Malebranche’s so-called conservation is continuous creation (CCC) argument has been celebrated as a powerful and persuasive argument for Occasionalism—the claim that only God has and exercises causal powers. In this paper I want to examine the CCC argument for Occasionalism by comparing it to Jaegwon Kim’s so-called Supervenience argument against non-reductive physicalism. Because the arguments have deep similarities it is interesting and fruitful to consider them in tandem. First I argue that both the CCC argument and the Supervenience (...) argument turn on the same general principle, what Kim calls Edward’s Dictum. It is doubtful that Malebranche or Kim succeed in grounding Edward’s Dictum, though Malebranche, I think, has more resources at his disposal to make his case. Even if this worry is waived, however, I argue that the completion of Stage 1 of the Supervenience argument can be used to raise a further worry for the CCC argument that cannot easily be resolved. (shrink)
Malebranche presents two major arguments for occasionalism: the “no necessary connection” argument (NNC) and the “conservation is but continuous creation” argument (CCC). NNC appears prominently in his Search After Truth but virtually disappears and surrenders the spotlight to CCC in his later major work, Dialogues on Metaphysics and on Religion . This paper investigates the possible reasons and motivations behind this significant shift. I argue that the shift is no surprise if we consider the two ways in which the (...) CCC is preferable to NNC: it is not only more effective against opponents but also more consistent with his own views on freedom. (shrink)
This paper examines a common misreading of the mechanics of Malebranche's doctrine of divine causal agency, occasionalism, and its roots in a related misreading of Malebranche's theories. God, contrary to this misreading, is for Malebranche constantly and actively causally engaged in the world, and does not just establish certain laws of nature. The key is in understanding just what Malebranche means by general volitions'.
In Malebranche's account of occasional causality, God exercises his general will with respect to every event that merits a causal explanation. Nadler distinguishes two pictures of God's involvement; (1) there are as many distinct acts of God's will as there are causal events to be explained; (2) God's will is exercised once only, when the natural order of causes is created. I argue that Malebranche's concept of God is inconsistent with a real distinction between God and acts of his will, (...) and with using temporal parameters to identify God's acts. Thus, Leibniz's pre-established harmony is analogous to Malebranche's occasionalist concurrence. (shrink)
There is a long-standing view that Malebranche and his fellow occasionalists accepted occasionalism to solve the problem of interaction between immaterial souls and extended bodies. Recently, however, scholars have shown this story to be a myth. Malebranche, Geulincx, La Forge, and Cordemoy adopted occasionalism for a variety of reasons, but none did so because of a need to provide a solution to a perceived mind-body problem. Yet there is one Cartesian for whom the “traditional” reading is largely on (...) the mark. François Lamy argues in the second volume of his De la Connoissance de Soi-Meme much as the standard story has it. In this article I discuss and analyze Lamy’s argument, showing how he deals with some of the many concerns that made occasionalism attractive, and how he brings out some of the thorny questions that an occasionalist must face. (shrink)
The rich connections between metaphysics and natural philosophy in the early modern period have been widely acknowledged and productively mined, thanks in no small part to the work of Margaret Wilson, whose book, Descartes, served as an inspirational example for a generation of scholars. The task of this paper is to investigate one particular such connection, namely, the relation between occasionalist metaphysics and strict mechanism. My focus will be on the work of Nicholas Malebranche, the most influential Cartesian philosopher after (...) Descartes himself. I begin with two crucial facts about Malebranche’s philosophy: (1) Malebranche was an occasionalist, that is, he held that God was the only true cause, that all modifications of bodies and of minds can be produced by God alone. (2) Malebranche adhered firmly to strict mechanism. By strict mechanism, I mean the view, found most prominently in Descartes and in Boyle’s more ideological writings, that the qualities of bodies are exhausted by a very short list (size, shape, motion, and perhaps solidity) and that, most importantly, bodies interact only at contact by impact. Another way of describing this “contact action” requirement is as the thesis that the only fundamental laws of physics are laws of inertial motion and laws of the communication of motion at impact. In.. (shrink)
Despite their influence on later philosophers such as Hume, Malebranche's central arguments for occasionalism remain deeply puzzling. Both the famous ‘no necessary connection’ argument and what I call the epistemic argument include assumptions – e.g., that a true cause is logically necessarily connected to its effect – that seem unmotivated, even in their context. I argue that a proper understanding of late scholastic views lets us see why Malebranche would make this assumption. Both arguments turn on the claim that (...) a volition is the only candidate for a cause, because only a volition can include an effect as its intentional content. (shrink)
