The Argument from Poultry

We’ve all heard it.  “What came first, the chicken or the egg?”  At first, it seems like it must be the chicken.  It’s the adult and lays eggs.  Therefore, it’s causally prior and came first.  “But wait!” cries the proponents of eggism, “chickens come from eggs; hence the chicken is dependent on the egg for its existence.  The egg is first.”  I’m sure the chicken-first theorists would then retort akin to eggs are contingent objects and require a reason for their existence, presumably chickens, as the birds mate to create  eggs…  *Sigh.

It speaks for itself.

The proverbial riddle is obviously a quintessential instance of circular reasoning.  However, there is a way to get out of this dilemma.  What the eggist and chickenist fail to distinguish is that both chickens and eggs are contingent, meaning they don’t exist out of necessity like mathematical statements or other abstract objects.  It is conceivable to think chickens and eggs could’ve not existed.  In other words, in some possible world, there could have been no chicken and eggs.  Simply, one can’t be posited over the other as causally primal, especially in an Aristotelian sense as eggs and chickens are both the efficient and material causes of each other.

Then, for the sake or argument, let us say the actual world is filled with just chickens and eggs.  As both are tokens of a type, call it contingent beings, another ontological category logically is needed to explain the existence of poultry, lest we fall into vicious circularity.  There must be a necessary being or First Cause.  Such a conclusion is what theists have been contending all along.

Moreover, this necessary being cannot either be a necessary chicken or egg.  Both notions are logical absurdities.  Something can’t simultaneously be contingent and necessary.  Secondly, as necessary and non-contingent upon anything, the necessary being must have agency or freedom of the will.  Eggs certainly don’t, and necessary abstract objects don’t either.  Chickens are a little more difficult to determine, but it’s equally hard to argue that they do.  So at the very worst, it’s a stalemate, and as contingent, chickens still need a cause.

The Cosmological Argument from Poultry

Here’s my best attempt at a formal formulation of the quaint argument:

1) In any world W, iff chickens exist, then they are the cause of eggs.

2) In W, iff eggs exist, then they are the cause of chickens.

3) Chickens and eggs both exist in W.

4) Therefore, they are the causes of each other.

5) Given 4, to say the chicken or the egg came first is logically circular.

6) Therefore, there must be an external cause of poultry in W.

7) Poultry only exists in W.

C) There must be a causeless cause outside of W for poultry to exist.

*It should be noted this could formulated as an argument from contingency.  I do above argue using contingency and necessity although not formally like I do with causal efficacy.

Cluck, cluck,

Modus Pownens


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