Aquinas’ Third Way Modalized

The Paideia Archive: Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy 36:147-155 (1998)
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Abstract

The Third Way is the most interesting and insightful of Aquinas' five arguments for the existence of God, even though it is invalid and has some false premises. With the help of a somewhat weak modal logic, however, the Third Way can be transformed into a argument which is certainly valid and plausibly sound. Much of what Aquinas asserted in the Third Way is possibly true even if it is not actually true. Instead of assuming, for example, that things which are contingent fail to exist at some time, we need only assume that contingent things possibly fail to exist at some time. Likewise, we can replace the assumption that if all things fail to exist at some time then there is a time when nothing exists, with the corresponding assumption that if all things possibly fail to exist at some time then possibly there is a time when nothing exists. These and other similar replacements suffice to produce a cogent cosmological argument.

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