Occasionalism Now!

Is it just me, or does this week’s Onion article, “Evangelical Scientists Refute Gravity With New ‘Intelligent Falling’ Theory” present an argument eerily similar to everyone’s favourite Augustinian Cartesian Nicolas Malebranche’s metaphyisics of “occasionalism”?

From the splendid, every-home-should-have-one Cambridge History of C17th Philosophy [vol.1, pp.538-9]:

“The occasionalist conclusion drawn by Malebranche and Cordemoy is that an explanation of any natural effect which refers only to matter and motion – that is, which specifies only the shapes and sizes of material particles moving with given directions and velocities in accordance with certain laws – will ultimately fail to account fully for the phenomenon, since physical bodies have no causal efficacy. In fact, there is and can be only one true cause of any phenomenon, namely, the infinitely powerful will of God. God alone has a power to act, and there is a necessary connexion only between God’s will and its effects. All events in the natural world, all motions, collisions, separations, changes, and other effects in bodies have God as their direct and immediate author. Thus, any metaphysically complete explanation of a phenomenon must refer at least to the divine volition which is its efficient cause (although, as we shall see, in physics one need not take explanation to this high a level).”

OK, it is just me. It’s the last, parenthetical clause that gives M. the get-out.

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