 why Bill acted on R1 rather than on R2. The answer seems to be that Bill acted libertarian freely, or ‘moved’ himself. So, there can be no ‘reason’ behind Bill’s acting on this or that set of reasons (unless molinist-type counterfactuals are true, I suppose, but then they would stand in need of a sufficient reason and they can have none – and I’m not even sure molinist-type counterfactuals would really ‘do the right job’ in this context anyways).

      In my previous comment to another commentator I mentioned the example of the Newtonian ball standing atop a perfect dome, which, on Newtonian physics, either continues to stay where it is, or rolls down the dome in any direction – both are perfectly consistent with Newtonian physics. I think a libertarian-free person is one who finds herself in that kind of stochastic situation often (as often, in fact, as she is able to make free choices). I think that since the choice (consequent) is not entailed or determined by the antecedent, the explanation for the consequent has to be a non-deterministic explanation (and randomness would be no explanation). If the Newtonian ball were a free agent, and if they had some reason R1 for rolling down the dome, and if they did roll down the dome, then R1 would, it seems to me, be the sufficient reason why they rolled down the dome. If they had some reason R2 for staying put, and they did stay put, then R2 would be the sufficient reason why the ball stayed put. If you ask the question ‘what is the sufficient reason the libertarian-free ball acted on R1 rather than R2’ at some point I will end up saying that it’s just self-explanatory; that, in other words, you aren’t asking a sensible question.

      I would like to say more on this, but I haven’t got the time right now. Instead, I’ll simply say that the way I hold Libertarian Free Will and the PSR is properly-basic, and the appearance of conflict is something about which I am more skeptical than I am of either of the principles. Thus, my commitment is somewhat Moorean. I do sincerely care about their compatibility, but the questions surrounding LFW & PSR are not easy. They require a lot of world, which I’m still in the process of doing, to some extent, as I continue to think both of them through.

      You may be interested in this though; http://prosblogion.ektopos.com/archives/2010/06/contrastive-exp-1.html

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