No one won the Copleston-Russell radio debate. Discuss
This part b answer was written in 15 minutes under timed exam conditions.
To the untrained philosophical ear the clear winner of the debate will seem to be Copleston. Russell’s denial that the terms “universe”, “necessary”, “contingent” and “existence” have any meaning seems to be too far-fetched. Copleston feels the question of where the world came from is legitimate. It seems counterintuitive to argue otherwise. We see things pass out of existence and come to be, so feel Copleston is right. Aquinas and Leibniz support this view that the universe is ultimately unintelligible without God. However this feeling is not based on logic and it doesn’t mean that Russell is incorrect. The biggest hurdle to overcome is Russell’s claim, which David Hume made centuries before him, that there may very well be an infinite regress so that the universe is ultimately without explanation. Yet Craig and Mackie are clear that the term “infinity” can have no meaning outside of a priori logic. It simply doesn’t make sense to argue that there is an infinite number of library books or carriages without a train to pull them. So it seems as though Copleston would be seen as the winner. Yet this rests on one major assumption: that the universe is a thing or object.
Finally the claim Copleston makes, that if we are to understand the nature of contingent objects (which we have already demonstrated is questionable) then we would come to a necessary being, cannot be defended as there may be an alternative explanation which is beyond our epistemological limits as Hume suggested. Ultimately Russell can be seen as the victor but only the philosophically literate would be able to pick up on the subtleties of his argument without him appearing dogmatic.