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Arguing for Atheism 3: Could the Universe have an explanation?

07/22/2011

Le Poidevin makes some very interesting and novel points about contingency, necessity, and explanation. First, he states some aspects of a genuine explanation.

For example, good causal explanations are informative (burning furniture vs. smoke-causing agent caused the smoke).

He also makes the very interesting point that a necessary cause cannot explain a contingent effect. A necessary cause would be true in all possible worlds. A contingent effect would be true in some. If the cause exists, the effect does as well. That means that only a contingent cause can be the explanation for a contingent effect. Whoa. Never thought of it that way. This does depend on some specific notions of necessity, cause, and contingency. I don’t know how the truth of Le Poidevin’s statements would be affected if other definitions were used.

Lastly, the appeal to personal explanations is addressed, and it is stated that many of the same problems exist. If a person appeals to a necessary personal explanation, this can’t explain something that is contingent. If the personal explanation is contingent, we need an explanation for that. If we state that this contingent explanation needs no explanation itself, this opens the door for people to assert that the contingent universe also needs no explanation.

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