Cartesian causation: body–body interaction, motion, and eternal truths

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.Author Keywords: Descartes; Malebranche; Regis; Causation; Motion; Eternal Truths
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DOI 10.1016/j.shpsa.2003.09.004
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Gary C. Hatfield (1979). Force (God) in Descartes' Physics. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 10 (2):113-140.
Jonathan Bennett (1994). Descartes's Theory of Modality. Philosophical Review 103 (4):639-667.

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Citations of this work BETA
Tad M. Schmaltz (2008). Occasionalism and Mechanism: Fontenelle's Objections to Malebranche. British Journal for the History of Philosophy 16 (2):293 – 313.
Walter Ott (2008). Régis's Scholastic Mechanism. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 39 (1):2-14.

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