# Sticking a Fork in it. Ending the Infinite Regress Objection to the Cosmological Arguement

Here is my new toy. Lets see if we can break it.

A common statement of the infinite regress objection is something like this.

…since the chain of events is eternal, the chain itself does not need a cause…

1. …since… This word can be expressed as an equality from its context, (=)

2…the chain of events is eternal,…

This statement can be expressed as infinite series of contingent beings, let this statement be (x)

3…the chain itself does not need a cause…

This statement can be expressed as necessary being let this statement be (y)

Therefore this statement can be reduced to…x=y (A=notA)!!!

Applying the Law of Identity we see an immediate contradiction. Therefore infinite regress arguments that fit the form of the statement since the chain of events is eternal, the chain itself does not need a cause" are logical contradictions.

Anyone interested feel free to beat on it a bit so I can see if its worth pursuing this line of argumentation. My standard response now is to refuse to talk about a single element of the set and refer to the entire set as a being contingent on the person who posed the argument to me. That works, but I would like a more elegant and brief demonstration so I can pass it around.

Basically your claim is that a series of contingent beings do not make up a necessary being. I tend to agree, but why is it so?

Now it would follow that if all beings were contingent then they could not all be necessary when added together (like Hume might claim), for that would be something (a being) that is not contingent, and that would be contradictory to the original claim. However, your formulation of the ‘infinite regress’ does not assume all being are contingent. Why can’t the necessary being be an infinite series of contingent beings?

Are you saying its an implied premise I need to state? Do you mean all beings (elements) in the set? Or I would have to include a set of all beings? Could you demonstrate what you mean? How would you formulate it? Thanks for the input, a bunch of people saw this post today and didn’t say jack. lol

Basically, I am asking how you see ‘x’ and ‘y’ to be contradictory. It does not seem immediately contradictory to me to say an infinite set of contingent beings makes up one necessary being.

Hey petey. I think the better way to interpret our “since” here would be in terms of implication: “**If **the chain of events is eternal,**then **the chain itself does not need a cause.” In symbols x --> y. One can, of course, dispute this entire implication, but there’s no contradiction here. I think there are problems with this though! One can deny that the antecedent (“the chain of events is eternal”) implies the consequent (the chain itself does not need a cause). Also, one can dispute that the chain is eternal, thus preventing the consequent from following. I myself would dispute both. Best.

The general definition of a contingent being is one that can fail to exist. The definition of a necessary being is one that cannot fail to exist. An infinite series of contingent beings is by definition a set that can fail to exist. Does this work?

But the whole does not have to have the quality of each of its parts. (e.g. mankind is made up of humans, but that does not mean mankind is a human itself). So perhaps an infinite series (the whole) of contingent beings (the parts) might be necessary.

Again, I do not think this is the case, but I can’t think of an argument off the top of my heads to why it can’t be so. That is, I think the cosmological argument proves beyond reasonable doubt that there has to be a necessary being (God), but I do not know of an argument that determines whether that God is one of Western Tradition or of pantheism (note: neither of the two are guaranteed by the argument; its not like one or the other exclusively follows from it).

[quote=awatkins69]One can deny that the antecedent (“the chain of events is eternal”) implies the consequent (the chain itself does not need a cause).
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Depends what you mean by eternal. In its strict sense, no, you cannot deny that which is eternal does not need a cause, for the definition of eternal (or necessary) is ‘existence itself’, and existence itself has its sufficient cause (reason for existence) of itself within itself. If you simply mean that eternal (or necessary) means ‘has always, and will always exist’, then I agree with you here.

[quote=awatkins69]Also, one can dispute that the chain is eternal, thus preventing the consequent from following.
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Absolutely. No real reason to posit that the chain itself is eternal/necessary. However, I think Warpspeedpetey is going further and looking for a proof as to why we cannot even posit that there is a necessary chain of contingent beings.

