Further Comments on http://subversivethinking.blogspot.com.au/2012/12/reply-to-professor-graham-oppys.html
I shall restrict myself to one small comment on what is a very long post that covers a great deal of ground very quickly.
In my previous post, I wrote this: “Question: Is there a first cause in causal reality? If so, then, causal reality begins with that first cause. Moreover, it might seem right to say that causal reality begins to exist with that first cause. (Of course, “begins” here is not temporal; it is simply causal.)
This elicited the following commentary: “I think Oppy’s question is pretty confused. He asks whether a first cause exists “in” the causal reality, when actually the question is whether there is a first cause OF the causal reality. Only in latter case, it follows that “If so, then, causal reality begins with that first cause“.”
I am thinking of causal reality as the collection of all causal relata. If causal relata are all events, then causal reality is the collection of all causal events (together with the causal relations that hold between them). If causal relata are all states, then causal reality is the collection of all causal states (together with the causal relations that hold between them). If causal relata are diverse — including, say, events, states, objects, agents, and so forth — then causal reality is the collection of all of these events, states, objects, agents, and so forth (together with the causal relations that hold between them).
Let us introduce the neutral term ‘ (causal) thing’ to cover all of the events, states, objects, agents, or whatever that belong to causal reality. The causal relation — the relation of cause and effect — at least partially orders these (causal) things: for any two things, either one is causally prior to the second, or casually posterior to the second, or causally unrelated to the second. For the sake of argument, let’s suppose that the causal relation is a total order, so that there are no two (causal) things that are causally unrelated. (Note that this is a controversial assumption. I make it here because it is irrelevant for the main point at issue, not because I think that there is no further discussion to be had about it.)
Given that causal reality is totally ordered, there are two possibilities: either there is an infinite regress under the causal relation, or there is a first cause. So there is a genuine question about whether there is a first cause (so long as there is a genuine question about whether there is an infinite regress under the causal relation.) However, IF there is a first cause, then — a fortiori — it belongs to causal reality (it belongs to the collection of causal things).
In short: there is no confusion in my question, or in the comments that come after. Causal reality is a collection of (causal) things. If there is a first cause, then it is the first element IN causal reality. You might think — as theists do — that God is the first cause IN causal reality. However you CANNOT sensibly suppose that God is the cause OF causal reality: it is obvious from the accepted definitions of terms that causal reality CANNOT have a cause.
It is worth noting that, if, for example, you think that only events can be causal relata, then the first cause will be something like God’s making natural reality. In this case, God somehow “participates” in the first cause, but is not identical to it. (God is not an event, so — if only events can be causal relata — then God cannot be the first cause.) Of course, I have taken no stance in the above discussion on what the terms of the causal relation actually are.
I guess it goes without saying that the “charitable reinterpretation” of the rest of my remarks turns out to be nothing of the sort …