Questions of the Mind Applied to the Kalam Argument

I recently saw a person in an online philosophy discussion pose the question “Can we prove that logic applies to reality?” Such are questions that give philosophers a bad name amongst non-philosophers who view topics like this as worse than the flat earth society and alien abductions, and dismiss them as musings of rich college students with not enough to do. Perhaps they are correct. Others, such as postmodernists, new agers, and pantheists readily embrace the non-logic of the entire universe, and are ready to give us a logical argument why this is so.

Let us put the question before us: Can we prove that logic applies to reality?

This question asks us to accept the premise that we are trying to start with a question in our mind and get to reality. The questions starts with a pure idea, namely the question of whether we can prove that logic applies to reality, and tries to apply this pure idea it to reality.  We cannot do this, however. If we start with a mental problem separated from reality, we will always have a mental problem and will not be able to get to the real world. If we start only in the mind, we will end up there. Further, with the question at hand, it is impossible to prove the contradictory, that logic does not apply to reality. So the question puts the burden of proof onto us, and it is impossible to prove, for we merely have a mental problem separated from reality. We might as well be asking, “Can we apply the concept of four to reality, before we apply it to reality?” Any supposed demonstration that logic applies to reality has to use reality to prove it,  which is the question in the first place, so any response will be circular and invalid.

If we start with pure mental problems, we will be forever locked in our minds. To make conclusions about what is real, we must start with reality and derive meaning, not the other way around. If we start with thought problems and try to get to reality, we will fail and forever be locked in our minds.

A similar question is sometimes applied to some of the proofs for the existence of God. The Kalam Cosmological Argument is as follows:

1. Everything that has a beginning has a cause.
2. The universe had a beginning.
3. Therefore the universe had a cause.

I have had some atheists object to the first premise on the grounds that we cannot prove the premise applies to reality. The objection, as posed by some atheists, goes something like this: Can you prove that everything that has a beginning needs a cause? I think you might be inventing the idea and applying it to the world. Can you prove to me that causality applies to reality? If you cannot prove it, it is an unsupported premise.

The first premise is built upon the law of causality that says that every effect requires a cause. By definition, an effect is something that is caused, and a cause is something that produces an effect. We cannot get away from these basic definitions without either redefining what we are talking about or going into absurdity.

Well, if we view the law of causality as a mental concept separated from reality, then we have by definition done just that: separated it from reality. In such a case, the atheist’s question has started with a mental problem and will always remain there. Such might be an interesting mental puzzle, but the atheist has paid a high price for his skepticism. He has forever locked himself into his mind and cannot draw conclusions in the real world. I suspect he does not use this degree of skepticism with more mundane things like his dealings with the bank teller or the IRS auditor, but only when we are talking about a God that applies moral standards to one’s life.

But if we accept that a real world exists and derive our premise from it, then premise 1 is perfectly valid. We start from the real world and draw from it both premise 1 and the law of causality that is behind it. Premise 1 of the Kalam Argument is not proved by starting with pure mental questions and trying to apply them to reality, for no question on any topic can make this leap. Rather, premise 1 is derived by accepting that the real world exists and we can know things about it.

Further, it does no good to deny premise 1 by using induction, namely, by saying that we have not observed every event, therefore we cannot know that every event requires a cause. First, the contradictory is impossible to prove, namely that there are some events that do not have causes. Second, an event is by definition something that is caused, and a cause something that creates an event, so the subjects and actions are true by definition. We cannot equivocate in mid-discussion and change what we are talking about. If the conversation is about causes and events, we cannot then say that some events might not be caused, for that is not what we are talking about.

Therefore we hold that the first premise of the Kalam Argument is valid, and the argument is a good demonstration of a first cause. This we call God.

About humblesmith

Christian Apologist & Philosopher
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10 Responses to Questions of the Mind Applied to the Kalam Argument

  1. dwwork says:

    Reblogged this on Reasons For The Hope Blog and commented:
    Another great post from Glenn

  2. No person making the KCA for god has ever shown that everything must have an intelligent agent as a cause. Rain drops and rainbows begin to exist yet are not the doing of an intelligent agent. This being a single example opens the discussion for the question ‘did the universe begin to exist from absolutely nothing?’ There the KCA fails because it presumes this to be true without just reason to do so.

    • humblesmith says:

      You are correct in that no one explaining the Kalam argument has claimed that strictly demonstrating Kalam results in an intelligent cause. All good explanations of Kalam explain this, and they always show that Kalam merely results in a cause of the universe. But they usually then explain that after we have demonstrated Kalam to be true, the law of causation tells us several things about this cause, which results in a logical conclusion of an intelligent cause.

      Something coming from absolute nothing is absurd. Out of nothing, nothing comes. If we accept that something can come from nothing, then we are down the trail with Alice and the rabbit, for any logical absurdity is then possible.

  3. Someone once said Hope is the Denial of reality, but Hope is always based in reality, although its reality is only seen by those who have Faith.

    There is enough evidence in the Scriptures to prove God’s reality for those who have eyes to see which are those who Seek, Ask and Knock. God is Eternity in Him all things have their beginning except evil which is the absence of Love, God is Love 100% and can do no evil.

    If we want to know God’s reality we ask for His wisdom by the empowering of The Holy Spirit.

