Causation in Early Modern Philosophy: Cartesianism, Occasionalism, and Preestablished Harmony

Causation in Early Modern Philosophy: Cartesianism, Occasionalism, and Preestablished Harmony

Causation in Early Modern Philosophy: Cartesianism, Occasionalism, and Preestablished Harmony

Causation in Early Modern Philosophy: Cartesianism, Occasionalism, and Preestablished Harmony

Synopsis

Three general accounts of causation stand out in early modern philosophy: Cartesian interactionism, occasionalism, and Leibniz's preestablished harmony. The contributors to this volume examine these theories in their philosophical and historical context. They address them both as a means for answering specific questions regarding causal relations and in their relation to one another, in particular, comparing occasionalism and the preestablished harmony as responses to Descartes's metaphysics and physics and the Cartesian account of causation. Philosophers discussed include Descartes, Gassendi, Malebranche, Arnauld, Leibniz, Bayle, La Forge, and other, less well-known figures.

Excerpt

Steven Nadler

Questions about the nature of causal relations occupy a central position in early modern philosophy. the prominence of this topic in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century thought can, in large measure, be traced to a specific historical problem: the need to reconcile an emerging scientific view of the natural world -- mechanistic physics -- with traditional beliefs about the relation between God and his creation. On the one hand, natural philosophers of the period see their task as one of identifying the underlying causal structures of observed phenomena and of framing explanations in terms of matter and motion alone. On the other hand, it is generally recognized that God is responsible not just for creating the world and its contents, but for sustaining them in existence as well. Against this background, in which philosophy, physics, and theology merge, the problem of causation arises in several contexts: in the realm of purely physical inquiry (how does one body produce changes in another body?); in regard to relations between the . . .

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