Divine Activity and Motive Power in Descartes's Physics

This paper is the first of a two-part reexamination of causation in Descartes's physics. Some scholars ? including Gary Hatfield and Daniel Garber ? take Descartes to be a `partial' Occasionalist, who thinks that God alone is the cause of all natural motion. Contra this interpretation, I agree with literature that links Descartes to the Thomistic theory of divine concurrence. This paper surveys this literature, and argues that it has failed to provide an interpretation of Descartes's view that both distinguishes his position from that of his later, Occasionalist followers and is consistent with his broader metaphysical commitments. I provide an analysis that tries to address these problems with earlier `Concurentist' readings of Descartes. On my analysis, Occasionalism entails that created substances do not have intrinsic active causal powers. As I read him, Descartes thinks that bodies have active causal powers that are partly grounded in their intrinsic natures. But I argue ? pace a recent account by Tad Schmaltz ? that Descartes also thinks that God immediately causes all motion in the created world. On the picture that emerges, Descartes's position is both continuous with, and a subtle departure from, the Thomisitic theory of divine concurrence
Keywords causation  Occasionalism  laws of physics
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1080/09608788.2011.583415
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 23,316
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA
Gary C. Hatfield (1979). Force (God) in Descartes' Physics. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 10 (2):113-140.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Add more citations

Similar books and articles
M. T. (2003). Cartesian Causation: Body-Body Interaction, Motion, and Eternal Truths. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 34 (4):737-762.
C. P. Ragland (2005). Descartes on Divine Providence and Human Freedom. Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie 87 (2):159-188.
Walter Ott (2008). Régis's Scholastic Mechanism. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 39 (1):2-14.

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

61 ( #78,609 of 1,932,585 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

2 ( #333,232 of 1,932,585 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.