The Vertical Cosmological Argument and the Fallacy of Composition
by Glenn Smith
The Vertical Cosmological Argument has various forms and is rather conceptual, but can be described as:
1. Everything in the universe is contingent (they could “not exist”).
2. All contingent things need an ongoing cause to sustain them.
3. Therefore the universe needs an ongoing cause to sustain it.
(a more detailed description can be found here)
Common attacks from critics on this argument are 1) this untrue since it depends on the principle of sufficient reason, and 2) it’s the fallacy of composition. We won’t deal with the first here other than to say the vertical cosmological argument does not hinge on sufficient reason, but on the principle of causality, which is very different.
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But the second is a bit more tricky. The fallacy of composition can be described with the following illustrations: if every tile in a floor is square, it does not follow that the whole floor is square. If all the parts to a machine are light, it does not follow that the whole machine is light. Therefore, the critics say that just because every part of the universe is contingent then it does not follow that the whole universe is contingent.
However, the fallacy of composition does not always apply. For example, the fallacy of composition would say that just because every floor tile is square, the floor does not have to be square. However, it is true that if every tile has a geometric shape, the whole floor will have a geometric shape…
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