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Are cosmological arguments good arguments?


Over the course of his work, Graham Oppy developed numerous important criticisms of versions of the cosmological argument. Here I am not concerned with his specific criticisms of cosmological arguments but rather with his claim that cosmological arguments per se are not good arguments, for they provide no persuasive reason for believing the conclusion that God exists and are embedded in theories that already affirm the conclusion. I explore what he believes makes an argument good, contend that cosmological arguments can have functions within worldviews other than persuasion, and consider his recent modifications of the discussion that address competing worldviews.

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  1. For a list of critical engagements, see footnote 5 in Graham Oppy, 2002. See also Oppy, 2004, 2009a, 20092018b, 2019.

  2. Elsewhere, he advances validity as a necessary condition (2014, 28–29).

  3. Strangely enough, however, much of the rest of Oppy’s 2002 paper consists of arguments to persuade of the inadequacies of Craig’s kalam argument.

  4. “The kalam cosmological argument is an exercise in positive apologetics aimed at proving that God exists” (Craig, 1997, 236).

  5. “Although arguments from human reason cannot avail to provide what must be received on faith, nevertheless, this doctrine argues from articles of faith to other truths” (Aquinas, 1945, 1a, Q.1, Art. 8).

  6. Great similarities exist between Oppy’s treatment of theories and Thomas Kuhn’s treatment of paradigms. For example, whereas Oppy speaks about reductios, Kuhn refers to anomalies (1962, chapter 5). In both cases, the mere existence of such is not enough to warrant abandoning the theory or paradigm.

  7. Elsewhere, Oppy speaks of the minimization of theoretical commitments, involving commitments to numbers and kinds of entities, ideological commitments, and principles, and maximization of explanatory breadth and depth  (2018, 1, 119–20). See Kuhn, 1962, 177.

  8. See Kuhn (1962, 125, 128), who argues similarly that there is no fixed data from which disputes between paradigms can be settled. Questions about basic data already presuppose a paradigm setting.

  9. I want to express gratitude to a referee for very helpful comments and suggestions on the original submission.


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Correspondence to Bruce R. Reichenbach.

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Reichenbach, B.R. Are cosmological arguments good arguments?. Int J Philos Relig (2022).

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Key words

  • Cosmological argument
  • Graham Oppy
  • Arguments
  • Persuasion
  • Worldviews