Infinite Causal Regression
Arguments concerning the possibility of an infinite regress of causes have always played a crucial role in metaphysics and in natural theology. And of course this issue was once important in the sciences as well, namely in Aristotelianism. Indeed, the most influential reasons which have been adduced by philosophers and theologians against infinite causal regressions—as, for example, St. Thomas’ well-known Five Ways-arose directly and explicitly out of Aristotelian scientific considerations; they are meta-physical proofs, that is, proofs which are supposed to follow on theorizations in physical science. The gist of them is that, if there were an infinite regress of causes, then no adequate scientific explanation would be possible, and observed phenomena would thus be unintelligible—which consequence is absurd. In this paper I shall attempt to delineate the medieval elaboration of this argument, as given by such men as Avicenna, Averroes, Maimonides, Aquinas, and Duns Scotus.
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