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Æternus Est: Divinity as a Conceptual Necessity in the Principle of Causation

Abstract

The modern belief that mindless forces can be ultimate efficient causes of natural events is a conceptual impossibility. The logically ultimate cause of any change, the something that is ultimately making it occur in the present moment, is either a mind or not. More specifically, the cause either chooses to act or it does not. By choice here, I mean an act of free will in the libertarian sense. Where there is choosing in this sense there must be a mind. And when we say that an agent acts thus freely, we mean that it acts without being causally determined to act by anything beyond itself. However, this is conceptually indistinguishable from the idea of an ultimate efficient cause. To say that an agent is the ultimate cause in a causal chain is, by definition, to say that it acts without being caused to act by anything beyond itself. It is the head of the causal chain. It is, therefore, a matter of conceptual necessity that ultimate causes be minds, a fact that we have been blind to since the Scientific Revolution on the bad analogy of machines. Thus, every force ultimately governing the universe must be a mind corresponding either to the polytheist’s or the monotheist’s generic definition of divinity, and monotheism’s eternal mind will always be the most complete and justifiable explanation for the existence of the universe as a whole, even for the existence of the gods themselves.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    This being would necessarily transcend time.

  2. 2.

    This is the translation that Tyson uses in his article. The italics are mine.

  3. 3.

    The italics are mine.

  4. 4.

    Aquinas is obviously not using “ultimate” here in the sense that I do throughout this paper (i.e., as a synonym for “first” cause when tracing the causal chain from effect to cause).

  5. 5.

    The italics are mine.

  6. 6.

    He says this a few minutes into his opening remarks in the first of their three debates hosted by City Bible Forum in Australia.

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Correspondence to Larry Hunt.

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Hunt, L. Æternus Est: Divinity as a Conceptual Necessity in the Principle of Causation. Philosophia 46, 895–910 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11406-018-9952-2

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Keywords

  • Conceptual necessity
  • Cosmological argument
  • Ockham’s razor
  • Libertarian free will
  • God of the gaps