Oppy v. Loke on the Kalam: A Review


Recently there was a debate between Graham Oppy and Andrew Loke on the Kalam Cosmological Argument. If you want to see the review video, please find it (here) and if you want to see the original discussion feel free to find it (here).

The Notes:

Loke v Oppy Kalam:

Loke opening: (Graham’s responses in italics) (personal comments in bold)

  • Loke’s reformulation
    • P1:  There exists a series of causes and effects and changes
      • The natural understanding of events is the changing of the events of things. 
      • The primary way of thinking about causes can be that they are either things or events.   
      • Happy to accept the causal chain 
    • P2: The series has an infinite regress that avoids a First Cause, or its members are joined together like a closed loop that avoids a First Cause, or the series has a First Cause
    • P3:  It is not the case that the series has an infinite regress that avoids a First Cause
      • Arguing contra infinite regress (any one of these arguments are sufficient)
        • The argument from the impossibility of concrete actual infinities (Hilbert Hotel)
        • The argument from the impossibility of traversing an actual infinite 
        • The argument from the viciousness of dependence regress
        • The argument from Grim Reaper paradox
        • The argument from Methuselah’s diary paradox
      • It is not irrational to hold to an infinite regress
        • It is not where the truth lies but how strong they are 
        • There is more reason that there is no infinite regress
    • P4:  It is not the case that its members are joined together like a closed loop
      • A closed loop is viciously circular
      • “It is a fundamental causal principle that, if one thing is a cause of a second thing, and that second thing is a cause of a third thing, then the first thing is a cause of the third thing.  However, if there could be a circle of causes… then it could be that there are things that are causes of themselves’ But nothing can be a cause of itself, since causes by definition are causally prior to their effects-Oppy
      • Causal relationships are transitive (quite controversial) and nothing can cause itself  (analytic)
    • C1: Therefore, the series has a First Cause
      • Raises the idea that it is possible that there are multiple first causes (this is quite ambiguous) 
        • Ockham’s razor is more simple 
        • Consideration of the universal applicability of the laws of physics seems to suggest that there is only one creator instead of numerous creators
        • Special revelation/ miracles seem to point towards the existence of only one creator
          • What about polytheistic revelation, like Zeus, Hercules and Odin?  
          • A possible response could be that not every divine revelation is equal.  
    • P5: Since the First Cause is the first, it must be uncaused
    • P6: Since whatever begins to exist has a cause (Causal Principle), the First Cause must be beginningless
      • Establishing causal principle (using modus tollens)
        • P1: If the universe begins to exist without a cause, other things would come into being without a cause
          • There is no cause which determines why this universe exists and many universes may exist 
          • There is no difference, at the start of the universe, which differentiates between these independent ex nihilo approaches
          • The initial state is necessary, so there cannot be other things coming into being without a cause.  
          • The initial state cannot be necessary because:
            • Any properties that differentiate different states only come into being after they come into existence
              • Any special properties properties/ differences are explanatory vacuous, as their properties should be similar a priori – they all come out of nothing (differences appear after they come into existence)
            • Necessity excludes alternatives (the universe is modally necessary, especially the physical laws)
              • Necessary existence can only explain the nature of the state of the universe and not the other universes in existence
              • The universe comes first necessarily as the initial state of existence, and this is true necessarily
              • In order for something to be true necessarily, or have the property of necessity, it must first exist
              • There are also other logical possibilities instead of this universe which suggests that the universe is not logically necessary
              • He’s only talking about metaphysical necessity and not logical necessity
                • If one denies that a metaphysically necessary God exists, they deny that it is possible that God exists.  (Modal Argument) 
                • God is metaphysically necessary because he is beginningless.  However, Oppy fails to provide any reason for the universe to be metaphysically necessary
                • Necessary beings do not require explanations for their necessity
            • If the initial state is different from other possible situations, then there must be a differentiating property, this special property would have to have sufficient explanatory scope to explain why there is not any separate universes
              • Since this special property is a property of the initial state instead of a preexisting thing, the universe must first exist to have this property
              • This special property cannot explain why other things cannot come into being without a cause.  
        • P2: Common experience falsifies the idea that there are a multitude of universes 
          • This would lead to the crashing between universes
          • I believe that this is not the case, it is possible that there exists multiple universes, yet it doesn’t follow that there must be a crash.  
          • Instead, it is more probable that there is either one universe, or none.  For imagine the scenario that there is a multiverse, what seems to happen is that, geometrically, they must be constantly connected to each other, for they were created in a realm of nothingness and there would technically be no or “nothing” space between them  
        • C1: It is not the case that universes begin to exist without a cause.  
      • The beginningness principle is a way in which he brings in the properties of God.  The idea that it is not an event and that the first cause is beginningless is heavily dependent on the idea that things which begin to exist have a cause, since the first cause didn’t have a cause, it must not have begun
      • Graham also claims that the natural universe is all that there is
        • The universe begins at t0 
