- Philosophers have long wondered about the nature of causality1. Are there true causes at work in the world, and, if so, what makes them the causes they are? How do causes bring things about, and what kind of connection does a cause have to its effect?
- These questions took on another level of complexity when various religious and theological considerations were brought to bear on these issues. For instance, philosophers came to question how divine causal activity is to be understood, particularly, in relation to the natural causality2 of creatures.
- It is from this context, in which questions about the nature of causation3 intermixed with questions about the relation between divine and natural causality4, that occasionalism emerged. Occasionalism attempts to address these questions by presenting as its core thesis the claim that God is the one and only true cause. In the words of the most famous occasionalist of the Western philosophical tradition, Nicolas Malebranche, “there is only one true cause because there is only one true God; …the nature or power of each thing is nothing but the will of God; … all natural causes are not true causes but only occasional causes” (OCM II, 312 / Search 448)
- A full-blown occasionalist, then, might be described as one who subscribes to the following two tenets:
- the positive thesis that God is the only genuine cause;
- the negative thesis that no creaturely cause is a genuine cause but at most an occasional cause.
- Not all philosophers who have been identified as occasionalists, however, were full-blown occasionalists in this sense, since some argued that only a limited subset of creatures lack causal powers, and thus affirmed the causal efficacy of other creatures.
- In addition to this issue of the scope of occasionalism, we will, in the following sections, examine how these core theses of occasionalism address the issues aforementioned and what arguments are presented in their favor. We begin, however, with a brief discussion about its history.
- The History of Occasionalism
- 1.1 Islamic Occasionalism
- 1.2 Medieval Christian Europe
- 1.3 Descartes and the Cartesian Occasionalists (Louis de la Forge, Géraud de Cordemoy, and Arnold Geulincx)
- 1.4 Nicolas Malebranche
- 1.5 Berkeley
- Occasionalism in Context
- 2.1 Cartesian Interactionism, Pre-established Harmony, and Occasionalism
- 2.2 Mere Conservationism, Divine Concurrentism, and Occasionalism
- The Arguments for Occasionalism
- 3.1 The Passive Nature Argument
- 3.2 The No Knowledge Argument
- 3.3 The “No Necessary Connection” (NNC) Argument
- 3.4 The “Conservation is but Continuous Creation” (CCC) Argument
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