The Feeble and the Fantastical Imaginations

Sadowsky’s comment reminded Davies of a story from a newspaper: “An English farmer who kept ferrets found that all of them had vanished. He concluded that they must have eaten each other." I burst out laughing.

Welcome to article 10 of a weekly series on the formation journey of Br. Josh, MIC, a second-year seminarian at the Marian House of Studies in Steubenville, Ohio. It is the continuation of Br. Josh's previous column, "Novice Notes." Watch for a new column every Friday.

By Br. Josh, MIC 

Bleary-eyed and weary, I stumbled out of bed at 1:15 a.m. to use the restroom. When I returned to bed, I did not go back to sleep. I tried for an hour and then rose again. Although I could have fallen asleep eventually, my mind was full of all the wonderful things I could get done if I got up super-duper early!

I hopped on the treadmill, set it up for an uphill ascent, and started walking fast while reading “Cosmological Arguments for the Existence of God” from Brian Davies’ book, An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion

Part of the reading turned out to be both crazy and fun.

Arguments for God’s existence
Davies explained multiple arguments for the existence of God using the existence of the world or the universe as a starting point. One of them was St. Thomas Aquinas’ “First Cause” argument, which says that nothing existing causes itself to exist, but everything existing has a cause and infinite regress doesn’t make sense, therefore everything must have an initial cause which is itself uncaused: God.

It was when I was reading the counter-arguments against the Cosmological Arguments that metaphysics started to get entertaining. 

Bertrand Russell’s counter-argument amused me. “The universe is just there, and that’s all.”

Wow. Talk about a lack of curiosity! 

And a lack of imagination! It’s there. Accept it. Don’t think about it. The end.

Something rather than nothing
Russell wanted to take the fact of the universe as a basic starting point calling for no further analysis. However, as Davies noted on page 61, “Russell would never have said that cats, for example, are just there. He would have asked how cats came to be and continue to be. So why should we not ask why there is anything at all or why there is something rather than nothing?” 

Davies makes a fair point. I don’t think, anyway, that there’s anything wrong with looking for answers to questions.

David Hume comes from the completely opposite pole of the Opposition’s planet, in his counter-argument. 

He wrote that because it’s possible to imagine in our minds the beginning of existence without cause, it’s possible that existence without cause is a reality (pp. 52-53).

For me, this was wild. 

So, because I can imagine that the moon is made of pizza dough, it’s possible that the moon is made of pizza dough. 

Hume’s imaginative powers were clearly significant. Fortunately, on another occasion, he indicates that he was only trying to show that we shouldn’t be so sure of ourselves. He didn’t actually believe things can exist without a cause (p. 54). 

Infinite regress
Another thinker, Kai Nielsen, tried to make infinite regress a reasonable possibility. He said, “The person arguing for an infinite series is not arguing for something that came from nothing, nor need he be denying that every event has a cause” (p. 70). 

James Sadowsky responded well to his position, saying, “It is just as difficult for any supporting member to exist as the member it supports. This brings back the question of how any member can do any causing unless it first exists.” 

Sadowsky dryly observed that this is similar to saying, “No one may do anything (including ask for permission) without first asking for permission” (p. 71). 

Sadowsky’s comment reminded Davies of a story from a newspaper: “An English farmer who kept ferrets found that all of them had vanished. He concluded that they must have eaten each other” (p. 71). 

I burst out laughing. 

Finishing my reading, I hopped off the treadmill. I had fast walked 7 miles uphill; a healthy exercise regimen. I would snatch a nap in the afternoon. 

It was time to start the day!

Next article: "Sheer Madness."
Previous entry.


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