An Argument for a Causal Proposition

Much of the research and thinking I’ve been doing recently has concerned causality and the principle of sufficient reason. The following is a tentative attempt at a demonstration of a causal proposition, inspired by the work of Joseph Owens. This is merely an outline and is not fully fleshed out/explained here. I hope to post more on this area in the future, so stay tuned for that.

  1. Everything real is either subsistent or dependent on another
    1. Everything real is either subsistent or non-subsistent (this proposition is necessary as it contains contradictory options which are jointly exhaustive)
    2. Whatever is subsistent is/has what is sufficient to exist on its own (definition of subsistent)
    3. Whatever is not subsistent is not/does not have what is sufficient to exist on its own (follows from above definition)
    4. Whatever is not/does not have what is sufficient to exist on its own either has or does not have what is sufficient to exist (necessary, jointly exhaustive)
    5. Whatever does not have what is sufficient to exist does not exist (necessary)
    6. So whatever is not/does not have what is sufficient to exist on its own has what is sufficient to exist (from 4 and 5)
    7. If something has what is sufficient to exist, but not on its own, then it has it not on its own (necessary, jointly exhaustive)
    8. If something has what is sufficient to exist not on its own, it has it by/from another (necessary)
    9. So whatever does not have what is sufficient to exist on its own has it by/from another (from 6 and 8)
    10. Whatever has something by/from another is dependent on another for that from which it has by/from the other
    11. So whatever is not subsistent is dependent on another (from 3 and 10)
    12. So everything real is either subsistent or dependent on another (from 1 and 11)
  2. The existence of finite things is not subsistent
  3. Therefore the existence of finite things is dependent on another
  4. Whatever is dependent on another is caused by another (definition)
  5. Therefore, the existence of finite things is caused by another

My main purpose here is a defense of the first premise, that everything real is either subsistent or dependent. The other crucial premise is the second, that the existence of finite things is not subsistent. I think this is certain and evident, but for those who wish to see this premise defended more fully, I may try to do so in the future. From these two premises the conclusion follows necessarily that all finite existence is dependent (and hence caused), which is a universal affirmative causal proposition. The significance of this proposition is that it functions as a foundational premise in traditional demonstrations of the existence of God.

3 thoughts on “An Argument for a Causal Proposition

    1. My sincerest apologies for not answering before now. I hope my answer now will be of some help. The third way is, in my view, the most difficult of the five ways to understand. I’m not sure I have a full grasp of it. It’s been a while since I’ve read Feser’s account of it, but I don’t think it is fully satisfactory. Here is perhaps one read of it. I’m not sure it’s what St. Thomas is actually getting at, but let me know what you think. The third way speaks of things “possible not to be.” St. Thomas seems to define or associate such things with generation and corruption. If it is part of the nature of “possible things” that they are generated and corrupted, then necessarily every possible being had a beginning. Now, if *everything* were a mere possible being, then *everything* would have had a beginning. But it seems possible in theory that a series of contingent things could exist in infinite temporal succession, one coming into being after the other. But in this case, we at least have a “series” of things which, if it is really past-infinite, had no beginning. And so at least this “series” or whatever grounds it, cannot be a possible being. So at least *one* aspect of reality is not a possible being. And then the next stage of the argument follows after this. Again, I’m not sure this is correct as an interpretation, but it does seem to work as an argument

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks much, Harrison. Now that’s something I can sink my teeth into. That’s not quite what Feser argues, and it appeared to me that he made a fallacious leap. Your interpretation seems much more sound.

        Liked by 1 person

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