The cosmological argument is an argument for the new existence of a First Cause (or instead, an Uncaused cause) to the universe, and by extension is often used as an argument for the existence of an "unconditioned" or "supreme" being, usually then identified as God. It is traditionally known as an argument from universal causation, an argument from first cause, the causal argument or the argument from existence. Whichever term is employed, there are 3 basic variants of the argument, each with subtle yet important distinctions: the arguments from causation, in esse and in fieri, and the argument from contingency.
The basic premise of all of these is that something caused the Universe to exist, and this First Cause must be God. It has been used by various theologians and philosophers over the centuries, from the ancient Greek Plato and Aristotle to the medieval St. Thomas Aquinas and the 20th Century historian of philosophy Frederick Copleston.
Plato (c. 427–347 BCE) and Aristotle (c. 384–322 BCE) both posited first cause arguments, though each had certain notable caveats. Plato posited a basic argument in The Laws (Book X), in which he argued that motion in the world and the Cosmos was "imparted motion" that required some kind of "self-originated motion" to set it in motion and to maintain that motion. Plato posited a "demiurge" of supreme wisdom and intelligence as the creator of the Cosmos in his work Timaeus.
Aristotle also put forth the idea of a First Cause, often referred to as the "Prime Mover" or "Unmoved Mover" (πρῶτον κινοῦν ἀκίνητον or primus motor) in his work Metaphysics. For Aristotle too, as for Plato, the underlying essence of the Universe always was in existence and always would be (which in turn follows Parmenides' famous statement that "nothing can come from nothing"). Aristotle posited an underlying ousia (essence or substance) of which the Universe was composed, and it was this ousia that the Prime Mover organized and set into motion. The Prime Mover did not organize matter physically, but was instead a being who constantly thought about thinking itself, and who organized the Cosmos by being itself the object of "aspiration or desire". The Prime Mover was, to Aristotle, a "thinking on thinking", an eternal process of pure thought.
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