Universal Contingency, Beginninglessness and God

Autor: Fernando Tola


This paper begins indicating that the idea of universal contingency frequently appears in Western thinkers, generally in the context of the proofs of the existence of God. As examples of that fact Aristotle, Saint Thomas Aquinas and Father Copleston are mentioned. These three authors adduce the universal contingency in order to prove, the first one, the existence of a first mover and of a first cause, which is God. The paper turns then to India and gives some indications about the substantialist position of the Upanishads and the phenomenic and relativist position of Primitive and Hīnayāna Buddhism expressed in the theory of dharmas, the factors or elements of existence that are unsubstantial, conditioned and impermanent. After some brief notes on Mahāyāna Buddhism, the paper exposes the basic ideas of Nāgārjuna school, among which it mentions in a special way, the thesis of the universal contingency, according to which beings are conditioned, relative and compose. Regarding the last attribute the paper refers to the Hastavālanāmaprakaraṇa, a treatise which develops the thesis that everything in the world is composed of parts and each part, at its own turn, is composed of parts also, and so on, without an end, Nāgārjuna admits the universal contingency, but does not feel the need to advocate for a first cause because he accepts the beginninglessness principle, a most important principle in Indian philosophy. This principle explains the universal contingency without admitting the idea of a First Cause: universal contingency existed always. The paper indicates that in the contradictory position of the Western thinkers, on one side, and Nāgārjuna, on the other, it is easy to recognize the first and fourth Kantian antinomies, neither of which, according to Kant has more right than the other to get our assent. To finish the paper sustains that the contradictory scientific theories regarding the origin of the world do not create any problem to Nāgārjuna, because he belongs to the atheistic current of thought in India; that these contradictory theories do not render impossible the existence and intervention of God, and that it is possible that God exist either if the world be beginningless or if it has an origin.


Tola, F. (1984), “Universal Contingency, Beginninglessness and God”, New era Conference: “God: the Contemporary Discussion”, theme Group Five: Science and the Ultimate: How are Divine and Natural Causality Related to One Another, August 9-15, Seoul, South Korea.