Mapping the Kalam: Reviewing the Literature, Part 1

by Luke Muehlhauser on January 14, 2011 in Kalam Argument,William Lane Craig

Part 14 of my Mapping the Kalam series.

Last time, I finished mapping Bill Craig’s latest formulation of the Kalam Cosmological Argument (KCA).

Now I will begin to examine the arguments and counter-arguments surrounding the KCA that are not fully examined already in that 2009 article.

How will I proceed?

I will check each source in my KCA bibliography to see if it has any arguments that (1) are relevant to the 2009 formulation of the argument, and (2) are not addressed adequately in the 2009 article itself.

But I have limited time, so I won’t be reading every article closely. I’ll focus on the ones I think have a good chance of contributing to our quest. So please let me know if you think I’ve missed something important!

So, in chronological order:

  • Craig, The Kalam Cosmological Argument, 1979: This book is Craig’s original formulation. It has some differences from the 2009 presentation, but I will assume he advanced the arguments he now wants to advance in his 2009 article, so I’ll be skipping this book.
  • Craig, “Wallace Matson and the Crude Cosmological Argument”, 1979: Some of this material is covered in the 2009 article, and the rest is too trivial to mention.
  • Craig, “Whitrow and Popper on the Impossibility of an Infinite Past”, 1979: This article is, for our purposes, rendered obsolete by the 2009 article.
  • Rucker, “The actual infinite”, 1980: Unfortunately, I cannot access a copy of this paper anywhere. If you have it, please send it to me!
  • Craig, “The Finitude of the Past”, 1981: I can’t access a copy of this paper, but I doubt it includes anything significant not also presented in Craig’s 2009 article.
  • Mackie, “Cosmological Arguments”, 1982: Mackie’s objections are covered in the 2009 article.
  • Craig, “Professor Mackie and the Kalam Cosmological Argument”, 1985: This material is covered in the 2009 article.
  • Craig, “God, Creation, and Mr. Davies”, 1986: I didn’t read this article in depth but it doesn’t appear to have any interesting arguments not already covered in the 2009 article. Mostly, it looks like Davies was confused.
  • Smith, “Infinity and the Past”, 1987:  G.J. Withrow gave 6 arguments for why an infinite series of past events is logically impossible, and Smith responds to each of them. But even if an infinite series of past events is logically possible, Craig’s KCA only uses a supporting argument that this is metaphysically impossible. So I doubt there is relevant material here, though I haven’t read it.
  • Eells, “Quentin Smith on Infinity and the past”, 1988: This article defends Craig’s Tristam Shandy paradox argument against an infinite past, but that is not used in Craig’s 2009 article.
  • Smith, “The Uncaused Beginning of the Universe“, 1988: This article might be relevant, but it might be superseded by Smith’s later articles on the subject. I’ll check it later, so, it gets an asterisk: *
  • Martin, “Craig’s Defense of the Kalam Cosmological Argument“, 1989: Parts relevant to the 2009 article might include the first paragraph on page 104 and Martin’s quotations of Munitz. *

To be continued…

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Leomar January 14, 2011 at 5:39 am

Great, that’s a huge job, keep on the good work Luke.


Martin January 14, 2011 at 8:39 am

Thanks for all this hard work, Luke. I’ve done similar with a lot of philosophy, brief paraphrases of the arguments, the objections, the answers to the objections, etc. Makes it easier to go back and look at later, and gives you a good feel for how these arguments work.


Steven R. January 14, 2011 at 8:46 am

First Luke, thanks for taking the time to do all this.

I have two questions though:

1. Has Craig answered Mackie’s objections? Right now it just reads “covered” which is a bit ambiguous.

2. (This question is completely unrelated to this article or topic, but I might as well ask) I went back to your map of the Fine-Tuning Argument and read that “the universe is hostile to life” is an inadequate response, and I see the reasoning (oops, never read that part of the article so I used it) but then realized that if life is inherently valuable, as the Theist posits to avoid the “iPad Objection”, then the hostility of the universe is an argument against it, for when we ask why God wanted to create life, and we get the response that it is inherently valuable, we may well question why something with such value was placed in a world of hostility and if God’s aims and if not our universe, which was apparently fine-tuned for the reason of creating life, also runs counters to God’s aims, and as such, it seems baffling that a God that essentially HAS to create life since it’s inherently valuable also created asteroids that can obliterate it. Okay, now to my question, given this train of thought, isn’t the hostile life objection valid once more details for the Fine-Tuning Argument are given?


