Why Does the Universe Exist?: The Leibnizian Cosmological Argument
Besides his interest in Christian philosophy, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716) was one of the greatest mathematicians of western civilization.
Why does the universe exist instead of nothing? Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646 – 1716) pondered this question and formulated a cosmological argument to address it. The Leibnizian Cosmological Argument is but one of a group of cosmological arguments. According to Craig and Moreland (2003) there are three types of cosmological arguments. First, the Kalam Cosmological Argument seeks to establish that a first cause began the universe. Second, the Thomistic Cosmological Argument seeks a “Ground of Being” for the universe, and the Leibnizian Cosmological Argument seeks a sufficient reason for the existence of the universe. Earlier, I wrote an essay on the Kalam Argument. This essay will focus on the Leibnizian Cosmological Argument.
According to Leibniz, the universe must have an explanation for its existence. That explanation must be more than just a material cause, but rather a “sufficient reason” for why it exists.
The Principle of Sufficient Reason
We understand that every existing thing must have an explanation for its existence. Some things exist because they result from other things (that is, they’re contingent) while other things exist because they exist necessarily (that is, they exist by the necessity of their nature).
People, textbooks, and skyscrapers are contingent. They exist because someone else produced them. We exist because of our parents, textbooks exist because of writers and printers, and skyscrapers exist because of engineers and builders. However, some theorists of mathematics believe that numbers exist necessarily. For example, let’s take the value “two.” It seems silly to ask “where did ‘two’ come from”? (Not “two” as in the numeral, but “two” as a value regardless of what numeral we’re using). It wasn’t produced by a union of “one” and “three”!
How about God? Is he necessary or contingent? If there is a God, He, would have to be a necessary being if He’s going to be the sufficient reason for why anything exists…
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