Jul 262006

On the principle of Sufficient Reason (the PSR)

Since this came up in various, let me give the classical defense of the Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR) a principle which is, I believe, antithetical to Quentin Smith’s Principle of Simplest Beginning (SB) – an atheistic account of the principle of the origin of the cosmos.

Goldberg MachineGoldberg MachineIn the form I will defend it, the PSR states as follows:

PSR = “Anything that exists has a sufficient reason for existing.”

Theoretically, there can be two general types of sufficient reasons for existing.

1. The thing has a sufficient reason for existing within itself – it is the “cause” of it’s own existence.

2. The thing has a sufficient reason for existing which it receives from another thing or things.

With the possible exception of one type of natural phenomena (which I shall discuss momentarily) we know of no natural thing which does not have such a sufficient reason for existing.

Nor can such a thing exist – as we can demonstrate:

Let us suppose that something exists without sufficient reason for existing. This would mean that it neither has existence in and of itself – NOR does it have sufficient reason for existing from somewhere else. It does not get its being from itself – it does not get it from somewhere else.. hence, it HAS no being, and so does not exist – but we were supposing it DOES exist, therefore, this hypothetical entity would both exist and not exist at the same time, which would violate the law of non-contradiction. Therefore, everything that exists has a sufficient reason for existing.

A Possible Exception?

One thing that is suggested as an exception to this principle is a virtual quantum particle that comes into existence in a quantum vacuum. We can’t point to a deterministic cause of such a particle. We can only point to a PROBABALISTIC cause – a tendency. Does this violate the PSR? I would say no, for the following reason – the “existence” a virtual quantum particle has is an entirely different order of existence. Having only a probabilistic cause, it also has only a probabilistic EXISTENCE. In a sense, these particles DO both “exist” and “not exist” at the same time. They are an order of reality far different from, and inferior to, the normal realities of things like chairs, rocks and trees.

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