The Contingency Arguments

con·​tin·​gent | \ kən-ˈtin-jənt  \  
: dependent on or conditioned by something else

Whether we examine the cosmological argument, Aquinas’ argument from motion, or Aristotle’s argument of the unmoved mover, we are presented with logic that asserts two essential concepts:

  1. Everything is contingent on something before it.
  2. Infinite regress is illogical and explains nothing.

Aristotle was the first to assert the argument from motion, or the theory of the unmoved mover, as a philosophical proof for the existence of a greater being (i.e. God). This theory is the first of several similar concepts which I call the contingency arguments as each one asserts that everything that exists is contingent upon the existence of something else. 

“Aristotle’s fundamental principle is that everything that is in motion is moved by something else, and he offers a number of … arguments to this effect. He then argues that there cannot be an infinite series of moved movers” (Kenny). So, essentially, Aristotle is saying that since everything in existence is caused by something that precedes it, there must be a beginning. That beginning is an unmoved mover, and uncaused cause that put everything else into motion: the greatest conceivable being. Since infinite regress—and unlimited, ongoing series of movers—defies logic, the greatest conceivable being must exist. 

Aristotle’s Argument from Motion was echoed centuries later by St. Thomas Aquinas who included it as one of his five proofs for the existence of God. Prior to Aquinas’ popular five proofs, Arabic philosopher Ibn Sina developed the similar Cosmological Argument (Reichenbach).

Here’s a video that explains Aristotle’s first contingency argument in detail:

The Argument from Motion

St. Thomas Aquinas offered variations of his proof for the existence of God in The Five Ways. His argument from motion (borrowed or blatantly ripped off from Aristotle) asserts that everything which is in motion has a cause of motion and each cause has a cause. Since facing causality back infinitely provides no beginning and therefore nothing to follow, then there must be a first, unmoved mover.

Here is the logic asserted by Aquinas:

  1. Some things in this world are in motion.
  2. Things have potential motion, and move when that potential motion becomes actual motion.
  3. Nothing can convert potential motion into actual motion by itself.
  4. Everything has a cause of movement.
  5. The cause of movement must be moved by something else, and so on.
  6. We cannot proceed to infinity in this way (infinite regress), because then there would be no first mover, and therefore, no other movers.
  7. The first, unmoved mover is what we understand God to be.

With the scientific knowledge of today, we can adjust the first premise of Aquinas’ argument to read “All things in this world are in motion” as everything is moving at least at an atomic level.

Bishop Robert Barron offers excellent explanation and commentary on this argument:

The Cosmological Argument

The cosmological argument makes assertions similar to those of the argument from motion. Instead of using motion, however, this argument examines the existence of things. Everything that exists was caused to exist by something else. Think of your own existence. It was caused by the actions of others. Every cause was caused to exist, and since infinite regress would give us no first cause and therefore no existence, there must be a first cause: God.

Let’s break it out step by step.

  1. Everything that exists was caused to exist.
  2. Causal factors also exist.
  3. Therefore, Causal factors were caused to exist.
  4. Infinite regress of causal factors would result in no first cause.
  5. Without a first cause, not causal factors would exist.
  6. A first cause is necessary for existence.
  7. Therefore, a first cause exists, which we call God, Creator, or Greatest Conceivable Being (GCB)

We’ll call that the Baldino Cosmological Argument. Here is the Kalam Cosmological Argument:

  1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause of its existence.
  2. The universe began to exist.
  3. Therefore, the universe has some kind of cause of its existence.
  4. The cause of the universe is either an impersonal cause or a personal one.
  5. The cause of the universe is not impersonal.
  6. Therefore, the cause of the universe is a personal one, which we call God.


QED is an acronym for the Latin phrase “Quod Erat Demonstrandum.” It is often used at the end of philosophical and mathematical proofs as it loosely translates to “what was to be shown” or “which was to be demonstrated.” In this use it signifies that that which was sought to be proved has been proven.

Works Cited

“Contingent.” Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

Kenny, Anthony JP. “The Unmoved Mover Links to an external site..” Encyclopedia Britannica. N.D.

Meister, Chad. “Philosophy of Religion.” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. N.D.

Reichenbach, Bruce. “Cosmological Argument Links to an external site..” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 30 June 2022.

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