Does everything happen for a sufficient reason?

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Subject classification: this is an Philosophy resource.

When every sort of things happen in the natural world, some people think they happen for a sufficient reason, while others argue is a matter of probability. is Is there some kind of grand design to the world? Are all facts determined by physics?

Everything happens for a sufficient reason[edit | edit source]

Arguments for[edit | edit source]

  • Argument for As our investigation of biological and planetary sciences deepens, we learn more about how the world´s systems are connected and events are dependent upon one another. Events which seem "random" are not in fact sheer chance but happen as a part of a chain of causal events.
  • Argument for Causality is a natural law, so everything that happens has a cause, and therefore a reason.
    • Objection Claiming that causality is a natural law doesn't make it so. This argument just re-states the principle of sufficient reason without explaining how it is true.
  • Argument for Accepting that some events have no sufficient reason leads to a stop in the search for one. Then, if we're mistaken in our judgment of there not being a sufficient reason, we will never find out. Therefore, for methodological reasons, we must accept the principle of sufficient reason.
    • Objection As per arguments against, we have good scientific reasons to believe some events are genuinely random. We may accept that some things may be truly random without giving up on search for causes. There is no methodological dictum forcing us to accept something that we strongly suspect is untrue.

Arguments against[edit | edit source]

  • Argument against What is the sufficient reason behind the precise moment at which a particular atom in a radioactive compound decays? According to our best confirmed science today, some processes, such as radioactive decay, are inherently random at the atomic level. A sufficient reason as to why that atom decayed when it did cannot be given even in principle.
    • Objection The principle of sufficient reason states that everything must have a reason or a cause, not that we must know that reason. Science may not have found the reason yet, but this doesn't put a sound counterargument to the principle.
      • Objection The principle of sufficient reason needs to be empirically proven if you want to use it. Immanuel Kant[1] and Arthur Schopenhauer[2] have proposed proofs of this principle but their proofs are not universally agreed upon and rely upon various assumptions that not everybody agrees on.
  • Argument against According to quantum mechanics, some events occur randomly.
    • Objection The probabilities in quantum mechanics describe what happens, but just because probabilities can be applied there isn't necessarily an absence of cause. The cause could simply be unknown as of yet.
  • Argument against Although we can sometimes explain the material causes of tragedy or suffering, that doesn't mean they are sufficient or that they should happen.

See also[edit | edit source]

Notes and references[edit | edit source]

  1. "Kant and the Principle of Sufficient Reason". Retrieved 2022-12-02.
  2. "Principle of sufficient reason". Wikipedia. 2022-06-20. 

Further reading[edit | edit source]