A new series entitled Oxford Philosophical Concepts (OPC) made its debut in November 2014. As the series’ Editor Christia Mercer notes, this series is an attempt to respond to the call for and the tendency of many philosophers to invigorate the discipline. To that end each volume will rethink a central concept in the history of philosophy, e.g. efficient causation, health, evil, eternity, etc. “Each OPC volume is a history of its concept in that it tells a story about changing solutions to specific philosophical problems” (xiii). The series presents itself as innovative along three main lines: its reexamination of the so-called “canon,” its reconsidering the value of interdisciplinary exchanges, and its encouraging philosophers to move beyond the current borders of philosophy. By engaging with non-Western traditions and carefully considering topics and materials which are not strictly philosophical, the collections from this series aim to render the history of philosophy accessible to a wide audience.
The first OPC volume to appear in print is “Efficient Causation – A History” edited by Tad Schmaltz. Using careful historical and philosophical analysis as well as interdisciplinary reflections this anthology proposes to tell the story of how efficient causation, equated nowadays with “causation” tout court, came to play its prominent role in our philosophical and scientific vocabulary. Eleven contributions cover the period from Ancient times (Aristotle and the Stoics), through the Middle Ages (both the Western and the Islamic traditions), passing through the Early Modern times (represented here by Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Malebranche, Berkeley and Hume), all the way to Kant and finally contemporary philosophers (classified into two opposing camps: Humean and Neo-Aristotelian). There are also four reflections which explore the applications of the notion of efficient causation to areas different from philosophy, especially the arts (literature, music, painting, etc.).