Causal adequacy principle

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The causal adequacy principle (CAP) is a philosophical claim made by René Descartes that the cause of an object must contain at least as much reality as the object itself, whether formally or eminently.

René Descartes 17th-century French philosopher, mathematician, and scientist

René Descartes ; 31 March 1596 – 11 February 1650) was a French philosopher, mathematician, and scientist. A native of the Kingdom of France, he spent about 20 years (1629–1649) of his life in the Dutch Republic after serving for a while in the Dutch States Army of Maurice of Nassau, Prince of Orange and the Stadtholder of the United Provinces. One of the most notable intellectual figures of the Dutch Golden Age, Descartes is also widely regarded as one of the founders of modern philosophy.



Descartes defends CAP by quoting Roman philosopher Lucretius: "Ex nihilo nihil fit", meaning "Nothing comes from nothing". — Carus, Lucretius (1947). De Rerum Natura. Oxford University Press. pp. 146–482.

Lucretius Roman poet and philosopher

Titus Lucretius Carus was a Roman poet and philosopher. His only known work is the philosophical poem De rerum natura, a didactic work about the tenets and philosophy of Epicureanism, and which is usually translated into English as On the Nature of Things. Lucretius has been credited with originating the concept of the three-age system which was formalised in 1836 by C. J. Thomsen.

Nothing comes from nothing is a philosophical expression of a thesis first argued by Parmenides. It is associated with ancient Greek cosmology, such as is presented not just in the works of Homer and Hesiod, but also in virtually every internal system—there is no break in-between a world that did not exist and one that did, since it could not be created ex nihilo in the first place.

In his meditations, Descartes uses the CAP to support his trademark argument for the existence of God. Descartes' assertions were disputed by Thomas Hobbes in his "Third Set of Objections" published in 1641.

Trademark argument

The trademark argument is an a priori argument for the existence of God developed by French philosopher and mathematician, René Descartes.

Thomas Hobbes 17th-century English philosopher

Thomas Hobbes, in some older texts Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury, was an English philosopher, considered to be one of the founders of modern political philosophy. Hobbes is best known for his 1651 book Leviathan, which expounded an influential formulation of social contract theory. In addition to political philosophy, Hobbes also contributed to a diverse array of other fields, including history, jurisprudence, geometry, the physics of gases, theology, ethics, and general philosophy.

René Descartes was not the founder of this philosophical claim. It is used in the classical metaphysics of Plato and Aristotle, and features eminently in the works of Thomas Aquinas.

Plato Classical Greek philosopher

Plato was an Athenian philosopher during the Classical period in Ancient Greece, founder of the Platonist school of thought, and the Academy, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world.

Aristotle philosopher in ancient Greece

Aristotle was a Greek philosopher during the Classical period in Ancient Greece, the founder of the Lyceum and the Peripatetic school of philosophy and Aristotelian tradition. Along with his teacher Plato, he has been called the "Father of Western Philosophy". His writings cover many subjects – including physics, biology, zoology, metaphysics, logic, ethics, aesthetics, poetry, theatre, music, rhetoric, psychology, linguistics, economics, politics and government. Aristotle provided a complex synthesis of the various philosophies existing prior to him, and it was above all from his teachings that the West inherited its intellectual lexicon, as well as problems and methods of inquiry. As a result, his philosophy has exerted a unique influence on almost every form of knowledge in the West and it continues to be a subject of contemporary philosophical discussion.

Thomas Aquinas Dominican scholastic philosopher of the Roman Catholic Church

Saint Thomas Aquinas was an Italian Dominican friar, Philosopher, Catholic priest, and Doctor of the Church. He is an immensely influential philosopher, theologian, and jurist in the tradition of scholasticism, within which he is also known as the Doctor Angelicus and the Doctor Communis. The name Aquinas identifies his ancestral origins in the county of Aquino in present-day Lazio, Italy.


To demonstrate this, a person can possess money formally by holding it on their person, or by storing it in a bank account. Similarly, a person can eminently possess money by owning assets that could readily be exchanged for it.

Descartes offers two explanations of his own:

Descartes goes on to claim that the CAP not only applies to stones, but also the realm of ideas, and the features that are seen as part of the objective reality of an idea.

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