Causation and Laws of Nature in Early Modern Philosophy is a study of one of the most important debates in 17th- and 18th-century philosophy: the nature of causation. Ott offers controversial readings of such canonical figures as Descartes, Locke, and Hume, and explores related topics such as intentionality, necessity, and relations.
Some philosophers think physical explanations stand on their own: what happens, happens because things have the properties they do. Others think that any such explanation is incomplete: what happens in the physical world must be partly due to the laws of nature. Causation and Laws of Nature in Early Modern Philosophy examines the debate between these views from Descartes to Hume. Ott argues that the competing models of causation in the period grow out of the scholastic notion of power. On this Aristotelian view, the connection between cause and effect is logically necessary. Causes are 'intrinsically directed' at what they produce. But when the Aristotelian view is faced with the challenge of mechanism, the core notion of a power splits into two distinct models, each of which persists throughout the early modern period. It is only when seen in this light that the key arguments of the period can reveal their true virtues and flaws. To make his case, Ott explores such central topics as intentionality, the varieties of necessity, and the nature of relations.; Arguing for controversial readings of many of the canonical figures, the book also focuses on lesser-known writers such as Pierre-Sylvain Regis, Nicolas Malebranche, and Robert Boyle.
Introduction; PART I: THE CARTESIAN PREDICAMENT; 1. What mechanism isn't; 2. The rejection of Aristotelianism; 3. The nude wax: Cartesian ontology; 4. The laws of nature; 5. Force; 6. Occasionalism; PART II: THE DIALECTIC OF OCCASIONALISM; 7. Malebranche and the cognitive model of causation; 8. Laws and divine volitions; 9. Causation and explanation; 10. A scholastic mechanism; 11. Regis against the occasionalists; PART III: POWER AND NECESSITY; 12. 'A dead cadaverous thing'; 13. Relations and powers; 14. Boyle's paradox; 15. Boyle and the concurrentists; 16. Locke on relations; 17. Locke on powers: The geometrical model; 18. Locke's mechanisms; 19. Conclusion; PART IV: HUME; 20. The Two Humes; 21. Intentionality; 22. Necessity; 23. Relations; 24. The definition of causation; 25. Conclusion