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Reconsidering Causal PowersHistorical and Conceptual Perspectives$
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Henrik Lagerlund, Benjamin Hill, and Stathis Psillos

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9780198869528

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2021

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198869528.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 04 December 2021

Agency, Force, and Inertia in Descartes and Hobbes

Agency, Force, and Inertia in Descartes and Hobbes

(p.94) 4 Agency, Force, and Inertia in Descartes and Hobbes
Reconsidering Causal Powers

Deborah Brown

Oxford University Press

Deborah Brown looks at how Hobbes and Descartes used the language of ‘tendency’ in their natural philosophies. She contrasts the problems that arise for Hobbes as he tries to reduce tendencies away with a Descartes, for whom ‘tendency talk is not a mere façon de parler’ but rather is ‘real and causally explanatory’, and who strives to incorporate inherent tendencies into his broader mechanistic ontological framework. The resulting interpretation of Descartes sees him as much closer in his conception of natural laws to Nancy Cartwright than to David Lewis. One of the real benefits of this interpretation, claims Brown, is that it ‘might just help to demystify Descartes’s references to active forces’. Having thus establishing that Descartes was a realist about tendencies who nevertheless remained committed to a non-teleological, mechanistic account of nature, Brown contrasts this Cartesian picture with Hobbes’s reductive mechanics that eliminated forces and tendencies by equating them with actual motions, including even the ‘force of a body at rest’.

Keywords:   René Descartes, Thomas Hobbes, tendencies, laws of motion, powers

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