Friday, January 16, 2009

On considering occasionalism.

I’m now in the position to grant Hume his critique of causation. To say that A caused B to happen in the metaphysical sense is tantamount to saying that there is something about A the necessitated B to happen. But, as Hume so annoyingly points out, there’s nothing to recommend our thinking there is something about A that necessitated B to happen. And thus there is little sense to saying that, in the metaphysical sense, A caused B to happen. Thus, on Hume’s view, events are constantly conjoined, and that’s all there is to say.

Or is there.

Sure. Because I can’t, for the life of me, begin to comprehend what it is about A that necessitates B to happen (in the strict modal sense of “necessary”), I don’t even know how to argue against Hume on this front. So be it. There is no necessary connection between As and Bs. But it can’t be that the constant conjunction between events that we perceive is just how the world must be. To say so tacitly assumes that saying so is self-evident in just the same way as it is for the non-Humean to say ‘A just is the cause of B’. So, Hume is obliged to explain to us why it is that events are constantly conjoined as they are.

I’m sure he’d respond by saying the answer to such a question is beyond our kin. I agree. If God exists, then every event depends upon His will, and since God doesn’t act from necessity, a world that is constantly conjoined is the very type of world we would expect the world to be like if God created it.

Hence, I now am motivated to be an occasionalist about efficient causation.



Blogger Louis said...

"The thing I mean can be seen, for instance, in children, when they find some game or joke that they specially enjoy. A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, "Do it again"; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, "Do it again" to the sun; and every evening, "Do it again" to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we. The repetition in Nature may not be a mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical encore. Heaven may encore the bird who laid an egg. If the human being conceives and brings forth a human child instead of bringing forth a fish, or a bat, or a griffin, the reason may not be that we are fixed in an animal fate without life or purpose. It may be that our little tragedy has touched the gods, that they admire it from their starry galleries, and that at the end of every human drama man is called again and again before the curtain. Repetition may go on for millions of years, by mere choice, and at any instant it may stop. Man may stand on the earth generation after generation, and yet each birth be his positively last appearance."

- G. K. Chesterton. Orthodoxy, Chapter 4: The Ethics of Elfland.

3:27 PM  
Blogger Derek said...

I remember when you first posted that quote I brushed it aside. Now I find it more intriguing. I still don't know what to think.

4:41 PM  
Blogger Louis said...

I am still contemplating. I am not convinced of robust Occasionalism either. But sometimes I find myself unconvinced of anything else, and Occasionalism looking mighty fine.

God = "Causation of the Gaps" ??

4:46 PM  
Blogger BIBLIST said...

The French Cartesian Nicolas Malebranche was hailed by his contemporary, Pierre Bayle, as “the premier philosopher of our age.” Over the course of his philosophical career, Malebranche published major works on metaphysics, theology, and ethics, as well as studies of optics, the laws of motion and the nature of color. He is known principally for offering a highly original synthesis of the views of his intellectual heroes, St. Augustine and René Descartes. Two distinctive results of this synthesis are Malebranche's doctrine that we see bodies through ideas in God and his occasionalist conclusion that God is the only real cause.

7:22 AM  
Blogger Louis said...


I thought you might be temporarily and slightly interested in this:

"The misgiving is to be met, I think, by questioning the assumption that there is a best of all possible worlds. Worlds may just get better and better without limit. For any world God chooses to create there will always be a better one that He could have created. God must at most create good world, not the best world (since there is no such thing). Moreover, there’s no reason to think that God must create anything at all. In a possible world in which God creates nothing, there is only He Himself, the paradigm and locus of goodness—the summum bonum. That’s a pretty good world, to say the least!"

-William Lane Craig

6:11 PM  

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