occasionalism


occasionalism
occasionalist, n.occasionalistic, adj.
/euh kay"zheuh nl iz'euhm/, n. Philos.
a theory that there is no natural interaction between mind and matter, but that God makes mental events correspond to physical perceptions and actions.
[1835-45; OCCASIONAL + -ISM]

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Type of mind-body dualism that maintains that apparent interactions between mental and physical events are in reality the result of God's constant causal action.

Starting from Descartes's mind-body dualism, the occasionalists, whose most prominent exponents were Nicolas de Malebranche and Arnold Geulincx, drew the conclusions that there can be no interaction between mind and body, and that all causality is immanent, within one order or the other, and any appearance of mind affecting body or of body affecting mind must be explained as the result of a special intervention by God, who, on the occasion of changes in one substance, produces corresponding changes in the other.

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      a version of Cartesian metaphysics that flourished in the last half of the 17th century, in which all interaction between mind and body is mediated by God. It is posited that unextended mind and extended body do not interact directly. The appearance of direct interaction is maintained by God, who moves the body on the occasion of the mind's willing and who puts ideas in the mind on the occasion of the body's encountering other material objects. For example, when a person actualizes his desire to pick up an apple, his mind does not act on his body directly, but his willing of the action is the occasion for God to make his arm reach out; and when his hand grasps the apple, the apple does not act on his mind directly, but the contact is the occasion for God to give him ideas of the apple's coolness and softness.

      Occasionalism was developed primarily by Arnold Geulincx and Nicolas Malebranche, 17th-century Dutch and 17th–18th-century French philosophers, respectively, to solve a specific problem in Cartesian metaphysics. For René Descartes, mind is active, unextended thinking, whereas body is passive, unthinking extension. But these two created substances, the bases of Cartesian dualism, are combined as a third, compound substance—living man. The problem is that the essential unlikeness of mind and body in the Cartesian view makes it difficult to conceive how they can interact—i.e., how unextended mental ideas can push the body around and how bodily bumpings can yield ideas. Descartes's opinion that direct interaction takes place in the pineal gland deep within the brain does not answer the question of how. The orthodox view of the French Cartesians Pierre-Sylvain Régis and Jacques Rohault was simply that God has made mind and body so that they interact directly even if scientists do not know how. The occasionalist's answer to the question is to show how interaction appears to be direct when in fact it is mediated by the fourth, uncreated Cartesian substance, God.

      Occasionalism was criticized by Simon Foucher (Foucher, Simon), a 17th-century French Platonist, and others who pointed out that the problem remains of how God—a mental substance—can himself interact with the material substance, body. One answer is that he created it. Foucher believed that Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, the 17th–18th-century German philosopher and mathematician, took this way out in saying that monads, the units of reality, do not interact but only appear to do so, because God has created them in preestablished harmony. The apparent interaction of mind and body would also be preestablished. This reduction of the occasions of God's mediation to the single occasion of creation was then seen to be both a logical outcome of occasionalism and a reductio ad absurdum argument against it.

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Occasionalism — Daisie Radner The seventeenth century doctrine known as occasionalism arose in response to a perceived problem. Cartesian philosophy generated the problem and provided the context for the answer. In the Cartesian ontology, mind and matter are… …   History of philosophy

  • Occasionalism — • The metaphysical theory which maintains that finite things have no efficient causality of their own, but that whatever happens in the world is caused by God, creatures being merely the occasions of the Divine activity. Catholic Encyclopedia.… …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Occasionalism — is a philosophical theory about causation which says that created substances cannot be efficient causes of events. Instead, all events are taken to be caused directly by God. (A related theory, which has been called occasional causation , also… …   Wikipedia

  • occasionalism —    Occasionalism is the doctrine that there is no efficient causation within creation. As such, whatever appears to be a case of efficient causation (for example, fire s roasting flesh) is really just the coincidence of events (the fire burns, the …   Christian Philosophy

  • Occasionalism — Oc*ca sion*al*ism, n. (Metaph.) The system of occasional causes; a name given to certain theories of the Cartesian school of philosophers, as to the intervention of the First Cause, by which they account for the apparent reciprocal action of the… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • occasionalism — [ə kā′zhənəl iz΄əm] n. in post Cartesian philosophy, the doctrine that, since mind and matter cannot interact, the intervention of God is required to synchronize corresponding acts of mind and movements of the body …   English World dictionary

  • occasionalism —    The theory that God, because He is omnipotent, must be the only real agent and thus the single, proximal cause of all events in the world. It is closely associated in Islamic theology with the doctrine of atomism, according to which God… …   Islamic philosophy dictionary

  • occasionalism — noun A metaphysical doctrine that holds that all events are occasioned (caused) by God himself …   Wiktionary

  • occasionalism — The view that reserves causal efficacy to the action of God. Events in the world merely form occasions on which God acts so as to bring about the events normally accompanying them, and thought of as their effects. Although the position is… …   Philosophy dictionary

  • OCCASIONALISM —    the doctrine that the action of the spiritual organisation on the material, and of the material on the spiritual, or of the inner on the outer, and the outer on the inner, is due to the divine interposition taking occasion of the effort of… …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia


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