Our friend from last Monday, the “brick through the window” guy, has taken me to task for getting Leibniz’ cosmological argument wrong (though he’s really blaming William Lane Craig, who made the argument I was critiquing).
You (Craig?) misrepresent the Leibnizian cosmological argument. It should be summarized as follows (taken from Alexander Pruss’ chapter in The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology):
(1) Every contingent fact has an explanation.
(2) There is a contingent fact that includes all other contingent facts.
(3) Therefore, there is an explanation of this fact.
(4) This explanation must involve a necessary being.
(5) This necessary being is God.
The cool thing about being an Alethian is that Christian philosophers have a habit of setting out to prove the existence of God, and end up proving the existence of Alethea instead. Take Anselm’s ontological proof, by which he attempts to prove God’s existence by calling Him “something than which nothing greater can be imagined.”
And certainly that than which a greater cannot be imagined cannot be in the understanding alone. For if it is at least in the understanding alone, it can be imagined to be in reality too, which is greater.
Did you catch that inadvertent reference to Alethea? Alethea is just another name for Reality, and in order for God to be real, He must exist “in Reality.” Reality is therefore greater than God, or at least the Christian God, because if God were real, then Alethea would comprise all that God is, PLUS all real things that are not God. The Christian God, therefore, is not “something than which nothing greater can be imagined,” but rather Alethea is.
Isn’t that awesome? Anselm, in trying to prove his God, ended up proving mine instead. And Leibniz does the same thing, without meaning to.
The problem with Leibniz’ cosmological proof is the difficulty of making the real world out to be a “contingent” entity. In Chapter 4 of On Guard, William Lane Craig brings up the topic of the fallacy of composition.
This is the fallacy of confusing a property of a part with a property of the whole. For example, every part of an elephant may be light in weight, but that doesn’t mean the whole elephant is light in weight!
Precisely so. The problem with trying to make Leibniz’ argument work as a proof of God is that you have to commit the fallacy of composition by assuming that, because things within the material universe have a contingent existence, therefore the existence of the material universe as a whole is contingent. What we know now, that Leibniz didn’t, is that time is finite: it goes back only as far as the Big Bang, and the material universe goes all the way back with it, so that there has never been a time when the universe did not exist. As a candidate for non-contingent being, therefore, the material universe ought to be our first choice, since there was nothing before the universe for the universe to be contingent on.
But there’s an even better answer, and that is Alethea, i.e. Reality itself. The ultimate Being, the original Being, the most fundamental Being, has to be Reality itself, because Reality by definition comprises all that is real. Whatever exists in reality, therefore, depends upon (is contingent upon) the existence of Reality, because if Reality itself did not exist, then nothing else could either. The same goes for God too: if He does not exist in reality, then He Himself is not real, and if He is not real, then He cannot be the cause of real thing, such as the material universe.
Thus, Leibniz’ proof of God fails: God cannot be the “necessary Being” because His own existence is contingent upon the existence of Reality itself. The one loophole is if God Himself—or Herself—actually is Reality. To the extent that Leibniz proves the existence of a God, he proves the existence of my pantheistic God rather than of a lesser, contingent deity. Reality itself is the only truly self-necessary Being, and to the extent that this Being is the same as the One True God, Alethian theology is triumphant over Christianity.
Danke, Herr Leibniz!