Mark Nowacki’s “Assessing the Kalam Cosmological Argument”–A Review

by Max Andrews

Review of Mark Nowacki’s “Assessing the Kalam Cosmological Argument,” Philosophia Christi 12 (2010):  201-212.

Mark Nowacki’s article is in response to an ongoing dialogue between himself and Arnold Guminski.  Guminski had recently written critiques of Nowacki’s version of the kalam cosmological argument and Nowacki responds by clarifying misconceptions and elaborating on key premises to the argument.  Nowacki’s argument is based on the impossibility of an actual infinite magnitude [not multitude] with respects to temporal marks.

Nowacki begins by developing an account of modality called substantial modality with respects to substances that obtain in the actual universe.  Substantial possibility is a more restricted domain than logical possibility.  Substantial possibility is the domain of possibility that tracks what is causally open to substances as a function of the particular natures that those substances possess.  Anything that is substantially possible is logically possible, but the converse does not hold:  something maybe logically possible without being substantially possible.[1]  One substantially necessary feature for any physical body is that it possesses a definite shape.

Nowacki invests detailed portions defending his assertion that certain entities, particularly physical entities in the actual world, cannot be infinite.  His example is a hyperlump, a lump of clay composed of an infinite quantity of an aggregate of smaller handfuls of clay.  He states that if a hyperlump is substantially possible then it must have a physical shape.  The problem is that a hyperlump cannot have definite shape.  He uses this as an illustration of the impossibility of an actual infinite and contradictions arise for the hyperlump at the substantial nature.  Nowacki states that it would be false to claim that his version of kalam relies on the systematic application of Cantorian set theory to the world.  It would be important to note that the basic argumentative thrust of his argument is that it is substantially impossible to instantiate an actually infinite magnitude.  Focusing on magnitude helps with explicating the paradoxes associated Hilbert’s Hotel and other thought experiments.

He then introduces his own paradoxical thought experiment involved an infinite set of humans (H) sitting in chairs (C).  Each member of H has a number posted to his or her chest identifying his or her respective chair in the set of C.  If the first member in H were to have a new chair, C+1, placed to his right and if the identifying number was moved to the right hand of each member in H there would be an instantiation of a paradox by identifying which member of C H is pointing to with their number.  His thought experiment satisfies the need to falsify Guminski’s response [as its predication Cantorian sets].  The thought experiment is not seminal in its accomplishing feat.  It merely needs to be filed with Hilbert’s Hotel and Craig’s library for its appropriate use and time.

After spending three-quarters of the paper clarifying the metaphysical qualifications for the impossibility of an actual infinite Nowacki commences with his case of applying his argument.  Temporal marks are truth makers for historical claims.  It is a metaphysical feature possessed by a substance that belongs to the substance because of some real causal relation that either the substance itself or one of its precursors enter into during historical existence.[2]  The series of marks is not a physical mark but an indexical of previous causes.  The causal history of an actualization can be traced back to a regress of causes (hence the impossibility of an actual infinite).

Nowacki needed to expound on this more, though he conceded the fact that he did not have enough space to elaborate, because there are unanswered questions that remain.  It may certainly be true that substances would bear temporal marks of previous causal relationships but how would this be indicative of any agent causation.  An extrapolation of temporal marks may indicate an agency as a source to series of causes.  Nowacki may see this being inclusive of agent causation but he did not explicate any clarification.

Comparing Nowacki’s version of kalam to its aggregate literature, Nowacki’s version does not seem to advance the power of William Lane Craig’s version.  That would not be to say that Nowacki’s argument is unconvincing, it is, but it seems to only address the minutia of metaphysical qualms by a minority of objectors.  What is advantageous for this version of the argument is that the argument, by Nowacki’s claim, is still applicable to B-theorists.  The reason for how this is accomplished is not unraveled in this paper, he merely refers to some of his other work, but to refer to these causes as events and event-states may be more convincing to B-theorists once clarified.

[1] Nowacki’s example:  It is substantially possible, and even substantially necessary, that gold is both malleable and a good conductor of electricity.  It is also substantially necessary for physical substances that they be capable of entering into efficient causal relationships with other substances, yet this is not true of all logically possible beings, for platonic forms (if there be such) are causally inert.  Mark Nowacki, “Assessing the Kalam Cosmological Argument,” Philosophia Christi 12 (2010):  203.

[2] Ibid., 210.


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