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- We notice around us things that come into being and go out of being. A tree, for example, grows from a tiny shoot, flowers brilliantly, then withers and dies.
- Whatever comes into being or goes out of being does not have to be; nonbeing is a real possibility.
- Suppose that nothing has to be; that is, that nonbeing is a real possibility for everything.
- Then right now nothing would exist. For
- If the universe began to exist, then all being must trace its origin to some past moment before which there existed—literally—nothing at all. But
- From nothing nothing comes. So
- The universe could not have begun.
- But suppose the universe never began. Then, for the infinitely long duration of cosmic history, all being had the built—in possibility not to be. But
- If in an infinite time that possibility was never realized, then it could not have been a real possibility at all. So
- There must exist something which has to exist, which cannot not exist. This sort of being is called necessary.
- Either this necessity belongs to the thing in itself or it is derived from another. If derived from another there must ultimately exist a being whose necessity is not derived, that is, an absolutely necessary being.
- This absolutely necessary being is God.
Question1: Even though you may never in fact step outside your house all day, it was possible for you to do so. Why is it impossible that the universe still happens to exist, even though it was possible for it to go out of existence?Reply: The two cases are not really parallel. To step outside your house on a given day is something that you may or may not choose to do. But if nonbeing is a real possibility for you, then you are the kind of being that cannot last forever. In other words, the possibility of nonbeing must be built—in, "programmed," part of your very constitution, a necessary property. And if all being is like that, then how could anything still exist after the passage of an infinite time? For an infinite time is every bit as long as forever. So being must have what it takes to last forever, that is, to stay in existence for an infinite time. Therefore there must exist within the realm of being something that does not tend to go out of existence. And this sort of being, as Aquinas says, is called "necessary."