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occasionalism


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The view that reserves causal efficacy to the action of God. Events in the world merely form occasions on which God acts so as to bring about the events normally accompanying them, and thought of as their effects. Although the position is associated especially with Malebranche, it is much older; many among the Mu'takallimun (see kalam) of 9th-century Islamic philosophy reserved efficient causation to God, and Al-Ghazali transmitted the doctrine to the medieval world, where it is opposed, for example, by Aquinas. The doctrine also bears affinities with earlier criticisms of empirical causation found in the Samkhya school of Indian philosophy, and criticisms later famously associated with Hume. In the philosophy of mind, the difficulty of seeing how mind and body can interact suggests that we ought instead to think of them as two systems running in parallel. When I stub my toe, this does not cause pain, but there is a harmony between the mental and the physical (perhaps due to God) that ensures that there will be a simultaneous pain; when I form an intention and then act, the same benevolence ensures that my action is appropriate to my intention. The theory has never been wildly popular, and in its application to the mind-body problem many philosophers would say that it was the result of a misconceived Cartesian dualism.

Subjects: Philosophy.


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