Saturday, November 21, 2009

A Reader Asks: Does Sufficient Reason Have an Exception?


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A Reader Asks: [I thought the statement] "The principle of sufficient reason does not apply to God" [...] was true, that it does not, as we cannot explain His origins. [But you] stated that it was false. How is that? Can someone explain this to me?


Ite ad Thomam Replies: The principle of sufficient reason has no exceptions: absolutely EVERYTHING has a reason for its own existence. The reason for the existence of x can be either (a) something else, which is the cause of x, or (b) x itself, in which case x is not its own cause, but merely the reason of its own existence. The latter (b) is the case with God: God is the reason for His own existence. He exists because it is part of his nature to exist (hence He calls himself "I Am Who Am" in Ex. 3:14, and Aquinas calls Him the Ipsum Esse Per Se Subsistens).


Let me illustrate with an example: a rectangular cake has a reason for being rectangular, namely, it was made with a rectangular mold. The mold itself has a reason for being rectangular, namely, it was made with something else that was rectangular. Ultimately, everything rectangular has a reason for being rectangular, and the ultimate reason is that it is modeled on a rectangle. Now, what is the rectangle's reason for being rectangular? The rectangle is rectangular, not because of something else, or because of some cause that makes it rectangular; rather, the rectangle is rectangular simply because it is part of its nature to be so.


In the same way, everything that exists has a reason for its existence; in things other than God, that reason is OUTSIDE of the thing itself. So, I exist because my parents 'made' me, and they were 'made' by their parents, etc. But ultimately we must reach an uncaused cause, God, whose reason for existing is Himself. God exists for the same reason that a rectangle is rectangular.

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