Essay mark scheme – Hume and the cosmological argument

2 (a) Explain Hume’s criticisms of the Cosmological Argument. [25] June 2011 A01

Candidates may begin by exploring the fact that Hume had problems with the very notion of causation. He pointed out that while we are very comfortable using the language of causation, scientifically it is much more problematic. Some may discuss the idea of a cue ball being responsible for a red ball moving on a snooker table.

However Hume argued that we should consider the moment when the cause is succeeded by the effect. Immediately before the moment, the cause is not yet the effect. Immediately after, the effect is no longer the cause. He asks what happens at the precise moment when the cause is not yet the effect and the effect is no longer the cause?

Some may point out that Hume goes on to argue that what we term cause and effect may be no more than a statistical correlation; though others may say that common sense may itself undermine his argument.

In order to make sense of these beliefs in terms of the question, candidates will also have to explain what the Cosmological argument is and why it is believed by some that Hume may have undermined the success of the proof, such as it was.

(b) To what extent was Hume successful in his critique of the cosmological argument? [10] A02

Candidates may begin by taking the question apart and evaluating what might count as success in this context. Did anyone who previously believed in this as a way to understanding God have their beliefs destroyed?

Alternatively they may criticise what Aquinas or others were trying to do when they used this argument as a proof for the existence of God and assess whether or not Hume has succeeded in his attempts. Will an analysis of how we understand causeand effect really stop religious people or philosophers from trying to argue from the way the world works back to a creator who actually put the world in motion? Candidates’ conclusions are less important than the extent to which they have considered more than one point of view and not just repeated the views of others with no demonstrable understanding.

 

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