Power, Harmony, and Freedom: Debating Causation in 18th Century Germany

In Frederick Beiser & Brandon Look (eds.), Oxford Handbook of Eighteenth Century German Philosophy. Oxford University Press (forthcoming)
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Abstract
As far as treatments of causation are concerned, the pre-Kantian 18th century German context has long been dismissed as a period of uniform and unrepentant Leibnizian dogmatism. While there is no question that discussions of issues relating to causation in this period inevitably took Leibniz as their point of departure, it is certainly not the case that the resulting positions were in most cases dogmatically, or in some cases even recognizably, Leibnizian. Instead, German theorists explored a range of positions regarding the nature of causal powers, the appropriate systems to explain the observed agreement between the states of substances, and the ground of free actions, or so I will argue in this chapter. Focusing on these three issues, I will here sketch the development of the debates relating to causation and trace the evolution of positions among the philosophers within the so-called Leibnizian-Wolffian philosophy as well as among its many opponents.
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