DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-K057-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved February 25, 2024, from

Article Summary

Occasionalism is often thought of primarily as a rather desperate solution to the problem of mind–body interaction. Mind and body, it maintains, do not in fact causally affect each other at all; rather, it is God who causes bodily movements to occur ‘on the occasion of’ appropriate mental states (for example, volitions), and who causes mental states, such as sensations, on the occasion of the corresponding bodily states (for example, sensory stimulation).

This characterization, while correct so far as it goes, is seriously incomplete. Occasionalists have seen the lack of real causal influence between mind and body as merely a special case of the more general truth that no two created beings ever causally affect each other. The one and only ‘true cause’ is God, with created beings serving as the occasions for his causal and creative activity, but never as causes in their own right. (The one possible exception to this is that created agents may themselves bring about their own acts of will; this is necessary if they are to be in any sense free agents.) Occasionalism has always been held primarily for religious reasons, in order to give God the honour due to him as the Lord and ruler of the universe. It has never, however, been a majority view among philosophical theists.

    Citing this article:
    Hasker, William. Occasionalism, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-K057-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
    Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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