The doctrine that there are no logically necessary connections in nature can be used to support both occasionalism, according to which God alone can be a cause, and 'anti-occasionalism', according to which God cannot be a cause. Quentin Smith has recently invoked the 'no logically necessary connections in nature' doctrine in support of the latter. I bring two main objections against his thesis that God (logically) cannot be a cause. The first is that there are good reasons to (...) think that there are irreducible dispositions in nature, and that where such dispositions are manifested, there are logically necessary causal connections. The second objection is that even if the 'no logically necessary connections in nature' doctrine is true, one is not forced to deny causal efficacy to God: with no breach in logical propriety, one may embrace occasionalism. (shrink)
The core thesis of Malebranche’s doctrine of occasionalism is that God is the sole true cause, where a true cause is one that has the power to initiate change and for which the mind perceives a necessary connection between it and its effects. Malebranche gives two separate arguments for his core thesis, T, based on necessary connection and on divine power respectively. The standard view is that these two arguments are necessary to establish T. I argue for a reinterpretation (...) of Malebranche’s strategy, according to which the Necessary Connection Argument alone is sufficient to establish T. The Divine Power Argument, which is anyway weaker, is needed not to support T but to bridge the gap between T and full-fledged occasionalism. Specifically, it is needed to rule out the existence of causal powers in nature, a scenario which is consistent with T but inconsistent with occasionalism. (shrink)
Leibniz raises three main objections to the doctrine of occasionalism: (1) it is inconsistent with the supposition of finite substances; (2) it presupposes the occurrence of "perpetual miracles"; (3) it requires that God "disturb" the ordinary laws of nature. At issue in objection (1) is the proper understanding of divine omnipotence, and of the relationship between the power of God and that of created things. I argue that objections (2) and (3), on the other hand, derive from a particular (...) conception of the intelligibility of nature, a conception to which Leibniz is firmly committed and that occasionalists like Malebranche no less firmly reject. (shrink)
In the last twenty years or so, the study of early modern philosophy seems to have experienced a revival of interest in Nicolas Malebranche. Some might wonder whether “revival” is the right term but I use it intentionally, since it is hardly the case that we for the first time are uncovering an obscure but talented figure from the bin of neglected, underappreciated philosophers. As one commentator has recently noted, Malebranche was hailed by none other than Pierre Bayle as “the (...) premier philosopher of our age”1 and it has been well established that his work was widely read and influential. (shrink)
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. (shrink)
Malebranche's Dialogues on Metaphysics and on Religion is in many ways the best introduction to his thought, and provides the most systematic exposition of his philosophy as a whole. In it, he presents clear and comprehensive statements of his two best-known contributions to metaphysics and epistemology, namely, the doctrines of occasionalism and vision in God; he also states his views on such central issues as self-knowledge, the existence of the external world and the problem of theodicy. His skilful handling (...) of the dialogue form enables the reader to see how he responds to objections made to his earlier work The Search after Truth. This edition presents a translation of the text which is clear, readable and more accurate than any of its predecessors, together with an introduction that analyses Malebranche's central teachings and explains the importance of the Dialogues in the context of seventeenth-century philosophy. (shrink)
Malebranche held that God acts only by general volitions and so is not constantly interfering in the world. The content of God's volitions appears to include the general laws of nature and the particular initial configuration of the created world, so that occasional or natural causes have an important explanatory role. It is clear that at the least Malebranche meant by a 'general volition' the willing of events which followed general laws. Steven Nadler argued that this is all we should (...) understand by a 'general volition', and so we should think that general volitions are simply particular volitions which follow a general law. I argue that this view is not the correct interpretation of Malebranche's general volitions, for it does not do justice to the theological doctrine of the Treatise, masks the genuine difference between Arnauld and Malebranche, and conflicts with what Malebranche says about practical volitions. I then argue that despite Malebranche's view of general volitions, there is still an important difference between his view and Leibniz's. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]. (shrink)
Malebranche's metaphysics and the problem of human freedom -- God, order, and general volitions -- Arnauld and Malebranche on the power of the human intellect -- The cognitive faculties and the divine ideas -- Malebranche on free will and imminent causation.