We discuss Occam’s Razor and simplicity, the principle of sufficient reason, and brute facts.
Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR): The principle that everything must have an explanation, reason, cause, or ground.
Brute fact: Something with no further explanation.
*Edit* I used “brute fact” to simply mean “explanatory termination” in this episode. A brute fact, however, even if it’s the place where our explanations ultimately come to an end, may not be true in all possible worlds. If it was true in all possible worlds, we wouldn’t call it a brute fact; we would call it a metaphysical necessity. In other words, if x is brute, x may not have been.
/ Leibniz’s Contingency Argument /
- Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence (either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause).
- If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God (a necessary being).
- The universe exists.
- Therefore, the universe has an explanation of its existence.
- Therefore, the explanation of the universe’s existence is God.
I reject the principle of sufficient reason (the first premise) because I think there must be at least one brute fact, and because the PSR is arguably self-refuting. I also don’t think the universe needs an explanation for its existence, assuming we’re defining universe in the broadest possible sense. I need to add that caveat because what has previously been called “the universe” may in fact only be a part of everything that exists. In the same way that scientists prematurely named certain particles “atoms,” only to find out later they were not in fact atoms, we may have prematurely named a part of the universe, “the universe.” Apologists will sometimes burn a lot of fuel arguing that “the universe” has an explanation, when they’re not really talking about everything that exists, ever has existed and ever will exist. If this all-encompassing whole is not “an arbitrary act of the mind,” then it could be a brute fact. And to be fair, if god existed, god could be a brute fact. But on grounds of simplicity alone, without even touching all the problems with the notion of god, nature or some aspect of nature is a better candidate than god as the place where our explanations ultimately come to an end.
William Lane Craig on Leibniz’s Contingency Argument [Reasonable Faith]
Contingency Argument [Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy]
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Transcripts available at emersongreenblog.wordpress.com
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