Koons v Oppy: Necessary Being to God? A Review

To view the review in docs: https://docs.google.com/document/d/16a7d3jIAGOqI222LFzFAWQi1HC2Tu0yLpNNDdyJDKHQ/edit?usp=sharing

First stage cosmological arguments: 

  • Demonstrate the existence of First Cause

Second stage cosmological arguments:

  • Nature of the first cause
    • Based on explanatory role of first cause
    • Based on the conceptual nature of the first cause 

Oppy response: 

  • What is the bigger picture?  
  • While one cannot definitively rule out contingent origin or infinite regress, causal finitism with a necessary being is the best explanation for the beginning.  
  • Not agree that it is supernatural, though would agree that it wouldn’t have a cause and cannot have a cause.  
  • Oppy is attracted to a modal theory which every (in possible world semantics) possible world shares a causal history with the actual world, the origin, the ISOR is necessary 
    • Why should we accept this form of modality? 
    • Koons does agree with this idea of modality of a similar necessary first cause, though it would be God, this is quite similar.
  • Entire causal network is natural
  • Not clear to Oppy that we can tell a priori that there cannot be complexity to the initial state, not much advantage of simple over non-simple now that we have given necessity.  
    • We don’t know enough about the initial state to make any decisive comments
    • We have intellectual insight into modality which allows us to discuss the nature of modality, fundamentally a more intuitive approach, while it is nothing definite
    • Is the initial thing physical?  Is it a quantum state?  This is possible if it is unbounded.  
    • Any surface or physical seems to have a bound, any components does appear to be subject to finite rules.  The only model which seems to be familiar or possible is an infinite mind which can create something out of free will.  This limit could not be arbitrary, God has knowledge over everything and does anything that is doable, there is no arbitrary limit.  
    • Is there only one creative act that God can do?  How many initial states are there?  How much freedom does God have in creation? 
    • There are an infinite array of worlds that God could have created, our world is contingent.  Arbitrariness lies with the effect and not the cause.  
    • Is possibility theoretical cost?
    • The less possible worlds the better, though God’s creation can be seen as indeterminate just like Oppy’s ISOR

Rob opening: 

Stage 2 is heavily dependent on stage 1

A lot of the nature of the cause is dependent on the nature of the PSR

  • Necessary being to God
    • Most common form 
    • You need to do the most footwork to follow this part.  
    • It has to be necessary and unexplained as there are things which are necessary but do need explanations
      • Maths for example
    • Where should the stopping point for explanation comes
      • Once we reach necessity we do not need to explain why things are necessary
        • Can’t necessities explain other necessities
          • 1+1=2 seems to be dependent on the Peano axioms which can be seen as necessary
          • They can be a logical consequence of one thing being necessary that another thing is necessary but it doesn’t explain the necessity of either.  
          • Why is it necessary that 0=0, why is it necessary that 1=1, you can move backwards and forwards but it doesn’t explain the necessity of something.  
          • Not making the point that where there is logical consequences there is explanation, just wondering whether Oppy thinks that there are no explanations for necessary truths
          • Suppose P is necessary, does it rule out there being P is necessary.  
          • P’s explanation is because of its necessity
          • Set containing the empty set or other ideas of mathematics, there seems to be a fundamental explanation, the axioms perhaps, that explain why the set is the way it is.  
          • Oppy doesn’t see the axioms are more fundamental than the sets.  
          • Doesn’t the idea of necessary truths having explanations has more explanatory power
          • Suppose there are two theories of everythings, the most virtuous one is that which minimises commitments maximizes explanatory power
          • 3 commitments
            • Ontological
            • Ideological
            • Theoretical
              • Minimised by a small number of claims that give you all the rest.  
              • Not disagreeing that one theory and complexity of the claims matters
              • Sounds like something can be necessary and explained by something else
              • Depends on what explanatory relations there are
              • There is an account of explanation and an account of what explains what
              • This notion of explanation has to be outside the theory, so there are situations where one necessary truth explains another. If one can use the necessary truth of the numbers, you can derive another set of statements (which are necessary) from the previous statements
              • This relationship is not explanation (does not really understand what Rob is trying to say)
              • Joe’s summary: There are two states of reality: fundamental necessary truths which explain a lot of necessary truths, whereas there is another theory, it has all the same ontological commitments, but there is no fundamental things which explain the further necessary things.  
              • The former is like Rob and the second is like Graham.  The first one has more explanatory power
              • How relations between necessary truths are going to work, logical consequence is the explanation 
              • There is a development of and an explanation of.  Here I would be closer to Oppy’s view that necessary truths do not need explanations and one can stick to logical consequences.  Under this idea, God would be the only necessary proposition, and all things would be logical consequences off God’s mind.  
              • Not ruling out the idea that necessary truths could explain other necessary truths
              • They also hold different views about the relationship between causation and numbers
              • Move to next point
      • The stopping point should be the necessity 
        • So the idea that you can’t have complexities which are necessary seems as a theoretical cost 
        • Unexplained contingencies are also theoretical cost
        • All things being equal, necessity should be better 
          • Though there doesn’t seem to be any reason why necessity over contingency
          • While this is how Oppy leans, there is no powerful reasoning for this leaning
    • If it is finite and complex, it may need further explanation or are contingent
      • One could add or subtract or change it if it is finite or complex.  
  • Uncausable being to God
    • Simple and plausible PSR
      • Everything has an explanation unless it has an intrinsic nature of being without explanation
    • A being which is infinite and simple is a good candidate for being an uncausable being
  • First cause has to be a supernatural being 
    • Everything that is natural has a cause 
    • There must be a supernatural, because if it wasn’t it would have a cause
      • A supernatural being is unlimited, simple and unbounded 
  • How a trinitarian view compares with Divine Simplicity?
    • Just that something has some complexity, it doesn’t follow that it doesn’t have a cause
    • It just seems all things being equal, something simple seems to have less need for an explanation than something which is complex.  
  • Radical simplicity is required for any trinitarian conception
    • God is a simple being which is a binary relation of knowledge and love
    • God’s trinity comes from His simple nature, His different personas come from knowledge, love, and knowledge and love. 