I don’t see how the whole can fail to have all the qualities of its parts. Copleston said that when you add up chocolates you do not get a sheep, referring to this problem. It seems obvious to me that a series of contingent beings is contingent itself. To me the addition of a property to the set isn’t justified. But as this is my baby, I could easily be missing something obvious because I want it to work. Hmm…

However, I think Warpspeedpetey is going further and looking for a proof as to why we cannot even posit that there is a necessary chain of contingent beings.

That’s about the size of it, I am looking for an elegant easy to use and effective way to deal with the issue. Something other people can pick up on and use.

Good stuff petey. If I may act as a proper Thomist and anticipate the counter-argument of whoever you may take this too. What’s to stop them from redefining x as necessary beings to make A=A? Might be something I’m not thinking of at the moment.

Think the best objection to these lines of thought is to make them admit this reasoning implies atemporal existence, thus defeating their argument. Atemporal existence = no motion/change. If you want to use a mechanical approach, atemporal existence = maximum entropy.

Thank you. I would say that Contingent and Necessary are mutually exclusive properties. Contingent can fail to exist, Necessary cannot fail to exist. I wonder If I can just go directly to a single element of the set and make the same claim? Normally they try to make you explain single elements in the set and then claim that each being is explained by the previous, but that seems like it might be an even tighter epistemic circle if I can convincingly argue that both properties do not apply to a single being. Just because a contingent being is the cause of the next contingent being, that does not make that being a necessary being. hhmmmmm…

Think the best objection to these lines of thought is to make them admit this reasoning implies atemporal existence, thus defeating their argument. Atemporal existence = no motion/change. If you want to use a mechanical approach, atemporal existence = maximum entropy.

That’s a very interesting idea. How do you show its an atemporal existence to them?

An infinitely regressing universe has no beginning, no end as well. I think the weight is on them to prove how we have an existing measure of change, or progression of time, and yet have no beginning of a first movement. Example would be, we can count to infinite from zero because we have a point (point A) to start from, but we cannot count at all when we are factoring in negative numbers that proceed infinitely… there’s no point A. Hilbert’s Hotel comes to mind.

Don’t see how this doesn’t scream atemporal existence. But, the weight is on them to prove it doesn’t.

Here’s another example: all parts of a whole are not the entire whole itself. This quality is obviously not something the whole has (since it certainly is the whole itself even if all its parts are not the entire whole). There is also Bertrand Russell’s example of men (playing the devil’s advocate, I’m a Fr. Copleston fan mind you :D). All men have mothers does not mean the set of all men also has a mother. So, just because the parts are contingent does not mean the set of all contingent things is also contingent (at least not just because wholes have all the qualities of their parts since that’s not a universal law).

Since I have been playing the devil’s advocate to the objection you anticipated, I shall do so here as well ;). However, I am not quite sure I understand your response to those who claim that the set of all contingent beings is a necessary being.

First, I do not see how atemporal existence is implied. The starting point to see a progression or change in the chain of contingent beings is to put ones finger at any one point and count from there. Just because there were infinite points before it does not change the ability to count from that one selected point as if it were ‘0’ or ‘1’. For example, I can conceive of a line that goes on so far I cannot see the beginning of it. That does not mean I cannot start measuring it from some point I am looking at and see a change in that line from that point. After in simple geometry we deal with line segments and rays within a line of infinite points.

Second, even if it does imply atemporal existence, I do not see how that is plainly absurd. (In fact, even from an orthodox perspective, I am not sure we need to say time is anything more than an illusion, though I could be wrong.)

Taking Coplestons’ position, I would say that a set isn’t a different thing from it’s elements. The words set, whole mankind, flock, and the like are adjectives, not nouns. There is no “whole” that is something different from its elements. Which is where I get the idea that the infinite regress argument is a claim that an (infinite series of contingent beings) = (necessary being). Thus the contradiction.

Never heard of the theories that spouse the universe caused itself? Think the aim is to eliminate our definition as contingent bings, and make us little parts of this self-necessary existence. Could be wrong though, hard to keep up with all the arguments these days.