    Christian Love – Anne

  4. The Thinker says:

    There is an implication from the Kalam argument that theists often overlook. And that is, if everything that begins to exist has a cause, then our will begins to exist, and so it must have a cause, and whatever caused that must have a cause, and whatever caused that must have a cause, and you will find yourself following a series of causal chains going back to the big bang, and that essentially gets you determinism, which negates free will. So any theist who accepts and uses the Kalam argument must concede free will and be a determinist. There’s no way out of it.

    So if everything that begins to exist has a cause, determinism is true, and there is no free will, and if our “free” will begins to exist without a cause, then the first premise of the Kalam is false and the argument is refuted, but you cannot have it both ways. It’s yet another dilemma for the theist.

    • humblesmith says:

      I had someone previously give this same objection, only to a different argument than Kalam. Nevertheless the objection is the same. The concept you are arguing against is agency, and whether agents can originate anything, or do we need an infinite string of causes. I did a series of posts answering this exact line of argument, which if you want, you can start at the beginning:
      https://humblesmith.wordpress.com/2011/08/14/why-should-the-christian-study-philosophy-agency-part-1/

      In summary, the objection you state confuses being and becoming, a category mistake. Things already in act can originate causes. But the details are in the series about agency, which I’ve linked above.

      • The Thinker says:

        How is that not special pleading?

        Remember the Kalam states that Everything that begins to exist has a cause. There are no exceptions in the first premise.

        • humblesmith says:

          Yes, I agree, everything that begins to exist has a cause. The question with agency is whether agents can cause thoughts and judgements of the will. In the series of eight posts I did on this, I go into detail about showing that a first, uncaused cause is necessary, and that source can create beings that are capable of generating effects. I explain this in some detail and deal with several objections. I again refer you to the series of posts on agency. The first post I linked is merely background. I get into the detailed explanation about halfway through the series.

          • The Thinker says:

            Yes I’ve read many of those posts and you haven’t addressed the challenge. To believe in free will requires that somethings begin to exist without a cause, and that means the Kalam is false. Otherwise what causes a being’s act to potentialize an action one way rather than another? No matter what answer you give, whatever it is will require a cause. And so will that. You could change the Kalam to say “Everything that begins to exist except…..has a cause.” But as the Kalam stands it is in logical conflict with free will.

          • humblesmith says:

            Look, I really do not see a point in going around in circles. First, you throw these acusations out on other posts than the ones that deal with them, which helps no one. Then you continue to merely reassert the objection without dealing with the issues that I’ve stated. So I see no point in continuing these types of conversations.

            But lest you accuse me of not dealing with the issue, I’ll repeat myself here. Your accusation is that movement of the will causes something to exist without a cause, which voilates the kalam argument. This is untrue for the simple reason that the person is moving the will. The person, acting as a a causal agent, has the power to move the will. The person, who is in act, has the ability to make decisions of the will. So thoughts, free will decisions, judgements, and any movement of the will are not uncaused; quite the contrary, they are moved by the causal agent, who has the ability to move the will. It is not the case that the human will is moved by some series of other movements, like a mechanistic series of dominoes. Rather, the person has the capacity to move the will.

            The person as a being, was indeed caused also. Each person was caused by the previous person, going back to the first cause. The first cause, as I’ve demonstrated elsewhere, is necessary and uncaused, since the first cause did not have a beginning. As you are aware, the kalam states that only things that begin to exist need a cause, therefore since the first cause did not begin to exist, it is uncaused.

            But your objection confuses the cause of the person, which does need a string of prior causes, with the cause of the movement of the will, which has a beginning in the person. The person has the power to generate causes, since the person is already in act and therefore can move potentials to actuals without needing any other power or cause. Anything in act can move a potential to an actual, unless limited by prior potential. As I have said, confusing the need for a prior cause of the person (being) with a need for a prior cause of the person’s actions (becomming) is a category mistake. You are confusing two concepts and trying to make them sound like they need the same type of cause. They do not.

            Specifically, you have asserted more than once that the will is moved by something else, but you appear to have merely assumed that there is a string of causes of the will going back to some sort of uncaused beginning. Such a position is 1) unexplained and merely asserted, 2) does not deal with the idea of a agent being able to cause things, and 3) does not deal with some versions of strict Calvinism which would hold that God directly moves the will.

            As to your question “What causes a being’s act to potentialize an action one way rather than another?” the answer is that the agent has the abilty to move it either way. As the series of eight posts show in some detail, and I’m repeating now, if an agent, who is in act, has the ability to move something, why then it has the ability to move something. The agent himself is caused to come into being, and at that point is created with the capacity to move an action one way rather than another. After all existence is created by God, nothing along the chain is uncaused. The will is moved any way it wishes by the agent, who was caused to exist with this capacity. It is not determinism or special pleading for the simple fact that a person, who was indeed caused, was caused with the capacity to move things one way or another. It is a quite simple concept that a greater cause, God, gave us the lesser ability to move things one way or the other as we wish. Technically, anything already in act can move a potential to actual, unless limited by prior potential. A rock does not have the potential for free will, humans do.

            So you ignored the point of this post we are in now, which is whether logic applies to reality. Further, you do not deal with the concepts in the posts that bring up the subjects, but plop them hither and yon in my blog. Still further, you continue to re-assert the same objections without adding anything to it or dealing with the answers that have already been given. If you think you have something to add, please deal with the subjects on the correct posts. I therefore urge you to take note of my comment policy.

            For this one, we’ll stop here, since it’s already gotten off-topic and repetitive.

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