” The causal generation of a belief does not, of itself, detract in the least from its truth. My belief that I address a class at certain times derives from the fact that the presence of students in their seats is causally inducing certain images on the retinas of my eyes at those times, and that these images, in turn, then cause me to infer that corresponding people are actually present before me. The reason why I do not suppose that I am witnessing a performance of Aida at those times is that the images which Aida, Radames, and Amneris would produce are not then in my visual field. The causal generation of a belief in no way detracts from its veridicality. In fact, if a given belief were not produced in us by definite causes, we should have no reason to accept that belief as a correct description of the world, rather than some other belief arbitrarily selected. Far from making knowledge either adventitious or impossible, the deterministic theory about the origin of our beliefs alone provides the basis for thinking that our judgments of the world are or may be true. Knowing and judging are indeed causal processes in which the facts we judge are determining elements along with the cerebral mechanism employed in their interpretation. It follows that although the determinist’s assent to his own doctrine is caused or determined, the truth of determinism is not jeopardized by this fact ; if anything, it is made credible.”
Adolf Grünbaum, “Free Will and Laws of Human Behaviour”, American Philosophical Quarterly, 1971
HT: Justin Schieber
This paper sits behind a paywall and I do not have access, so I have not read it and have no opinion on its contents. (Aside: if a copy were to somehow magically arrive in my inbox, I would be very happy.)
Here is the (quite lengthy!) abstract:
Philosophers have postulated the existence of God to explain (I) why any contingent objects exist at all rather than nothing contingent, and (II) why the fundamental laws of nature and basic facts of the world are exactly what they are. Therefore, we ask: (a) Does (I) pose a well-conceived question which calls for an answer? and (b) Can God’s presumed will (or intention) provide a cogent explanation of the basic laws and facts of the world, as claimed by (II)? We shall address both (a) and (b). To the extent that they yield an unfavourable verdict, the afore-stated reasons for postulating the existence of God are undermined.
As for question (I), in 1714, G. W. Leibniz posed the Primordial Existential Question (hereafter ‘PEQ’): ‘Why is there something contingent at all, rather than just nothing contingent?’ This question has two major presuppositions: (1) A state of affairs in which nothing contingent exists is indeed genuinely possible (‘the Null Possibility’), the notion of nothingness being both intelligible and free from contradiction; and (2) De jure, there should be nothing contingent at all, and indeed there would be nothing contingent in the absence of an overriding external cause (or reason), because that state of affairs is ‘most natural’ or ‘normal’. The putative world containing nothing contingent is the so-called ‘Null World’. As for (1), the logical robustness of the Null Possibility of there being nothing contingent needs to be demonstrated. But even if the Null Possibility is demonstrably genuine, there is an issue: Does that possibility require us to explain why it is not actualized by the Null World, which contains nothing contingent? And, as for (2), it originated as a corollary of the distinctly Christian precept (going back to the second century) that the very existence of any and every contingent entity is utterly dependent on God at any and all times. Like (1), (2) calls for scrutiny. Clearly, if either of these presuppositions of Leibniz’s PEQ is ill founded or demonstrably false, then PEQ is aborted as a non-starter, because in that case, it is posing an ill-conceived question.
In earlier writings (Grünbaum , p. 5), I have introduced the designation ‘SoN’ for the ontological ‘spontaneity of nothingness’ asserted in presupposition (2) of PEQ. Clearly, in response to PEQ, (2) can be challenged by asking the counter-question, ‘But why should there be nothing contingent, rather than something contingent?’ Leibniz offered an a priori argument for SoN. Yet it will emerge that a priori defences of it fail, and that it has no empirical legitimacy either. Indeed physical cosmology spells an important relevant moral: As against any a priori dictum on what is the ‘natural’ status of the universe, the verdict on that status depends crucially on empirical evidence. Thus PEQ turns out to be a non-starter, because its presupposed SoN is ill founded! Hence PEQ cannot serve as a springboard for creationist theism.
Yet Leibniz and the English theist Richard Swinburne offered divine creation ex nihilo as their answer to the ill-conceived PEQ. But being predicated on SoN, their cosmological arguments for the existence of God are fundamentally unsuccessful.
The axiomatically topmost laws of nature (the ‘nomology’) in a scientific theory are themselves unexplained explainors, and are thus thought to be true as a matter of brute fact. But theists have offered a theological explanation of the specifics of these laws as having been willed or intended by God in the mode of agent causation to be exactly what they are.
A whole array of considerations are offered in Section 2 to show that the proposed theistic explanation of the nomology fails multiply to transform scientific brute facts into specifically explained regularities.
Thus, I argue for The Poverty of Theistic Cosmology in two major respects.
1. Why is there something rather than nothing?
1.1 Refined statement of Leibniz’s Primordial Existential Question (PEQ)
1.2 Is it imperative to explain why there isn’t just nothing contingent?
1.3 Must we explain why any and every de facto unrealized logical possibility is not actualized?
1.4 Is a world not containing anything contingent logically possible?
1.5 Christian doctrine as an inspiration of PEQ
1.6 Henri Bergson
1.7 A priori justifications of PEQ by Leibniz, Parfit, Swinburne and Nozick
1.7.2 Derek Parfit
1.7.3 Richard Swinburne and Thomas Aquinas vis-à-vis SoN
1.7.4 The ‘natural’ status of the world as an empirical question
1.7.5 Robert Nozick
1.8 Hypothesized psychological sources of PEQ
1.9 PEQ as a failed springboard for creationist theism: the collapse of Leibniz’s and Swinburne’s theistic cosmological arguments
2. Do the most fundamental laws of nature require a theistic explanation?
2.1 The ontological inseparability of the laws of nature from the furniture of the universe
2.2 The probative burden of the theological explanation of the world’s nomology
2.3 The theistic explanation of the cosmic nomology
2.4 Further major defects of the theological explanation of the fundamental laws of nature
Link to Paper
Link to Other Papers by Adolf Grünbaum Hosted on the Secular Web
I have not read this paper and so I have no opinion on its contents, but it looks very interesting.
Abstract: The titular question here “Why is There A World AT ALL, Rather Than Just Nothing?” is a fusion of two successive queries posed by Leibniz in 1697 and 1714. He did so to lay the groundwork for his explanatory theistic answer. But the present paper offers (i) A very unfavorable verdict from my critical scrutiny of the explanatory demand made by Leibniz, and (ii) My argument for the complete failure of his interrogative ontological challenge as a springboard for his and Richard Swinburne’s creationist theistic answer. I argue under (i) that Leibniz’s explanatory demand is an ill-conceived non-starter which poses a pseudo issue. Thus, his and Swinburne’s case for divine creation miscarries altogether. My collateral conclusion: The philosophical enterprise need not be burdened at all by Leibniz’s ontological query, because it is just a will-o’-the-wisp.
Keywords: Leibniz, Failed Primordial Existential Question, Pseudo-Issue, Cosmological Argument
Link to Paper
Link to Other Papers by Adolf Grünbaum Hosted on the Secular Web