Causation and Laws of Nature in Early Modern Philosophy

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Overview

Some philosophers think physical explanations stand on their own: what happens, happens because things have the properties they do. Others think that any such explanation is incomplete: what happens in the physical world must be partly due to the laws of nature. Causation and Laws of Nature in Early Modern Philosophy examines the debate between these views from Descartes to Hume.
Ott argues that the competing models of causation in the period grow out of the scholastic notion of power. On this Aristotelian view, the connection between cause and effect is logically necessary. Causes are 'intrinsically directed' at what they produce. But when the Aristotelian view is faced with the challenge of mechanism, the core notion of a power splits into two distinct models, each of which persists throughout the early modern period. It is only when seen in this light that the key arguments of the period can reveal their true virtues and flaws.
To make his case, Ott explores such central topics as intentionality, the varieties of necessity, and the nature of relations. Arguing for controversial readings of many of the canonical figures, the book also focuses on lesser-known writers such as Pierre-Sylvain Regis, Nicolas Malebranche, and Robert Boyle.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199570430
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 11/2/2009
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Walter Ott holds a Ph.D. from the University of Virginia. He is the author of Locke's Philosophy of Language (Cambridge University Press, 2004) and is currently Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Virginia Tech.

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Table of Contents

Introduction
Part I: The Cartesian predicament
1. What mechanism isn't
2. The rejection of Aristotelianism
3. The nude wax: Cartesian ontology
4. The laws of nature
5. Force
6. Occasionalism
Part II: The dialectic of occasionalism
7. Malebranche and the cognitive model of causation
8. Laws and divine volitions
9. Causation and explanation
10. A scholastic mechanism
11. RĂ©gis against the occasionalists
Part III: Power and necessity
12. 'A dead cadaverous thing'
13. Relations and powers
14. Boyle's paradox
15. Boyle and the concurrentists
16. Locke on relations
17. Locke on powers: The geometrical model
18. Locke's mechanisms
19. Conclusion
Part IV: Hume
20. The Two Humes
21. Intentionality
22. Necessity
23. Relations
24. The definition of causation
25. Conclusion

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