Malebranche and Occasional Causes

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Abstract

In VI.ii.3 of The Search After Truth Malebranche offers an argument for the view that only God is a cause. Here I defend an interpretation of the argument according to which Malebranche is supposing (quite rightly) that if there is a necessary connection between a cause and its effect, then if creatures were real causes, God's volitions would not be sufficient to bring about their intended effects. I then consider the argument from constant creation that Malebranche offers in Dialogues on Metaphysics and on Religion. If Malebranche holds that God is literally creating things in their entirety at each and every moment, it is difficult to understand how his system could make room for finite substances, and it is difficult to understand how he can allow that finite minds are to be held accountable for what they do. Here I defend a weakened version of the doctrine of constant creation according to which God is constantly creating the modifications of things but is not constantly creating things in their entirety.

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