Dr. James F. Sennett
McNeese State University

This paper examines the differing attitutdes of theists and naturalists toward what I will call the Causation Principle (CP): the metaphysical assumption that every event must have a causal explanation for its occurrence. This assumption plays a critical role in the new debates over cosmology and theism. For example, it is at the center of much of the dispute between William Lane Craig and Quentin Smith over the implications of Big Bang cosmology. I will first consider the role of CP in two debates in the philosophy of mind: the nature of mental states and the nature of free action. In each of these debates the naturalist insists not only on CP, but on a much more rigorous version of it, which I will call the Physical Causataion Closure Principle (PCCP): that all physical events must have causal explanations that refer only to other physical events. I will show how this principle contributes to physicalist theories of mind (e.g., identity theory and functionalism), as well as compatibilist theories of freedom. I will also show how PCCP is justifiable only as a corollary of CP conjoined with a physicalist metaphysic (i.e., it cannot be the result of inductive generalization or any other rational inference  it must follow from prior metaphysical commitments to CP and physicalism). Traditional theism, on the other hand, denies PCCP and is thus open to adopt non-naturalist views such as interactionist dualism and libertarianism. I will show that theism need only reject PCCP to embrace these positions  not CP. In fact, I will show how CP, together with certain non-naturalistic metaphysical assumptions, actually serves to encourage these traditional positions. With this background developed, I will then turn to current debates over the Cosmological Argument. I will show how naturalist rejections of both the Thomistic Argument (the Argument from Contingency) and the Kalam Argument (the Argument from First Cause) require a summary rejection of CP. I will show this by looking at the rejections of these arguments, respectively, by William Rowe and Quentin Smith. This dismissal of CP, of course, contradicts the naturalist's approach to the philosophy of mind theories mentioned above. The theistic approach to the Cosmological Argument, on the other hand, is perfectly consistent with its approach to the philosophy of mind issues. In fact, it invokes exactly the same version of CP as it uses in the mind issues to insist that both the contingent nature of the physical universe and its temporal beginning require sufficient causal explanation. I conclude, then, that the theistic approach to these matters is more rational than the naturalist's. The theist does not shift metaphysical commitments, but applies the same principle (viz., CP) to each case to support non-naturalistic conclusions. The naturalist, on the other hand, must accept and strengthen CP to maintain naturalism on the one hand, and reject it all together to maintain it on the other.

Copyright © James F. Sennett