Okay, so I think I’m starting to truly understand the Thomistic cosmological argument, with the help of great philosophers such as Edward Feser.
So, am I right in saying that the argument, unlike the kalam variant, does not rest on temporal regress but causal regress? So even if we have a line of causes that is infinite in both directions, or meet each other in a causal loop, there must still be something sustaining all of them, giving them their ‘causal efficacy’?
A quote from Feser from his blog.
“…He seems to think that what Aquinas was concerned to show is that if you lay out a series of causes ordered per se in a straight line, the line will necessarily have a beginning. But that is not what he was concerned to show. As Thomists sometimes point out, it wouldn’t change things in the least if we granted for the sake of argument that a series of causes ordered per se might loop around back on itself in a circle, or even that it might extend forward and backward infinitely. For the point is that as long as the members of such a circular or infinite chain of causes have no independent causal power of their own, there will have to be something outside the series which imparts to them their causal efficacy. (As the Thomist A. D. Sertillanges once put it, a paint brush can’t move itself even if it has a very long handle. And it still couldn’t move itself even if it had an infinitely long handle.) Moreover, if that which imparts causal power to the members of the circular or infinitely long series itself had no independent causal power, then it too would of necessity also require a principal cause of its own, relative to which it is an instrument. This explanatory regress cannot possibly terminate in anything other than something which has absolutely independent causal power, which can cause or “actualize” without itself having to be actualized in any way, and only what is purely actual can fit the bill.”
The issue I’m still struggling with and trying to get to the bottom of is though; why must there be ‘something outside the series which imparts to them their causal efficacy’? Is ‘causal efficacy’ some metaphysical property that needs to be given? Isn’t it merely an illustration of how we are perceiving the world around us? What is this ‘causal power’ that is spoken of, as if it is a real thing that must be given to all things in order for them to function? How can this all be proven as a real necessity?