From Suárez to Descartes
According to a standard narrative concerning the history of philosophy, Descartes set out on a new path by replacing the four causes of the scholastics with the efficient causes required for his mechanistic physics. Drawing on the work of the early modern scholastic Suárez, this chapter shows that Descartes’s break with the scholastic past was less clean than this narrative suggests. An initial point is that Descartes’s emphasis on efficient causality was anticipated in scholastic reconceptualizations of causation that culminated in the work of Suárez. Moreover, in some respects scholasticism provided the basic framework for Descartes’s account of efficient causation, as shown by his claims both that a cause must “contain” its effect and that conservation differs only “in reason” from creation. Finally, there are important connections to scholasticism in Descartes’s treatments of causation in physics and of mind–body interaction.
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