Benjamin Cook

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




McDaniel, Kris


Aquinas, causation, Grounding, Ontological dependence, Scotus

Subject Categories

Metaphysics | Philosophy


In this dissertation, I address the question of whether ground, the relation that obtains between entities e1...en and a further entity e when e ontologically depends on, and is metaphysically explained by, e1...en, should be understood causally and, if so, whether this has any substantive implications. I answer both in the affirmative. I argue that ground and causation are similar enough to motivate characterizing ground as a special kind of causation, and that this can be done if we adopt a powers-theoretic account of causation. Moreover, I argue that the resultant view of ground, what I call “powerful, existential causation,” has important consequences for the debate between foundationalists, according to whom there must exist something fundamental that grounds all else, and infinitists, according to whom being might descend infinitely with nothing fundamental. Drawing on arguments and insights of medieval philosophers such as Ibn- Sīnā, Thomas Aquinas, and John Duns Scotus, I argue that if ground is understood as powerful, existential causation a strong argument can be formulated for foundationalism over infinitism. Thus, there must exist something fundamental whose existence is ungrounded, but which grounds the existence of everything else.


Open Access

Included in

Metaphysics Commons