Metaphysical nihilism says that there might not be any objects at all.

I'm not interested in whether there are potential problems with this viewpoint. One problem could be that "Cogito" can't come from some possible world with no objects.

I'm more interested in the validity to characterize Descartes' viewpoint like this at all.

  • 2
    What does "validity to characterize Descartes' viewpoint like this" mean? Cogito does not have to come from a world with no objects. Metaphysical nihilists do not claim that such a world is the actual one, only that it is possible, and cogito can be announced from a different world. Moreover, many argue that Descartes is only entitled to a vague "thinking is occurring", not to ascribing it to a thinker, so depending on what "object" means such weakened cogito may be consistent with no objects.
    – Conifold
    Commented May 21, 2020 at 21:34
  • Thanks. With 'validity' I meant that if it's correct to say that Descartes' viewpoint of Cogito is compatible with metaphysical nihilism. Commented May 22, 2020 at 6:22

2 Answers 2


No, because the cogito guarantees the existence of the subject whenever the subject enacts it. It does not, of course, guarantee the existence of the subject as a continuant.

But there is a catch which helps you. The cogito is not self-standing. Its validity, at least according to Descartes, depends on the existence of a non-deceiving God whose veracity guarantees the truth of our clear and distinct ideas, of which the cogito is one. If Descartes' arguments for the existence of God fail, as is generally agreed, then if there is no God the way to metaphysical nihilism might appear to lie open.

However, whatever metaphysical or theological framework Descartes sets the cogito within, it seems clear that Descartes must exist in order to be able to enact the cogito. This goes against metaphysical nihilism - unless, of course, you do not count Descartes as an 'object' when he enacts the cogito as an (mmaterial) 'subject'.


"Cogito ergo sum" is an attempt at an prove of existance of an object.

Just as you said, if an object exists the world where it exists can't be the empty world of metaphysical nihilism.

This doesn't exclude the idea that another world may exist that is empty.

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