        • He argues that it is not a cause for the beginning of the universe, instead, he argues that things have explanations
        • The PSR fundamentally is about explanation instead of causes.  
      • Oppy then argues that he believes that there can be no uncaused beings except for the initial event/ object.  
        • The necessity of God and the necessity of the universe are similar
        • This distinction that the conditions of the universe is necessary is unfounded
          • States of affairs are either finite or infinite, the former requires God, the latter is subject to the problem of an infinite regress
          • Saying something is initially changeless does not commit someone to a temporal regress, Loke is arguing that God is in fact timeless
          • God is changeless and is unbound by dimensions and hence is not constrained by said dimensions.  
          • God exists beyond the temporal dimension 
          • “Initial” implies an order, though Loke seems to be suggesting that there is a progression here without a metric,  there is an initial state without that state being restricted by time
            • Graham then seems to further suggest that we do not need a metric to support before and after (which Loke appears to agree to)
            • Graham then suggests that Loke is arguing that there is no distinction between temporal points, it’s not like God exists at one point and not at one point 
            • There seems to be no difference between the view that says God exists everywhere and the idea that the universe comes from God.  There appears to be no notion of before in regards to God, there is no sense of difference
            • By”initial” Loke is arguing for a causal order instead of a temporal order, instead it is a causal order 
            • Oppy agrees that this is not of a temporal order, instead there are many types of order, this causal order is dependent on whether it has any points in it.  If there is a point then it is subject to infinite regress, even if this is a causal order, and if this is a finite order, then it follows that there is a beginning
            • Loke argues that Oppy misunderstood what Loke is saying, he clarifies that he is not arguing that God is temporally prior, only causally prior.
            • Loke then argues that there are no points in God, nor are there any durations
            • Graham then says that there are causal points and progressions with causal priority and causal posteriority, a causal duration of some sort, he argues that there is a causal duration for God.  
            • Loke then argues that God exists timelessly and changelessly without the universe, and in time with the beginning of the universe 
              • In God’s timeless state, there are no points.  The points come into existence after the creation of God
              • Graham then argues that they are now discussing discrete or density.  The problem with discrete time, Graham argues, is that there are no successful physical theories.  Even if we suppose that there is one discrete period of time prior to the causal order (God).  
              • If there is an idea of changelessness, that might mean that it results in an infinite regress or a beginning.  
              • Loke then rejects this stating that all Oppy is doing is bringing in the idea of a dimension, when God transcends the dimension.  
    • P7:  Since every change is an event which has a beginning or undergoes a gain or loss of a property, the First Cause must be changeless
    • C2:  Since the First cause is initially changeless it is transcendent and immaterial
    • P8: In order to cause an event from an initial changeless state, the First cause must have
      • The capacity to be the originator of the event in a way that is un-determined by prior event, since the first cause is the first
      • The capacity to prevent itself from changing, for otherwise the First Cause would not have been initially changeless and existing beginningless without the event/change 
      • Counters the changelessness premise 
        • Events are changes in the properties of things
        • States are things in which the properties do not change 
        • Perhaps it is important to discuss the theory of states (there is a lack of time)
        • A state is essentially a situation where something doesn’t have a beginning
    • C3: This cause has libertarian freedom  
    • C4:  The cause that is uncaused, beginningless, initially changeless, transcendent, immaterial and has libertarion freedom is God.  
    • Compare nature as the necessary existent being or God as the necessary existent being, the universe is more simple.  All things which are traced to the initial state are necessary, since no contingent thing can come into existence without a cause, the initial state must be necessary.  
      • Nothing is unexplained in the universes necessity
      • He is not interested in the premises of Loke’s argument because his view is more simple, as long as his view is non-contradictory, it has the best explanatory scope
      • Simplicity is only a consideration if all other things are equal 
    • The universe fails to escape the causal principle because as long as it has a finite point, “past incomplete”, then it must have a beginning
      • There is an initial state at t0 there does not need to be a beginning to event t0
    • The first cause cannot be an event as events must have beginnings, it cannot change either
      • There are no differences between objects and events when we talk about beginnings
      • An event is equal to a change, there is a gain or loss of properties.  This change is an event, and hence must have beginnings, this is different from a state of affairs.  Furthermore, everything that is temporal must have a changing relationship with time and hence is a changing property 
        • There is a distinction between cambridge change and real change, cambridge change is when the only thing which changes is its relationship to time, and real change is an intrinsic property changing.  
        • This is a nominal distinction, cambridge change can be seen as change dependent on your definition of change.  
        • Oppy says the purpose of cambridge change is to distinguish itself from real change, it would be wrong to equivocate the two
        • There are still some similarities between the two even though there are evident differences.  This, he argues, is a definitional disagreement instead of a substantial argument
        • Events require real change, a change in its properties, not just a relational change with time.  
      • Objects do not need to have a beginning because they are changeless.  

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