philosophy - Hume's criticisms help!!!!

Badges: 4
Report Thread starter 4 years ago
I am really struggling to find any strengths and weaknesses of Hume's criticisms of the cosmological argument. My essay question is‘Hume’s criticisms of the cosmological argument do not succeed’. (Discuss) any points?
Badges: 3
Report 4 years ago
(Original post by rumana101)
I am really struggling to find any strengths and weaknesses of Hume's criticisms of the cosmological argument. My essay question is‘Hume’s criticisms of the cosmological argument do not succeed’. (Discuss) any points?
Firstly, start outlining the actual criticisms Hume makes at the Cosmological Argument. Then look at the flaws of each one (Strengths will be a bit more challenging, they'll require using evidence of the real world or just outlining the coherent nature of the criticism)

For example, here are two criticisms offered by Hume.

1. Hume argues that the cosmological argument is making a fallacy of composition. It argues that just because each event in a chain (it can be motion, causation or contingency), has a cause, it doesn't necessarily mean the entire chain itself must have a cause. He says "I show you the cause of each individual in a collection of twenty particles... I should think it very unreasonable should you ask me what was the cause of the whole twenty"

What Hume is challenging is the principle that "nothing can only come from nothing". The Cosmological argument says that since we are something, we must come from something else, not from nothing, but Hume says that it is not necessary to justify our origin. Our universe could be created ex nihilo. In fact there is the existence of virtual particles which spontaneously exist.

The problem is that we have every right to argue what was the first cause, or in his case, what was the cause of the whole twenty? Why can't we ask that? We don't want a partial explanation, we want the full explanation of an event. Leibniz would argue from his Principle of Sufficient Reason in which each event or entity must have a sound reason for it's existence. Thus, there must be a reason for the chain of causation to occur; there must be a reason for why the universe was created.

2. (This one is my absolute favourite criticism). One of Aquinas' Cosmological Arguments (the Aetiological Way) argues that things arise via a cause and effect. Hume challenges the very idea of cause and effect.

He gives the example through billiard balls. (Not exact wording by the way)

Place a red ball in the centre of a table. Now throw a white ball across the table aiming for the red ball. What do you think will happen, or at least should happen?

The red ball hits the white ball and the two move together. That's what I thought.
But Hume argues that you have absolutely no way of knowing for sure that that was going to happen. For instance, the white ball could swerve to the right and miss, or the red ball wouldn't move at all and white ball would just rebound off it, or the white ball could even leap over the red ball, or in fact the balls could merge and form a pink ball

I'm getting ridiculous in my predictions, but the point is, cause and effect is only an inductive phenomenon. Philosophically, cause and effect is not a definitive principle of the universe; it is something we assume. And because the Cosmological argument is built on this principle, it cannot work because it relies on this assumption, not on a solid principle.

I think you can already see the flaw with this criticism, it's simply insane to accept this notion. Philosophically speaking, it is true that we may never confirm the idea of cause and effect, but we must also be pragmatic in the way we take on theories. This is an incredibly radical form of scepticism and we must put our trust in that that the cause and effect principle is real and fundamental. In fact the whole of science is based on this; to deny cause and effect is to deny pretty much every thing we know and common sense tells us that that is a irrational way to go if we are to ever understand this world.

I hope these two criticisms and their flaws spark some ideas.

Quick Reply

Attached files
Write a reply...
new posts
to top
My Feed

See more of what you like on
The Student Room

You can personalise what you see on TSR. Tell us a little about yourself to get started.


How are you finding researching unis for 2021 entry?

I have been able to get all the information I need from online research (74)
I have tried virtual events and found them useful (80)
I have tried virtual events and did not find them useful (75)
I would be interested in trying socially distanced or scaled down in person events (87)
I want to but don't know where to start with researching unis for 2021 entry (41)
I haven't started researching yet (41)

Watched Threads

View All