Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Defending the MCA from an Old Criticism

Only propositions are necessary, say Hume and Russell. If God exists, He does not have necessary existence or, more specifically, logically necessary existence. [1] In order for a proposition to be necessary, this view states that only analytical propositions meet the bill, e.g. A=A, either A or ~A, etc.

The above view has a powerful defeater. You will recall that in order for the MCA to work, it is postulated that the sum total of contingent entities C possibly has an external cause. This external cause must be a necessary entity N. Given that N is possible, it follows (in conjunction with S5) that N exists.

In order to reject the MCA, the skeptic has to say that N is not even possible, which entails:

1. Necessarily, every cause is contingent.

Is (1) analytically true? Obviously not. Yet on Hume's hypothesis, (1) should therefore be rejected. Given that the negation of (1) entails that N is possible and therefore actually exists, the Humean is forced to say that N both exists and does not exist. Of course, this is a violation of one of the analytical propositions that Hume does take to be necessary - namely, the law of non-contradiction.

In short, the Humean hypothesis is self-defeating and should not lead the subject to conclude that N is impossible. Moreover, if N is not impossible [2], it follows that N is possible, which is one area where the MCA has its strength.

[1] On this view, God may still have temporally necessary existence.

[2] Other objections will likewise have to be disposed of.

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