God as Causa Sui and Created Truth

in Descartes


Tad M. Schmaltz




In this paper I consider the paradigmatically philosophical question: Why is there anything at all rather than absolutely nothing?  Or rather, I propose to consider Descartes’s somewhat conflicted answer to that question.  The question itself is a request for an ultimate reason that renders existence fully intelligible.  Some have insisted that this request is reasonable—indeed, the very foundation of rationality—and have urged that when pressed it leads us to some ultimate cause of contingent objects that itself exists necessarily, and so provides its own reason for its existence.  This is, of course, the line of thought behind the so-called cosmological argument.  Others have objected that the request is unreasonable given the possibility that there is no ultimate cause of contingent objects, and thus no ultimate reason why there is something rather than nothing.  In this view, the existence of such beings is a brute fact, incapable of further explanation.