Notes on the Kalam Argument

In its typical modern form, the Kalam argument is

What begins to exist has a cause

The universe begins to exist

So the universe has a cause.

(Beginning is usually taken as “temporal beginning” or “a beginning in time”.)

The root of temporal existence is mutability, and the mutability of things rests on a principle in things that is capable of becoming something else. How many things does this mutable principle allow a thing to become? An indefinite or infinite amount. Temporality, then, contains a certain infinity within itself, and in this sense there is no temporality without infinity. The temporal nature as temporal is more compatible with infinite regress.

If “beginning” is taken to mean the transition from non-existence to existence as such, then why invoke the universe? Perhaps because it is easier to imagine the universe as transitioning from existence to non-existence, or because a certain unity of effect would point to a unity of cause. But so long as we focus on existence as such, the argument applies just as well to anything that exists.

When we say “beginning to exist in time” are we focused on the source of existence as temporal, or as existence?

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1 Comment

  1. anna said,

    May 5, 2007 at 10:10 am

    hope you’ll forgive the off topic breaking through, but thought of my last question and your response (God’s command to Abraham re the sacrifice of Isaac) when reading the following, which i found exceedingly helpful, by extention, in clarifying the matter even further:

    “That answer, “Go forth and do so” is not to be understood after the manner of a command but of a permission, as is also what is said to Judas (in John 13:27), “What thou doest, do quickly,” in that manner of speaking which God’s permission is called His will. However what is said to Osee of”Take thee a wife of fornications,” etc., is to be understood after the manner of a command. But the divine command causes that which otherwise would be a sin not to be a sin, For as Bernard says, God can dispense in regard to the precepts of the second tablet, by which man is directly regulated in regard to his neighbor, for the good of our neighbor is a certain particular good. But God cannot dispense in regard to the precepts of the first tablet, by which man is ordered to God, Who cannot turn away others from Himself.”

    -de Malo, Q3, a1, ad17


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