Divine Activity and Motive Power in Descartes's Physics

British Journal for the History of Philosophy 19 (4):623 - 646 (2011)
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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



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Louis de La Forge and the 'Non-Transfer Argument' for Occasionalism.Andrea Sangiacomo - 2014 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 22 (1):60-80.

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References found in this work

Force (God) in Descartes' physics.Gary C. Hatfield - 1979 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 10 (2):113-140.
Causal powers and occasionalism from Descartes to Malebranche.Desmond Clarke - 2000 - In John Schuster, Stephen Gaukroger & John Sutton (eds.), Descartes' Natural Philosophy. Routledge. pp. 131--48.
Occasionalism and the Cartesian Metaphysic of Motion.T. M. Lennon - 1975 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy, Supplementary Volume 1 (1):29.

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