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International Philosophical Quarterly

Volume 59, Issue 3, September 2019

Jeremy W. Skrzypek
Pages 309-319

Existential Import and the Contingent Necessity of Descartes’s Eternal Truths

Descartes famously states that God could have made any and all of the “eternal truths” that are now in place (such as 1 + 2 = 3) false. This has led scholars to attribute to Descartes’s God a radical sort of power: the power to do the logically impossible. While Descartes does claim that God could have made any of the eternal truths that are now in place false, I do not think that this commits him to the view that God could have made twice four equal to nine, or anything of that sort. In this paper I show how, by placing Descartes’s doctrine of the eternal truths in its proper historical context, a new and more charitable interpretation of that doctrine becomes available. On this interpretation, Descartes’s God could have made the eternal truths false by choosing not to create the eternal essences to which these truths refer.

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