Mind‐Body Commerce: Occasional Causation and Mental Representation in Anton Wilhelm Amo

Philosophy Compass 17 (9):e12872 (2022)
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This paper contributes to a growing body of literature focusing on Anton Wilhelm Amo’s account of the mind-body relation. The first aim of this paper is to provide an overview of that literature, bringing together several interpretations of Amo’s account of the mind-body relation and providing a comprehensive overview of where the debate stands so far. Doing so reveals that commentary is split between those who take Amo to adopt a Leibnizian account of pre-established harmony between mind and body (Smith 2015, Emma-Adamah 2015) and those who argue that Amo adopts a theory of occasional causation (Meyns 2019, Walsh 2019). Both views deny that the body is the efficient cause of the mind’s ideas but while the Leibnizian account holds that ideas exist innately in the mind, the occasional causation account maintains that the body is their occasional cause. That is, on this reading of Amo, sensations in the body are the ‘occasion’ on which the mind efficiently causes its own ideas. The second aim of this paper – which promises to take this interpretative debate in a new direction – is to demonstrate that we should in fact attribute to Amo a specific version of occasional causation known as 'concurrentism'. Concurrentism is the view that, while the mind does efficiently cause its own ideas, it can only do so with the assistance (or ‘concurrence’) of God. In other words, on this view, God makes possible the efficient causal activity of the human mind in generating ideas, in response to ‘occasions’ in the body.

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Peter West
Northeastern University London


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