On laws and ends: A response to Hattab and Menn

Perspectives on Science 8 (2):144-163 (2000)
Abstract
: From the topics discussed by Hattab and Menn, I examine two of special importance. The first is that of active powers: does the Cartesian natural world contain any, or is the apparent efficacy of natural agents always to be referred to God? In arguing that it is, I consider, following Hattab, Descartes' characterization of natural laws as "secondary causes." The second topic is that of ends. Menn argues, and I agree, that in late Aristotelianism Aristotle's own conception of an "art in things" has been abandoned. The point is reinforced when one considers the general divine ends which must be invoked in cases of aborted action. In them no individual agent attains its end. Yet Nature as a whole continues to act toward ends. I suggest that those general ends, to which Suárez, for example, refers, may have served later philosophers, especially Malebranche, in combining the Cartesian notion of law with a teleological interpretation of nature that Descartes, for his part, rejected
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