mickeyd wrote:You’ve argued that Copleston not Russell invoked the notion of an infinite regress. I disagree because when Russell posits an uncaused total reality this implies that reality has no beginning – unless you believe, as Russell must, that something can come from nothing, but I reject this as literally inconceivable and therefore unbelievable, whether by Russell or anyone else.
This is an improvement, in the sense that it now clear that you are arguing against not what BR says but what you think he should say.
It’s striking that Russell’s rejection of the law of causality (in this case applied to the whole of reality) is itself based on the law of causality: “I see no reason…”. And as I observed in my first post, if Russell really believed that the whole was causeless (self-existent) then he should be a pantheist – but he’s not
I see this has already had some attention from Animist. Quite correctly, he distinguishes reason
. If you are in any doubt about the distinction, you may want to reflect on the fact that reasons can intelligibly be described as cogent, valid, persuasive, well expressed and so on. Causes can't.
BR: “The whole concept of cause is one we derive from our observation of particular things…”
On the contrary, without assuming a priori the law of causality, we could have no knowledge of particulars or univerals. If events really were causeless then no basis would exist for differentiating and relating the different parts of reality. At the moment of observation the observer could cease to exist, since if all events are causeless, there is no cause to prevent spontaneous non-existence. And if all of reality consists of these absurdities then we are left with nothing but an incoherent blob.
You've got carried away by your own rhetoric here. From the fact that certain events ( at the quantum level) have to be dealt with probabilistically rather than deterministically it does not begin to follow that " all events are causeless" or that we are all in danger of what Douglas Adams would have called catastrophic existence-failure.
I also disagree that Copleston committed the fallacy of composition. The fallacy is not necessary merely from the fact of arguing that the whole shares a property in common with a part. For example, if every part of a chess set is made of glass, is not the whole made of glass?
What your chess-set example shows is just that there are some innocent arguments that might in a very dim light be mistaken for the Fallacy of Composition. To be composed entirely of parts that are themselves composed entirely of glass is to be composed of glass, certainly. What of it? It certainly does not show that FC did not commit the fallacy.
This is why Copleston elsewhere points out that if you add up chocolates to infinity you get an infinity of chocolate, not a sheep; and similarly, if you add up contingent beings to infinity you still get contingent beings, not a necessary being.
Simple point here about the notion of contingency: it always makes sense to ask Contingent on what, exactly?
And the answer consists in pointing out something else on which the first thing is contingent.
If you wish to say that a collection of contingent beings is itself a contingent being, by all means do so, provided there is something left over to point to when the question is asked. And that may work well enough even when the collection is very large. But if your collection has taken up everything, there is nothing left over to point to.
And at that point, we note that what can intelligibly be asked of the parts cannot always intelligibly be asked of the collection.