Argument from Contingency – Response Theologica37

This is going to be a response to Theologica37 and his video entitled Arguments from Contingency: Thomistic & Leibnizian. Link: The user Theologica37, which from this point on I’ll be referring to as Theo, puts forth the argument from contingency as he uses both Leibniz and the Thomistic versions of the argument. The argument from contingency is based on the assumption that an explanation for all contingent entities cannot be itself contingent, it would therefore be argued that there must be an explanation that exists by necessity, this necessary explanation would be God. The main presupposition within this argument is in the form of a reductio ad absurdum as it argues the absurdity of an infinite regress of causal explanations. In order to show the flaws in this argument this thesis will break down contingent and non-contingent explanations using classical logic.

What I object to is the arguments use of regressive causality. Theo seems to be arguing an ontological succession of causal events. However, from what we know of modern physics this is simply not true. The infinite regression argument is loaded. The argument wants you to keep accounting for sufficient explanations which we eventually have to do away with using, because a sufficient explanation would require an explanation that is dependent, and therefore contingent upon something else to explain it. And that in turn would require another explanation and eventually we’ll have to come up with an infinite series of explanations that could go on ad infinitum. Now this may seem frustrating because its meant to be. But the questions within the argument from contingency are obviously fallacious as the argument presupposes its own causal explanation in what’s known as a homunculus fallacy. What they’re really asking is, “If all casual explanations are contingent then God is necessary so he must be the ultimate casual explanation“, but this doesn’t explain anything. The initial form of questioning is a linguistic trap, because the responses they’re trying to generate will seem like a never ending loop. The person may ask a simple question of causality then go off on a tangent demanding an overwhelming series of explanations for causal events. They may start with the leading question “what causes this event and then what causation cause that event?”. If you accept the initial false premise then you have already fallen victim to the Gish-gallop that follows. You could not possibly account for existing entities using an infinite series of causal explanations. What the theist is trying to do here is get you into a position where you’re forced to omit that an infinite series of causal explanations is impossible to account for pre-existing entities. Therefor we must conclude that there was this singular explanation that is contingent upon a necessary supreme being; a (God). 

So basically, if casual events occur then they must be explained by an external cause that is contingent upon it. The argument presupposes the idea of predeterminism. Now predeterminism, not to be confused with determinism, would argue that contemporary states of events are ultimately determined by a chain of prior states of events leading back to its origins. Now I think this is where me and Theo part ways metaphysically. I think the disagreement lies mainly in how we view existing entities to be accounted for. Which is either sequentially, as Theo would put it, entities being sufficient upon prior states of events or in a non-sequential manner, as I would put it, entities being relational to its foundational properties. Now to put it simply my rebuttal to this argument is that to account for existing entities is monistic as existing entities have unity within essence and are also limited within essence; & I’ll of course explain what this means.

But first let me show the logical implications I’m working from, when I speak of unity within existence I’m of course speaking of the monistic idea of reality. Monism or more specifically substance monism is the idea of substance having universal qualities within every kind of existing thing, every kind of thing is relational in some sense. All entities have some form of relatable substance that is foundational, this is quintessential of existence as a whole. The laws of physics even complement substance monism. I’m sure we’ve all heard the old mantra energy may not be created nor destroyed it simply changes. You may have heard of other laws based off this, such as the conservation of energy and the conservation of mass, these laws of physics are monistic in the sense that they all agree that while change is constant and is not quantifiable there is a foundational substance that operates throughout. So we can understand at least on both an axiological and scientific sense in how the monistic theory of metaphysics shows that substance/essence is, ontologically speaking, relational to all contingent entities and necessary to exist because substance/essence is the primary quality of existence.

Now the idea that entities are both limited and have unity is where we get the concept of potency and act. Theo mentions the Thomistic version but for clarity I’m going to use the original Aristotelian version. We can understand potency to be the potential or foundational substance that to which can remain itself while taking on new modifications. And the act, or actual properties, is the change by which the potency becomes actualized or overtly present within itself. So potency is the essence that persist within every kind of change that is potential for every kind of actual property and act is what limits potency within an actual property. If you’re still confused think of wood (potency) that has the potential to become a chair, table, or part of a boat (act).

But moving on we see how Aristotle mentions an important distinction that potency is necessary for any act in that act can only occur if there is some foundational substance in which it is capable of becoming another kind of existing thing. You may have heard the saying “there are no contraries to substance”, this is Aristotle. And really substance has no contraries to itself – substance is substance. So there must be a foundational substance for any potency to be possible in becoming another existing thing.

Potency is this foundational substance, and it is itself axiomatic because nothing that exists or nothing that which could exist could be caused without a preexisting foundational substance to account for it. So potency can be said to have unity – as it is the foundational substance that persists through every actual existing change. And act, the thing that has been modified or formed, is what becomes limited through potency by forming objects. So this is where again, we get the idea of entities having unity within essence, as there are no contraries to substance, every kind of existing thing is related to substance. And entities also being limited within essence as entities, or actual existing things, are limited by what makes it distinct, given its accidental properties. I don’t think Theo disagrees with this concept as he even admits in his video that a foundational substance is necessary, as he uses the metaphysical Thomistic version of potency and act,

“Contingent beings are composed of potency of act and essence of existence, there must be a proportion between any act and the potency which receives it”.

We see from this direct quote that Theo freely acknowledges that there must be some form of proportion, as he puts it, that must exist between potency and any act which receives it. Now Theo defines potency as, or I should say rather, the principle by which the proportion/substance is obtained in the act. And the act, the accidental property, which is somewhat similar to the original Aristotelian version – the change by which the potency becomes actualized or overtly present within itself. 

Given that there is this potency/foundational substance, that persist through any & all actual existing properties, then there is no reason to assume that there is this sub-sequential limit to existing entities, because all existent entities can be accounted for by a universal foundational substance found in all existing or potential properties. Therefore the argument from contingency fails because to ultimately account for existing entities could easily be explained through its relation NOT causation. The very fact that a contingent entity requires a necessary explanation, which we’ll grant, then that necessary explanation is easily explained via potency – the foundational substance for all existing things. For there can be no act or cause without first establishing some aspect of a necessary foundational substance which could have influenced it. 

– Jubilee Nunnallee 5/15/2013

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