Causal and Logical Necessity in Malebranche’s Occasionalism

Canadian Journal of Philosophy 41 (4):523-548 (2011)
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Abstract
The famous Cartesian Nicolas Malebranche (1638-1715) espoused the occasionalist doctrine that ‘there is only one true cause because there is only one true God; that the nature or power of each thing is nothing but the will of God; that all natural causes are not true causes but only occasional causes’ (LO, 448, original italics). One of Malebranche’s well-known arguments for occasionalism, known as, the ‘no necessary connection’ argument (or, NNC ) stems from the principle that ‘a true cause… is one such that the mind perceives a necessary connection between it and its effect’ (LO, 450). The outline of this paper is as follows. I explicitly layout NNC and articulate some of its prima facie strengths (§1). I then critically discuss, what I take to be, the two main arguments against NNC of the Lee-Pyle interpretation (§2). The main conclusion from (§2) is that Malebranche did not abandon NNC in his later works given textual evidence from the Dialogues, contrary to the Lee-Pyle interpretation. In (§3) I discuss in what ways Suárez, Leibniz, Régis and Spinoza all accepted the main premise of NNC. Then, I rebut Steven Nadler’s influential and unchallenged criticism that Malebranche conflated causal and logical necessity, and provide a more accurate interpretation of Malebranche that only commits him to a partial reduction of causal to logical necessity (§4).
ISBN(s)
0045-5091
PhilPapers/Archive ID
FISCAL-2
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Archival date: 2015-10-20
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2012-04-30

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