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The Cosmological Argument

5. Evaluating Cosmological Arguments

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In this module, we evaluate the success of cosmological arguments, focusing in particular on (i) the limitations of the cosmological arguments in accounting for the nature of God (ii) Blaise Pascal’s night of fire (ii) the sense behind an argument from contingency of humans’ existential vulnerability, and the impulse for ontological rootedness (iii) Heidegger’s existential analysis of contingency (iv) St Augustine of Hippo’s address to God (v) the assumption of the principle of sufficient reason (v) Stephen Hawking’s comments on the discovery of a theory of everything and its relationship to desire for meaning (vi) Herbert McCabe’s comments on the mystery of God.


In this course, Professor John Cottingham (University of Reading) explores the cosmological argument. In the first module, we introduce the a posteriori and inductive methods involved in cosmological arguments for God’s existence, and outline Aquinas’ first three ways for God’s existence. In the second module, we look at the arguments from motion and causation. In the third module, we look at the Kalam version of the cosmological argument, and address conceptual problems with infinite causation. In the fourth module, we explore the famous argument from contingency, challenges to the argument from Bertrand Russell, and look at Leibniz’s principle of sufficient reason. In the sixth and final module, we evaluate the cosmological arguments, with particular focus on existentialist responses to finitude and contingency, and the question as to why there is something rather than nothing.


John Cottingham is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the University of Reading and an Honorary Fellow of St John's College, Oxford. He has published thirty books — thirteen as sole author, a further nine editions and translations, plus (either as single or join editor) eight edited collections — together with over 115 articles or chapters in journals or books. His books include Descartes, The Rationalists, Philosophy and the Good Life, On the Meaning of Life, The Spiritual Dimension (Cambridge, 2005), Cartesian Reflections (Oxford, 2008), Why Believe? (Continuum 2009) and Philosophy of Religion: Towards a More Humane Approach (Cambridge, 2014). He is co-editor and translator of the three-volume standard Cambridge edition of The Philosophical Writings of Descartes. From 1993-2012 he was editor of Ratio, the international journal of analytic philosophy. The Moral Life, a Festschrift honouring his work on moral psychology, ethics and religion, was published in 2008.

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APA style

Cottingham, J. (2022, June 16). The Cosmological Argument - Evaluating Cosmological Arguments [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Cottingham, J. "The Cosmological Argument – Evaluating Cosmological Arguments." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 16 Jun 2022,