If the PSR is not granted, then there is a significant problem of skepticism, there is a possibility that all the sense data came out of nothing ex nihilo.  Viz., it is possible that all my sense data came into existence and did not actually have true correspondence in the past.  Use epistemology to hone in on the PSR.  

  • Oppy can commit to a rather strong form of the PSR
    • Assume that anything that exists without a modal quantifier has an explanation
    • Necessary beings are explained by their necessity, and contingent facts are explained by other things
    • Spinoza thought that everything was necessary
      • It is possible that everything that we are currently doing are necessary, but that would be a defeater for our empirical knowledge, for our empirical knowledge have to be caused to be true, they cannot be necessary
      • This points towards the previous discussion that a necessary scenario cannot be finite or cannot be natural, because if it was, our current situation could be necessary
      • On Oppy’s view, if everything is necessary than nothing is connected to everything else which would be problematic, hence, Oppy suggests that everything is indeterministic 
      • If causation was deterministic, either the laws of nature or the initial state had to be contingent
      • In order to escape skepticism, you need a new PSR, because Oppy’s PSR does not exclude the possibility of the current state of affairs being uncaused, this has to be something that we can know a priori.  This would imply that we can have knowledge of what causes particular events and that has to be based on some feature of particular states.  
      • Go with a PSR which is not restricted to natural facts but contingent facts
        • We would need to know a priori that our experiences are contingent
        • All things in our body seems to point towards us being contingent
        • Here Joe sneaks in the fact that things are so fleeting, but this is based on the assumption that you do have experiential knowledge of your past states, so this would be question begging
        • You would need a further PSR which states that these natural states are contingent
        • Dependent on modal epistemology 
        • 2nd approach: maybe Rob’s argument is too strong, well if we seriously cannot know that our current knowledges are contingent, then maybe I’m a supernatural being, it doesn’t seem incoherent to think that I am a supernatural being who makes himself feel like a natural being.
        • Cannot rule out the possibility that I might be God and having some dream
        • That is irrelevant, because the real problem is whether my present sense data has a cause, those seem obviously natural (finite and bounded)
        • If I’m truly omnipotent, then it appears that all things are finite even if they are not infinite
        • It would still appear to be finite and that would call for an explanation
        • Perhaps it is modally impossible for God to deceive himself.  For example, can God commit suicide?  One cannot destroy the indestructible, perhaps God cannot deceive Himself or change His view of reality, for it would not be good, and it is in His nature that He must do good, for changing His view on reality would be a lie and hence evil (though this evidently commits oneself to the belief that God is necessarily good, which i don’t think is too controversial)
        • Thinking about the vulnerability to skepticism if you hold the view that the initial state of affairs are necessary and everything else is produced by indeterminate causation.  
        • Are you in the initial state of necessity? Is the fundamental question.  It seems intuitive, or clear that we are not in this initial state of reality 
        • All you need is a reason to know that you are not in such a state, you don’t need an a priori reasoning. 
        • You cannot appeal to empirical knowledge or intuitive sense that you are not in the necessary state to defeat the defeater.  One must require a priori knowledge, otherwise it would be subject to the possibility that all a posteriori knowledge was synthesised by the initial necessary state. 
        • There is very good evidence to think that there is a massive history of contingent events in the past.
        • That’s worse than question begging, it’s footstompin, it doesn’t really respond to argument, it presupposes the falsity of skepticism


  • It is impossible to have self-explanation, why Koons allows for self-explanation
  • Might be a linguistic issue, depends way more on the definition of explanation
  • To Koons, this means like something which doesn’t require an explanation
  • This can be called as something which is self-explanatory or something which doesn’t have a further explanation, there is a certain degree where you cannot go any further with your explanatory scope, perhaps a properly basic belief.  
  • Some similarity between the self-explanatory and the unexplained necessary things.

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