The Ultimate Why Question
why is there anything at all rather than nothing whatsoever?
Publication Year: 2012
Published by: The Catholic University of America Press
Title Page, Copyright Page
Permission from the respective copyright holders to reprint here the following previously published material is gratefully acknowledged: Nicholas Rescher, “Optimalism and the Rationality of the Real: On the Prospects of Axiological Explanation,” Review of Metaphysics 59 (2006): 503–16, ...
The title of this book is in itself controversial and so, too, is the book’s theme: “The ultimate why question: why is there anything at all rather than nothing whatsoever?”1 For some philosophers, that something now exists and therefore that something has always existed is simply a brute fact and needs no explanation. ...
Part One. Contributions in Ancient Philosophy
1. Goodness, Unity, and Creation in the Platonic Tradition
By “the Platonic tradition” I mean to indicate certain fundamental principles shared by Plato and by all those who identified themselves as his disciples. From the perspective of the soi-disants followers of Plato, he was not the first or the only revealer of the truth; he was, though, the most sublime. ...
2. The Question of Being, Non-Being, and “Creation ex Nihilo” in Chinese Philosophy
Some commentators on Chinese philosophy maintain the position that in classical Chinese philosophy there is no question about being. Yu Jiyuan asserts that Aristotle’s examination of the question of being is linked to predication.1 That the Chinese language lacks the pertinent subjectpredicate grammar of Greek leads Yu to deny that the question ...
Part Two. Contributions in Medieval Philosophy
3. The Ultimate Why Question: Avicenna on Why God Is Absolutely Necessary
The question “Why is there anything at all rather than absolutely nothing?” was not a question medieval Arabic-speaking philosophers were prone to raise, at least not in this exact wording. Instead, they were more concerned with the related question, “Why is there a world rather than no world at all?” or more exactly, “Why does the world have the particular features that it has?” ...
4. Thomas Aquinas on the Ultimate Why Question: Why Is There Anything at All Rather than Nothing Whatsoever?
Let me begin by acknowledging that I have not found Aquinas raising this question in these exact words. But it is interesting to note that a contemporary of his who was teaching in the Faculty of Arts at the University of Paris, the so-called Latin Averroist, Siger of Brabant, did address the question in these terms. ...
Part Three. Contributions in Modern Philosophy
5. Causa sui and Created Truth in Descartes
Why is there anything at all rather than absolutely nothing? This paradigmatically philosophical question 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, ...
6. Being and Being Grounded
The world today stands under the spell of Leibniz’s thought. Or, perhaps more carefully, we might say that the world today stands under the spell of what Leibniz thought only too well. With uncanny perceptiveness, he managed to articulate a basic principle of thinking and being in the early modern world that is arguably as vital today ...
7. Why Is There Anything at All Rather than Absolutely Nothing?: F. W. J. Schelling’s Answer to the Ultimate Why Question
The last decades of the eighteenth century and the first decades of the nineteenth belong to the most interesting and important periods of German philosophy, if not even of modern Western philosophy tout court. Frederick C. Beiser rightly calls this time of Kant’s critical philosophy and of German Idealism “one of the most revolutionary and fertile” ...
8. The Ultimate Why Question: The Hegelian Option
The question posed in the title of this volume, “The Ultimate Why Question,” is a venerable one that is usually understood to ask why there is something rather than nothing and answered by positing a highest cause, a transcendent God. The aim of this chapter is to introduce and explore an alternative interpretation of the question ...
Part Four. Contemporary Contributions
9. Some Contemporary Theories of Divine Creation
Conceptions of God can be classified conveniently into two rough sorts, those that conceive God as a determinate entity, and those that conceive God as the ground of being, not a determinate entity within or alongside the world.1 The intellectual strategy of classifying conceptions is by no means innocent. ...
10. Pragmatic Reflections on Final Causality
Setting out to write a little paper on “the ultimate why question” is the sort of thing that only philosophers would do—at least as anything more than a joke. In fact, one fears that it is just the kind of thing that has made people in our very practical age turn away altogether from philosophy as what seems to many if not most of them a perfectly useless pursuit. ...
11. Optimalism and the Rationality of the Real: On the Prospects of Axiological Explanation
Is the real ultimately rational? Can we ever manage to explain the nature of reality—the make-up of the universe as a whole? Is there not an insuperable obstacle here—an infeasibility that was discerned already by Immanuel Kant, who argued roughly as follows: The demand for a rationale that accounts for reality-as-a-whole is a totalitarian demand. ...
Daniel O. Dahlstrom, chair of the Department of Philosophy at Boston University, is the author of Heidegger’s Concept of Truth (2001) and Philosophical Legacies (2008). A former president of the Metaphysical Society of America and currently presiding officer of the Heidegger Circle, ...
Index of Topics
Index of Names