Descartes on Causation

Paperback | January 15, 2013

byTad M. Schmaltz

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This book is a systematic study of Descartes' theory of causation and its relation to the medieval and early modern scholastic philosophy that provides its proper historical context. The argument presented here is that even though Descartes offered a dualistic ontology that differs radicallyfrom what we find in scholasticism, his views on causation were profoundly influenced by scholastic thought on this issue. This influence is evident not only in his affirmation in the Meditations of the abstract scholastic axioms that a cause must contain the reality of its effects and that conservation does not differ in reality from creation, but also in the details of the accounts of body-body interaction in hisphysics, of mind-body interaction in his psychology, and of the causation that he took to be involved in free human action. In contrast to those who have read Descartes as endorsing the "occasionalist" conclusion that God is the only real cause, a central thesis of this study is that he accepted what in the context of scholastic debates regarding causation is the antipode of occasionalism, namely, the view that creaturesrather than God are the causal source of natural change. What emerges from the defense of this interpretation of Descartes is a new understanding of his contribution to modern thought on causation.

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This book is a systematic study of Descartes' theory of causation and its relation to the medieval and early modern scholastic philosophy that provides its proper historical context. The argument presented here is that even though Descartes offered a dualistic ontology that differs radicallyfrom what we find in scholasticism, his views...

Tad M. Schmaltz is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Michigan.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:250 pages, 9.21 × 6.14 × 0.68 inPublished:January 15, 2013Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199958505

ISBN - 13:9780199958504

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Table of Contents

1. The Scholastic Context2. Two Casual Axioms3. Causation in Physics4. Causation in Psychology5. Causation and Freedom

Editorial Reviews

"Tad Schmaltz's aim, in this wonderfully detailed and intricately argued book, is to reject the tendency to move towards an occasionalist reading of Descartes, and to show how the Cartesian system permits things in the world to have a genuine, if derivative, kind of causal power...Overall,Schmaltz sees himself as partly deconstructing a standard narrative of Descartes's view of causality, namely that it replaced the scholastic framework (based on the four Aristotelian causes) with the efficient causes required for his new mechanistic physics...What Schmaltz's superbly researchedstudy demonstrates beyond doubt is that the break made by Descartes was very far from a clean one." --John Cottingham, Journal of the History of Philosophy