Short Communication

Could the Universe Cause itself to Exist?

William F. Vallicella 


This article responds to Quentin Smith's, ‘The Reason the Universe Exists is that it Caused Itself to Exist’, Philosophy 74 (1999), 579–586. My rejoinder makes three main points. The first is that Smith's argument for a finitely old, but causally self-explanatory, universe fails from probative overkill: if sound, it also shows that all manner of paltry event-sequences are causally self-explanatory.The second point is that the refutation of Smith's argument extends to Hume's argument for an infinitely old causally self-explanatory universe, as well as to Smith's two ‘causal loop’ arguments. The problem with all four arguments is their reliance on Hume's principle that to explain the members of a collection is ipso facto to explain the collection. This principle succumbs to counterexamples. The third point is that, even if Hume's principle were true, Smith's argument could not succeed without the aid of a theory of causation according to which causation is production (causation of existence).