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Journal of Philosophical Research

Volume 22, 1997

William F. Vallicella
Pages 423-443

The Hume-Edwards Objection to the Cosmological Argument

One sort of cosmological argument for the existence of God starts from the fact that the universe exists and argues to a transcendent cause of this fact. According to the Hume-Edwards objection to this sort of cosmological argument, if every member of the universe is caused by a preceding member, then the universe has an intemal causal explanation in such a way as to obviate the need for a transcendent cause. The Hume-Edwards objection has recently come under attack by atheists and theists alike; if I am right, however, the real flaw in this objection lies deep and has yet to be isolated. This paper accordingly divides into two main parts. The fírst discusses three recent failed critiques of the objection. The second presents the beginnings of what I hope is a sound critique. I argue that there is no extant theory of causation according to which it could be true both that (i) each state of the universe is caused by a preceding state, and that (ii) each state is caused to exist by a preceding state. Here we go only part of the way in substantiating this ambitious thesis: we argue that no nomological theory of causation satisfies both (i) and (ii).

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