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Title: Causal Independence and Divine Support in Spinoza and Leibniz
Authors: Primus, Kristin
Advisors: Garber, Daniel
Contributors: Philosophy Department
Subjects: Philosophy
Issue Date: 2013
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: Most thinkers before the Enlightenment held that the created world must be continually sustained-- as it were, continuously created by an omnipotent God who thereby maintains everything in existence. But if that is true, in what sense are created things genuinely real, genuinely distinct from God, and genuine productive causes of events in the world? This question occupied some of the best philosophical minds of the period, and seeing how those minds thought about the problem can reveal a lot about their views on causation, dependence relations, substance, and the extent to which theistic considerations inform and constrain theories about the workings of the natural world. In this dissertation, I focus on Spinoza and Leibniz, two philosophers for whom the problem of how to reconcile divine sustenance and creaturely activity raises special issues. Most discussions of the problem show up in metaphysical systems in which there is a transcendent God, and it has long been assumed that since Spinoza's system does not have such a God, he is not concerned to reconcile creatures' activity with their dependence on God for their being. I argue that Spinoza was concerned with a version of this problem, despite his monist metaphysics. In chapter one, I show how the Short Treatise contains arguments designed to resist the occasionalist conclusion that creatures are not genuine productive causes. In the second chapter, I argue that a concern with the nature and scope of divine causality persists into the Ethics, and that a recognition of this concern motivates a new interpretation of the metaphysics of causation in that book. In the third chapter, I turn to Leibniz, and argue that the view of divine and secondary causation he advocated in many of his post-1680s texts is not at all the kind of position previous commentators have assumed it was. I provide a model for the position and show how it allows him to reconcile the radical activity of created things with theological orthodoxy.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Philosophy

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