Article ID: CBB454034425

From Secondary Causes to Artificial Instruments: Pierre-Sylvain Régis's Rethinking of Scholastic Accounts of Causation (2016)


Although several of Descartes's disciples established occasionalism as the natural outcome of Cartesianism, Pierre-Sylvain Régis forcefully resisted this conclusion by developing an account of secondary causes in which God does not immediately intervene in the natural world. In order to understand this view, it has been argued that Régis melds Aquinas's concurrentism with the new, mechanist natural philosophy defended in Cartesian physics. In this paper, I contend that such a reading of Régis's position is misleading for our understanding of both his account of secondary causality and the relationship between medieval debates and seventeenth century natural philosophy. I show that Régis's account of secondary causality denies two fundamental features at the core of the account proposed by Aquinas, namely that God acts immediately in nature and that secondary causes are per se causes. I contend that Régis's view more closely resembles a specific account of artificial instrumental causality developed by Duns Scotus. The comparison with Scotus shows that Régis is still dealing with conceptual tools that can be traced back to the scholastic tradition. Yet, Régis implements these tools to establish an account of causation that is fundamentally irreconcilable with scholastic natural philosophy.

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Authors & Contributors
Schmaltz, Tad M.
Ott, Walter R.
Naginski, Erika
Blair, Ann M.
Strazzoni, Andrea
Landucci, Sergio
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science
Science and Education
History of European Ideas
Early Science and Medicine: A Journal for the Study of Science, Technology and Medicine in the Pre-modern Period
Galilæana: Journal of Galilean Studies
Oxford University Press
Franco Angeli
Cambridge University Press
Harvard University
de Gruyter
Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura
Natural philosophy
Philosophy of science
Descartes, René
Régis, Pierre Sylvain
Malebranche, Nicolas de
Desgabets, Robert
Locke, John
Boyle, Robert
Leiden (Netherlands)
Paris (France)
17th century
18th century
Early modern
Université de Paris
Jesuits (Society of Jesus)

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