Robert Oerter January 14, 2011 at 9:51 am

I just want to point out that Eells’s article actually agrees with Smith that Craig’s Tristram Shandy argument doesn’t work. However, Eells says Smith’s resolution is incorrect, and provides a different analysis of where Craig went wrong.


Luke Muehlhauser January 14, 2011 at 10:00 am

Steven R.,

1. I dunno. What I mean by ‘covered’ is that it’s on the map, so it’s available for readers to decide what they make of it. I won’t be writing my own conclusions about the argument until the map is more or less complete.

2. I never made a map of the fine-tuning argument. But anyway, your objection is relevant, but it’s kind of a side issue that I may or may not address later. It fits more cleanly into the problem of evil discussion.


Martin January 14, 2011 at 10:01 am

Steven R,

Where is the fine tuning map?


Do you have a page of everything you have mapped? T’would be nice to have that.


Steven R. January 14, 2011 at 3:43 pm

Sorry Martin, but as Luke pointed out, it’s not a map. It’s more…a post with all the articles on Fine-Tuning Luke has posted that I found on the archives. Sorry about the confusion I generated :\


Yair January 16, 2011 at 12:04 am

What about Wes Morriston’s papers?

He has a few relevant ones, like “Causes and Beginnings in the Kalam Argument: Reply to Craig” that is in direct dialog with Craig.

I’m looking forward to seeing a good map of the argument.


Marco May 8, 2011 at 11:53 am

“But even if an infinite series of past events is logically possible, Craig’s KCA only uses a supporting argument that this is metaphysically impossible.”

I’m not sure what you mean by this. Craig uses the common sense notion of absurdity when he constructs his argument against the possibility of actual infinite events. He has to use the logic behind infinity to make this work. If Smith points out (using Cantors insight into the (logical) nature of infinity) that Craig is making a false assumption about infinity, I guess that would sweep away the ground under his metaphysical argument as well. I think it’s a major help to argue against his cosmological argument.


Phil C May 15, 2011 at 4:29 am

Hi there, a quick Google found a response by WLC to Mackie on the Kalam:


Marco May 16, 2011 at 1:02 pm

Without pretending to have a final say in that debate, I find this argument that an actual infinite regress cannot be actualized quite trivial. It just means it cannot be actualized by finite steps in time. Well that is what actual infinities are. They are not finalized. It seems just trivial and unsuccessful in proving it’s impossibility. It proves that actual infinities are weird and hard to understand and mind boggling and what have you; it doesn’t proof it’s impossibility. Craig just borrows intuitions to do metaphysics in domains in which science already has proven to override our basic intuitions about reality.


Zeb May 17, 2011 at 7:12 am

It just means it cannot be actualized by finite steps in time.

But on an A theory of time, that’s exactly what an infinite past would require: the present would be the actualization of an infinite number of finite steps in time.


Marco May 18, 2011 at 4:26 am

So then it is agreed that when the A theory of time doesn’t apply to time as a value in theories explaining the beginning of a universe, the KCA doesn’t work? Or would Craig argue that if we had such a theory explaining the existence of our universe it didn’t work because it didn’t explain his feeling of temporal becoming?

Apart from going into all possible theories of time I would be more drawn to a study on all the failures of our intuitions in doing metaphysics during the history of human thought. The KCA and other cosmological arguments could have a prominent place in that study.


Zeb May 18, 2011 at 7:38 pm

I don’t know what arguments Craig gives for the A theory, but based on Luke’s coverage of Craig I doubt that w Craig would merely appeal to intuition as justification for a central pillar of one of his most labored over works. I don’t think Luke has gotten to the defense of the Theory yet, and I don’t have time to look into Craig’s work myself. I do think though that Luke has reported Craig acknowledging that without A theory Kalam doesn’t work.


Marco May 19, 2011 at 4:00 am

Most crucial premises in theology rest in intuitions I would submit. Intuitions are important and in many instances the starting point (and central pillar even) of hard philosophical labor.
See for instance Craigs response to a critique of one of his premises:

Craig argues:
“The question then arises whether on presentism the series of future events, if time is endless, is not also actually infinite. Intuitively, it seems clear that the situation is not symmetrical, but this is notoriously difficult to express linguistically. ”

Intuitively is seems clear? Well there you go.
I think it’s important not to take certain intuitions at face value especially when it comes to descriptions of time. There is for instance the whole problem of consciousness that lies between time that scientist talk about and experienced (phenomenological) time. Is consciousness in time or is time in consciousness? One could get stuck into deep philosophical waters there.


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