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Causation and Laws of Nature in Early Modern Philosophy$
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Walter Ott

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199570430

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199570430.001.0001

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Laws and Divine Volitions

Laws and Divine Volitions

(p.102) 11 Laws and Divine Volitions
Causation and Laws of Nature in Early Modern Philosophy

Walter Ott (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Some commentators, such as Leibniz and Steven Nadler, think that, for Malebranche, God must will each and every physical event as such. Others, such as Nicholas Jolley (and perhaps Arnauld), hold that Malebranchean divine volitions are conditional in form, so that God need not meddle directly in each event that occurs. This chapter settles the controversy. It emerges that Leibniz is indeed correct. And yet this does not mean that God is continuously active, constantly adjusting his will to new situations; instead, he can timelessly will an indefinitely long string of individual states of affairs. A corresponding difficulty arises when we try to see how Malebranche can claim that the divine laws are efficacious. This chapter argues that Malebranche offers two analyses of laws — a conditional analysis, whereby laws have the logical form of conditionals, and a summary analysis, whereby laws are nothing more than convenient ways of speaking about God's individual volitions. It is only in the latter sense that Malebranchean laws can be efficacious.

Keywords:   efficacious laws, Arnauld, conditionals, divine volition, Leibniz, Steven Nadler, Nicholas Jolley

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