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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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(p.5) 1 Themes
Causation and Laws of Nature in Early Modern Philosophy

Walter Ott (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter introduces the four main themes of the book: 1.1 The Origin and Status of Laws of Nature. Canvassing the contemporary literature, this section shows just how differently early modern thinkers conceived of laws of nature. Descartes transfers a notion from divine command theory to the physical realm, and it retains some of the features of its ancestor. In particular, Descartes's notion still implies that the law is determined by a lawgiver, and not by its subjects. 1.2 The Ontology of Powers. Many figures still wish to retain the bottom‐up conception, however. To do this, they had to resurrect the core scholastic notion Descartes jettisons: power. Régis, Locke, and Boyle all seek to recast this notion in mechanistic terms. 1.3 Necessity. The argument here is that scholastic views take causation to be logical necessitation, and that modern philosophy never really breaks free from this analysis. 1.4 Models of Causation. Confronted with the mechanist ontology, the scholastic notion of power splits in two: a cognitive model, which locates causal power in the intentional states of a divine mind, and a geometrical model, which accounts for the directedness of causal powers in terms of the mechanical properties of bodies.

Keywords:   divine command, logical necessitation, intentionality, directedness

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