Divine Simplicity and the Eternal Truths: Descartes and the Scholastics

Pessin, Andrew
January 2010
Philosophia;Jan2010, Vol. 38 Issue 1, p69
Academic Journal
Descartes famously endorsed the view that (CD) God freely created the eternal truths, such that He could have done otherwise than He did. This controversial doctrine is much discussed in recent secondary literature, yet Descartes’s actual arguments for CD have received very little attention. In this paper I focus on what many take to be a key Cartesian argument for CD: that divine simplicity entails the dependence of the eternal truths on the divine will. What makes this argument both important and interesting is that Descartes’s scholastic predecessors share the premise of divine simplicity but reject the CD conclusion. To properly understand Descartes, then, we must determine precisely where he diverges from his predecessors on the path from simplicity to CD. And when we do so we obtain a very surprising result: that despite many dramatic prima facie differences, there is no substantive difference between the relevant doctrines of Descartes and the scholastics. Or so I argue.


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