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occasionalism,metaphysical doctrine that denies that finite things have any active power and asserts that God is the only cause, whereas physical events and mental states are only occasions for God's action. Muslim theologians in the 8th cent. developed a version of occasionalism as an alternative to Aristotelian theories of causality. Occasionalism gained currency in the West in the 17th cent., when Arnold Geulincx and Nicolas Malebranche developed theories to resolve the problem of interaction in general, and of that between mind (immaterial) and body (material) in particular, which was posed by the dualism of René Descartes.
in 17th-century Western European philosophy, a trend that idealistically resolved the problem of the relationship between body and soul posed earlier by the dualist philosophy of Descartes. Adherents of occasionalism included J. Clauberg, A. Geulinex, and N. de Malebranche.
The inability of Cartesian dualism to account for the way in which the soul influences the body and vice versa served as the point of departure for occasionalism, which maintained that interaction between body and soul is essentially impossible. According to the occasionalists, that which appears to be the bodily stimulus of some thought or act of will is in reality nothing more than the occasion for the true active cause, which can only be god.
The occasionalists regarded the interaction of body and soul as the result of a continual “miracle”: the direct involvement of the divinity in each separate instance. This idealist revision of Cartesian philosophy reached its culmination in Malebranche, who stated that it was impossible for the body to influence the soul. Furthermore, one body could not even influence another body. In the philosophy of G. Leibniz, occasionalism was revised as the theory of predetermined harmony.
REFERENCESVvedenskii, A. I. Dekart i okkazionalizm. Berlin-Petrograd-Moscow, 1922.
Bykhovskii, B. E. Filosofiia Dekarta. Moscow-Leningrad, 1940. Pages 138–48.
Lenoble, R. Mersenne, ou la naissance du mécanisme. Paris, 1943. (Contains excerpts from the writings of the occasionalists as well as references.)
Balz, A. Cartesian Studies. New York, 1951.
Callot, E. Problèmes du cartésianisme. Cardet-Annecy, 1956.
V. V. SOKOLOV