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Everything has a Cause?


Norris Clarke The Creative Retrieval of Aquinas

If you have ever engaged New Atheists in argument over the cosmological argument, you will have had the misfortune of encountering the line that the argument is fallacious, because it commits the error of asserting that “everything has a cause” but of excluding what we call God from the premise. However, no where in the cosmological argument  is there such a premise, “Everything has a Cause”; in fact, the relevant premise in the Aquinas’s First Way, for instance, simply asserts that “Whatever is moved [changed], is moved [changed] by another.” How did this oft-repeated mistake arise? Well, it was an absolute pleasure to be introduced to W. Norris Clarke’s article, A Curious Blind Spot in the Anglo-American Tradition of Antitheistic Arguments (contact me for a copy), a few months back at the Thomistic Discussion Group on Facebook, because, therein, we learn that this oft-repeated mistake probably originated with Hume and traveled to us via the two Mills, and Russell, and has remained with us ever since.

W. Norris Clarke’s essay is also included in his, The Creative Retrieval of Saint Thomas Aquinas: Essays in Thomistic Philosophy, New and Old.

Ed Feser has just provided a detailed discussion of W. Norris Clarke’s essay and the mistake here. I heartily recommend it.



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