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GF talk: Malebranche and Agent Causation

When:We 05-06-2024 15:15 - 17:00

Malebranche and Agent Causation

Sebastian Bender (University of Göttingen)

Malebranche is an occasionalist. He holds that God is the only true cause and that there are nothing but occasional causes in the created universe. For Malebranche, then, there are no genuine change-makers in the created universe; all the change-making activity is outsourced to God. This paper argues that Malebranche’s main motivation for subscribing to occasionalism is that he is deeply committed to an Aristotelian account of agent causation. Given his sharp criticism of the Aristotelian tradition, this is a rather surprising finding. This agent causalist reading of Malebranche also sheds new light on his famous 'no necessary connection' argument in Recherche 6.2.3. The paper argues that while the necessity in question need not be logical necessity, Malebranche assumes that the necessary connection between cause and effect must have its source in the cause alone. Causation is thus a local phenomenon for him, which explains why nomological necessity is too weak.