Jason Rosenhouse responds to Feser
Jason Rosenhouse responds to Feser’s post “So you think you understand the cosmological argument,” with devastating effect by referring in detail to Robin Le Poidevin’s book Arguing for Atheist: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion, showing how Feser’s account of Le Poidevin’s detailed account of the cosmological argument is simply a misrepresentation, and a dishonest representation, of what Le Poidevin actually says. Go and read Rosenhouse’s response. It is a classic!
I will only mention this. Feser attacks Le Poidevin in this way:
The atheist Robin Le Poidevin, in his book Arguing for Atheism (which my critic Jason Rosenhouse thinks is pretty hot stuff) begins his critique of the cosmological argument by attacking a variation of the silly argument given above — though he admits that “no-one has defended a cosmological argument of precisely this form”! So what’s the point of attacking it? Why not start instead with what some prominent defender of the cosmological argument has actually said?
As Jason Rosenhouse says, “That’s actually pretty vicious. And if you are going to throw around words like “sleazy,” “slimy,” and “contemptible” you had better have the goods to back them up.” Which Feser hasn’t, for this is what Le Poidevin actually writes in his book:
In this chapter we shall look at three versions of the cosmological argument. The first I shall call the basic cosmological argument, because the other two are modifications of it. It goes as follows:
The basic cosmological argument:
- Anything that exists has a cause of its existence.
- Nothing can be the cause of its own existence.
- The universe exists.
Therefore: The universe has a cause of its existence which lies outside the universe.
Although no-one has defended a cosmological argument of precisely this form, it provides a useful stepping-stone to the other, more sophisticated, versions. Before discussing it, we might note that the view that the cause of the universe’s existence should be an intelligent, benevolent creator who has an interest in his creation clearly requires more than this very brief argument. An argument for God, as he is conceived of by the theist, must surely involve a series of interconnected arguments, each contributing some further aspect to our understanding of God. Nevertheless, being persuaded by an argument for a cause of the universe is to take a large step towards theism.
In other words, this is not, as Feser says, the argument that Le Poidevin attacks, and he goes into detail, addressing himself to the more complex arguments that Feser claims are necessary in order actually to understand the cosmological argument. Feser stands condemned out of his own mouth — or keyboard, as the case may be.