First, I do not see how atemporal existence is implied. The starting point to see a progression or change in the chain of contingent beings is to put ones finger at any one point and count from there. Just because there were infinite points before it does not change the ability to count from that one selected point as if it were ‘0’ or ‘1’. For example, I can conceive of a line that goes on so far I cannot see the beginning of it. That does not mean I cannot start measuring it from some point I am looking at and see a change in that line from that point. After in simple geometry we deal with line segments and rays within a line of infinite points.

Second, even if it does imply atemporal existence, I do not see how that is plainly absurd. (In fact, even from an orthodox perspective, I am not sure we need to say time is anything more than an illusion, though I could be wrong.)

“…does not change the ability to count from that one selected point as if it were ‘0’ or '1” Very true, however the infinite regression theories suggest a line, the gemetrical object that is infintely long. In a line, it is eternally everlasting without beginning nor end so whatever what, is, or will be has already been drawn on the line. We experience a present and what will be is the future, progression. Our existence is a ray, a point of origin was created and events from that point progress to infinity. Though progression will always happen indefinately, it does not mean all that will be, has already happened. From the point of origin (point a), there exists a present, or a temporary point b. Though this point b is never stagnat of any point in time, it does not progress any faster then our universe’s measure of change. If existence is a line, or atemporal, we would not have a measure of change (time).

Warp, about your definition of necessary beings cannot fail to exist. Without our grandparents, we wouldn’t be here, because they made our parents and our parents made us. In a sense, they occupy a definition of necessary beings and the offspring are contingent of them. However, when the grandparents die, our parents continue to exist and we continue to exist yet, those necessary beings of our existence failed to exist. The atheists will draw the conclusion that the necessary being can fail to exist, and we can continue to exist without him. What has to be established is that the necessary being, necessary of getting the ball rolling (in lamest terms) but also is necessary of keeping the ball rolling, this is where the 5th way (or the teleological argument) comes in. Good read on that is epsociety.org/userfiles/art-Feser%20(Teleology)(1).pdf, read pages end of 16-19 answers how in order for existence to keep existing the necessary being must be acting in the here and now.

I am using the technical definition and it seems to exclude that argument to me. A being that can fail to exist is not logically necessary. If they make that claim I can just refer them to the definition…I think.

I really think that is just wrong. So if a bullet proof vest is made of fibers and each fiber in it is penetrable by a bullet, then the whole is penetrable by a bullet? Clearly not. There are many examples (including the ones I mentioned) of the whole not having the quality of all the parts.

Never heard of the theories that spouse the universe caused itself? Think the aim is to eliminate our definition as contingent bings, and make us little parts of this self-necessary existence. Could be wrong though, hard to keep up with all the arguments these days.
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I think you misunderstood me right there (and its a fault of the language I chose I think). As you have seen I have been arguing for just that pantheistic theory (as a ‘devil’s advocate’ mind you). What I didn’t understand was the response you gave to that theory.

“…does not change the ability to count from that one selected point as if it were ‘0’ or '1” Very true, however the infinite regression theories suggest a line, the gemetrical object that is infintely long. In a line, it is eternally everlasting without beginning nor end so whatever what, is, or will be has already been drawn on the line.

Why not one that is only infinitely long in the past and in progression to the future?

If existence is a line, or atemporal, we would not have a measure of change (time).

Time could simply be is a particular point in the line. Just because you cannot measure the ends of the lines does not mean every given point is the same. Given that points can vary a measure of time can be established between the two.

Ah! Apologies. Though, doesn’t pantheism seems to imply all beings are necessary?

Why not one that is only infinitely long in the past and in progression to the future?

Wouldn’t this fall under the catagory of illogical impossibilities? How could there be progression if there wasn’t an establishment of what was to progressed from.

Time could simply be is a particular point in the line. Just because you cannot measure the ends of the lines does not mean every given point is the same. Given that points can vary a measure of time can be established between the two.

What is on the line and exchange between each point isn’t the point, but the fact that points are already on that line is the point. As time is simply a measure of change from present to future, the future has not yet come to pass so therefore the future is not pre-established.

If someone is willing to go this far to not accept that infinite regression or atemporal existence is fallacious, it’d be fruitless to continue the debate. Just my opinion though.

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