Cartesian causation: Body-body interaction, motion, and eternal truths
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Ezio Di Nucci
Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 34 (4):737-762 (2003)
There is considerable debate among scholars over whether Descartes allowed for genuine body-body interaction. I begin by considering Michael Della Rocca's recent claim that Descartes accepted such interaction, and that his doctrine of the creation of the eternal truths indicates how this interaction could be acceptable to him. Though I agree that Descartes was inclined to accept real bodily causes of motion, I differ from Della Rocca in emphasizing that his ontology ultimately does not allow for them. This is not the end of the story however, since two of Descartes's successors offered incompatible ways of developing his conflicted account of motion. I contrast the occasionalist view of Nicolas Malebranche that changes in motion derive directly from divine volitions with the non-occasionalist claim of Pierre-Sylvain Regis that such changes derive from a nature distinct from God. In light of Della Rocca's interpretation, it is noteworthy that the issue of eternal truths is relevant to both alternative accounts. Indeed, Regis took the doctrine that such truths are created to provide crucial support for his alternative to an occasionalist account of body-body interaction. What does not help Della Rocca, however, is that Regis's view of motion requires a fundamental revision of Descartes's ontology.
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