The first cause

Essay by EssaySwap ContributorUniversity, Bachelor's February 2008

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One of the most commonly pondered philosophical questions is the mystery of the universe's origin. For countless centuries mankind has speculated as to how and why the universe as we know it came into existence. Unfortunately, in attempting to answer this question, we simply raise more questions; each as unanswerable as the last. For instance, in asking where the universe came from, many have applied the cosmological argument to arrive at the conclusion that God must have imposed His creative influence. However, for other philosophers this poses the equally perplexing question as to how God achieved existence. Consequently, the question has to be asked; must there be a first cause of everything? While considering the topic of causality, it would be beneficial to investigate the ideas of two of the leading philosophers in this area; Saint Thomas Aquinas and David Hume. While Aquinas attempts to prove the reality of a finite chain of causality and hence an initial cause, Hume argues against trusting implicitly our perception of causality.

Through his examination of the cosmological argument concerning the existence of God, Aquinas was able to validate and support his refutation of a causal series continuing infinitely into the past. Essentially, Aquinas succeeds in justifying that the universe has a definitive beginning and proceeds to explain the necessity of God as the agent of this beginning.

For the purpose of understanding Aquinas' argument, causality can be defined as the relationship between two consecutive events and the presumption that one always precludes the other and in fact brings it about. What Aquinas' argues is that in order for an event to happen, a force must be applied by something else. Aquinas uses the analogy of a stick moving something only if a hand moves the stick. However, he contends that this series...