Occasionalism: what it is and what this philosophical current offers

Occasionalalism is one of the philosophical currents which understand the body and the mind as separate beings. In other words, it is a dualistic perspective that calls into question the possibility that the body and the mind are also building blocks of the human being.

In this article, we introduce an introductory explanation of what dualism is and what the perspective we call occasionalism consists of.

    The dualistic thought of Descartes

    Dualism is a philosophical position based on the idea that the mind and the body are two separate beings. In other words, that the mind does not feel, just like the body does not think. Descartes came to doubt everything except his ability to thinkSo what the body was feeling was in the background.

    René Descartes is generally recognized as the greatest representative of modern dualism, because he was the first philosopher to oppose the reality of the mind to that of the body (that of the brain).

    For him, the spirit exists independently of the bodySo, it has a substance all its own. This substance, in the religious-scientific context of Descartes, can be of three types: interactionist (that which allows mental processes to have effects in the body); parallelist (mental causes only have mental effects that claim to be physical, but they are not); and finally a substance of the occasionalist type, which we will explain below.

      Occasionalism: an explanation of causality

      For Descartes, the occasionalist substance is that which does not allow the interaction between matter and the immaterial field. The relation between these is impossible, because there is an external entity which that the events we mean by “cause and effect” occur. This is God to us, and it is only through His intervention that mind and body can be connected.

      Thus, occasionalism is a philosophical position which, in addition to establishing that the mind and the body are separate; it also states that nothing we perceive as a “cause and effect” relationship it is really linked to a cause external to God.

      The causes are only the occasion for God to produce certain facts, which we have called “effects”. For example, in a relation A-> B; event A is not a cause, but an opportunity for God to produce fact B, which we experience and translate as “the effect”.

      What we call a “cause” is only apparent, it is always occasional (ie it depends on the specific opportunity). In turn, the event that we perceive as an effect, it is the result of God’s decision. The real cause is therefore still hidden from our knowledge. How it is given in advance by God and by the opportunity presented to it; we humans cannot know it, we can just experience it, as an effect.

      But, remembering that God, mind and knowledge at that time were closely related, it means that, for the occasion, our mental processes, beliefs, thoughts, intentions, do not generate attitudes, emotions or behaviors; on the contrary, the congruence between these processes is facilitated by a divine entity.

      We cannot know this divine entity at allHe has his own vision and his own will, and from there he moves all material things.

      Nicolas Malebranche, key author

      The French philosopher Nicolas Malebranche is one of the greatest representatives of the occasion. He lived between 1628 and 1715 and is recognized as one of the representative intellectuals of the Enlightenment.

      At first, Malebranche followed the dualistic postulates of Descartes’ rationalism, which developed in a century when reason was closely reconciled with religious beliefs. Science, philosophy and Christianity were not completely separate from each other, as they are now.

      In his postulates, Malebranche he tried to reconcile the thoughts of Descartes with those of Saint Augustine, And thus demonstrate that the active role of God in all aspects of the world could be demonstrated by the doctrine we call “occasionalism”.

      Although he tried to distance himself from Descartes’ propositions, several contemporary philosophers believe that he should be considered in his own tradition, as well as with Spinoza and Leibniz. However, other authors consider Malebranche’s thought to be more radical than that of Descartes. The latter considered that at one point the body and the soul were connected, and that this point was the pineal gland.

      Malebranche considered, on the other hand, that the body and the soul are completely independent beings, and that if there is a link between the two, it is because there is a divine entity in the middle which it. makes possible. like that, God is the cause of everything that happens in “reality”. Causes are occasions for God, God is the only cause, and this is how we humans know the world.

      In other words, for Malebranche, the only real cause of all that exists is God, so that whatever we perceive as “the effect of something” is nothing more than a moment or a moment. opportunity for God to bring about or accomplish this thing.

      Bibliographical references:

      • The Basics of Philosophy (2018). Philosophy of the mind. Accessed May 27, 2018.Available at https://www.philosophybasics.com/philosophers_malebranche.html

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