Friday, May 30, 2008

a plea for the obvious

This is a very brief plea for what should be obvious...

In the early modern period, there were very strange theories of causation that systematically attempted to link together the new mechanistic principles of explanation, theories of material substance, and theologically pious convictions about the nature of God’s governance over the created world.

None of these theories of causation were primarily intended to be solutions to a “mind-body problem.” Instead, these theories, as baroque as they appear (e.g., Descartes’ semi-occasionalism, Malebranche’s occasionalism, and Leibniz’s pre-established harmony), were part of a systematic attempt to unify phenomena under general, complementary laws. The “mind-body” cases were simply special instances of causal explananda.

To be sure, these cases were especially salient. However, to suggest that these cases motivated the bizarre (to our eyes) causal theories of the early moderns is to have the tail wag the dog.

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