Malebranche's Occasionalism: A Strategic Reinterpretation

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2005

Published In

American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly


The core thesis of Malebranche’s doctrine of occasionalism is that God is the sole true cause, where a true cause is one that has the power to initiate change and for which the mind perceives a necessary connection between it and its effects. Malebranche gives two separate arguments for his core thesis, T, based on necessary connection and on divine power respectively. The standard view is that these two arguments are necessary to establish T. I argue for a reinterpretation of Malebranche’s strategy, according to which the Necessary Connection Argument alone is sufficient to establish T. The Divine Power Argument, which is anyway weaker, is needed not to support T but to bridge the gap between T and full-fledged occasionalism. Specifically, it is needed to rule out the existence of causal powers in nature, a scenario which is consistent with T but inconsistent with occasionalism.

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