The cosmological argument

The cosmological argument was first introduced by Aristotle and later refined in western Europe by the celebrated Christian theologian, Thomas Aquinas (d.1274 CE). In the Islamic tradition, it was adopted by Al-Kindi, and Ibn Rushd (Averroes). The argument has several forms, the basic first-cause argument runs as follows.
Every event must have a cause, and each cause must in turn have its own cause, and so forth. Hence, there must either be an infinite regress of causes or there must be a starting point or first cause. Aquinas and Al-Kindi reject the notion of an infinite regress and insist that there must be a first cause, and the first cause must be God, the only uncaused being.
Another form of this argument is based on the concept of a prime-mover. This is the Aristotelian form of the argument also propounded by Averroes. The premise being that, every motion must be caused by another motion, and the earlier motion must in turn be a result of another motion and so on. The conclusion follows that there must be an initial prime-mover, a mover that could cause motion without any other mover.
Two kinds of Islamic perspectives maybe considered with regard to the cosmological argument. A positive Aristotelian response strongly supporting the argument and a negative response which is quite critical of it. Among the Aristotelian thinkers are Al-Kindi, and Averroes. Al-Ghazzali and Iqbal maybe seen as being in opposition to this sort of an argument.
Al-Kindi is one of the many major and first Islamic philosophers who attempt to introduce an argument for the existence of God based upon purely empirical premises. In fact, his chief contribution is the cosmological argument (dalil al-huduth) for the existence of God, in his On First Philosophy. He presents four different versions of this argument, all are variation of the cosmological argument which require a cause.
One of the arguments revolves around the principle of determination (tarjjih), that is prior to the existence of the universe it was equally likely for it to exist or not to exist. The fact that it exists, implies that it required a determining principle which would cause its existence to prevail over non-existence. This principle of determination is God. This is similar to Leibniz’s principle of sufficient reason. Leibniz argues that everything in the world is contingent that it may or may not have existed. Something will not exist unless there is a reason for its existence. This rests on his premise that the actual world is the best possible world, as such we can account for everything in it as being there for a specific reason. But the universe as a whole, requires a further reason for existence, and that reason for Liebniz is God. It should be noted that Liebniz’ theory of the best possible world is flawed. We can conceive of a better world than any possible ‘best’ world that can be created. An additional unit of pleasure or goodness can be added to it to make it better. Therefore, it seems implausible to think that a ‘best possible world’ could ever exist.
There are difficulties with this kind of an account of the universe. It seems to lead to the conclusion that all truths are necessary. That is, if everything exists because the reasons for its existence supercede the reasons for it non-existence, then it will necessarily exist. Everything and anything with a sufficient reason to exist will exist. Therefore, the universe and everything in it, must necessarily exist. Since, the superiority of its potential existence over its non-existence provides the required determining principle (of Kindi) or sufficient reason (of Liebniz), for it to exist. It appears now that the bringing into being of the universe is not contingent upon the will of God, rather it is something that is as necessary as the existence of God Himself. This seems implausible. In response Liebniz argues that its existence is only theoretically necessary and God may or may not implement it. However, if God is all good, He would clearly be obliged to bring into being the best possible world.
A second argument of his draws its inspiration from Islamic and Aristotelian sciences. He argues that only God is indivisible, and everything other than God is in some