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Sunday, November 6, 2011

My review of part of Nigel Warburten's "A Little History of Philosophy" (on Amazon)

The author, a secularist, does not bother to treat philosophical arguments for God's existence seriously. For example, he lauds Bertrand Russell's attack on the cosmological argument (p. 185) when, in fact, Russell created a straw man. In "Why I am Not a Christian," Russell says that cosmological arguments all fail because they depend on this premise:

P1: Everything that exists has a cause
Or order to reach this conclusion along with one more premise:
P2: The universe exists.
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C1: Therefore, the universe has a cause (God)
But Russell claims that C1 (God) would be subject to P1. God would require a cause for God's existence. If so, the argument fails.
This is absurd because I have never read a version of the cosmological argument (in 35 years of studying and teaching and writing about philosophy of religion) that used this argument premise. Of course, P1 will defeat a cosmological argument, but no one uses it!
For example, the kalam cosmological argument reasons this way:
P1: What every begins to exist, has a cause of its existence.
P2: The universe began to exist.
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C1: Therefore, the universe has a cause (God).
Notice that the kalam's P1 differs radically from Russell's version: "Everything that exists has a cause." God, of course, did not (by definition) begin to exist, so is not subject requiring a beginning cause for God's existence. In order words, there is no reductio ad absurdum. Neither do the Thomistic or the Lebinizian cosmological arguments rely on Russell's manufactured premise.
One could go on about the cosmological argument (I devote 30 pages to it in my book, Christian Apologetics), but suffice to say that this book does not bother to critique the argument at its best, only at its worst.
That is a very bad sign indeed, but I find that many British secular philosophers are often dismissive of philosophical theism. Shame on them.
For much more on the cosmological argument, see chapter eleven of Christian Apologetics.

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