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Related to occasionalism: Double aspect theory


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.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



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.


Vvedenskii, 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.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Ibn Sina's conception of hayula (maddah jawhariyyah) as the indestructible stuff that persists through time and change and as the underlying substratum that continues or endures on passing from one substance to another was obviously anathema to the kalam atomism and occasionalism (29) adopted by F.
(5) I confess I find occasionalism hard to believe.
Relatively few of Malebranche's readers have explored what philosophical resources Malebranche might have to reconcile his commitments to occasionalism and to human agency.
(61.) Majid Fakhry, Islamic Occasionalism and its Critique by Averroes and Aquinas (London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd, 1958), 121.
Robert Schnepf sticks with the scholastic theme (though in this case, late scholasticism), offering a close analysis of the relationship between Malebranche's occasionalism and Descartes' philosophy.
Al-Attas points out that it is in the light of these Qur'anic verses bearing on the true nature of causality that the original philosophical contribution and significance of kalam atomism or occasionalism has to be appreciated: (65) namely as essentially an attempt to demonstrate rationally the absolute poverty of any ontic autonomy on the part of nature and all natural processes, and hence the impossibility of real or efficacious linear or multilinear horizontal naturalistic causality as envisaged in the original Darwinian and various neo-Darwinian theories of evolution.
The first important point is that, on the nature of the connection between cause and effect, al-Ghazali refers his reader to the Tahafut, where, in conformity with Ash arite occasionalism, he clearly states that the relationship is one of habitual concomitance in accord with God's custom.
Kant's early writings subscribe to an interactionist cosmology opposed to both Leibniz's pre-established harmony and Malebranche's occasionalism. The modern debate on mind-world relations shaping Kant's early cosmology points us to a widely recognized motivation for interactionism, turning on a constraint on agency within certain noninteractionist cosmologies.
Thomas Aquinas and Durandus of Saint Pourcain stand on one side, with their respective rejections of medieval Islamic occasionalism. However, between them is a disagreement as to how God and secondary causes operate as causes.
Any external action on a substance can be performed by God alone; and, in the absence of occasionalism, (29) all natural changes in finite subjects must be brought about by the internal workings of the substances themselves.
For example, God is responsible for connecting mind and body; the view verges on occasionalism, although Boyle's position is not wholly determinate.
Necessary Connections and Continuous Creation: Malebranche's Two Arguments for Occasionalism, SUKJAE LEE