Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A Heraclitean Cosmological Argument

The ancient Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, held views that are very consonant with what many today hold. He was a commonsense philosopher who is famous for his quote, "you cannot step into the same river twice." Rivers, like all natural things, are in a constant state of flux. However, there is an order to how each of these things change, and the ordering principle (or "Logos") is distinguished from these changing things. As A.H. Armstrong summarizes, "[The] world of change and conflict pictured by Heraclitus is not however a mere chaos. It is governed by an immanent principle of order and measure. . . . [H]is name for the ruling principle is the Logos." [1]

There are several ways of formalizing Heraclitus' thought into a cosmological argument. I wish to present two of these ways:

I. The Heraclitean Cosmological Argument (HCA) based on correspondence

1. Nature is in constant flux. (Premise)

2. There is order throughout nature. (Premise)

3. The order throughout nature is either in flux or not in flux. (Definition)

4. The order throughout nature is not in flux. (Premise)

5. Every fact of concrete reality corresponds to some existing concrete reality. (Premise, correspondence principle)

6. Hence, the fact of order in nature corresponds to some existing concrete reality. (From 2 and 5)

7. The corresponding concrete reality is itself either in flux or not in flux. (Definition)

8. It cannot be in flux. (From 4 and 5)

9. Therefore, an immutable ordering principle (Logos) exists. (From 6 - 8)

10. Therefore, the Logos is distinct from nature. (From 1 and 9)

The Logos that Heraclitus concludes to is immutable, eternal (for something can only cease to exist at some time if it changes), and enormously powerful, given that it is the cause of change throughout nature. More precisely, though, his thought is that the Logos is part of nature, but distinct from those aspects of nature that are in flux.

II. The HCA based on the Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR)

With some modifications of Leibniz' argument, we can reformulate the syllogism to be Heraclitean-friendly:

1. Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause. (Premise, PSR)

2. If the order of nature has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is the Logos. (Premise)

3. The order of nature exists. (Premise)

4. Hence, the order of nature has an explanation of its existence. (From 1 and 3)

5. Therefore, the order of nature is explained by the Logos. (From 2 and 4)

What I like about this version is the awkwardness that results in rejecting the existence of the Logos. If the skeptic takes the view that the order of the universe has an external cause, then we have something supernatural. If, however, the other horn of the dilemma is preferred, then the order of the universe has necessary existence. This entails that something is immutable, eternal, and enormously powerful, anyway.

This means that either (1) and/or (3) must be rejected. That's not an issue for me, though.

[1] A.H. Armstrong, An Introduction to Ancient Philosophy, Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 1989 edition, p. 10.

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