Occasionalism and Strict Mechanism

Lisa Downing

in Early Modern Philosophy

Published in print May 2005 | ISBN: 9780195177602
Published online July 2005 | e-ISBN: 9780199835553 | DOI:
 Occasionalism and Strict Mechanism

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This chapter examines a connection between metaphysics and philosophy, namely, the relation between occasionalist metaphysics and strict mechanism. It focuses on the work of Nicholas Malebranche, the most influential Cartesian philosopher after Descartes himself. It is argued that Malebranche is in a poor position to resist attractionism, that is, his combination of occasionalism and strict mechanism is an unstable one. Two, more stable alternatives adjoining Malebranche's position are identified, both of which are genuinely Cartesian: Berkeley's occasionalist openness to Newtonian attractionism (properly understood), and Fontenelle's essentialist Cartesian mechanism. By examining the alternative positions available around the nexus of occasionalism and mechanism, as those positions were occupied by actual philosophers, we gain a better understanding of the logic of the debate over attraction, as well as of the systems of Malebranche, Berkeley, and Fontenelle.

Keywords: occasionalist metaphysics; philosophy; strict mechanism; Malebranche; Berkeley; Fontenelle; Cartesian mechanism

Chapter.  14151 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

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