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A website for the book by Ian J Thompson:

"Rational Scientific Theories from Theism"

 

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Previous: 18.1 Spiritual, mental and physical operations Up: 18. We are Sustained by Influx From God, Directly and Indirectly Next: 18.3 Multiple spaces and discrete degrees

18.2 Is this occasionalism?

The scheme of the previous section may be reformulated using the terminology in Section 5.5.1 concerning principal and occasional causation. Then, at any given level, the next-higher level is the source of principal causation, and the previously-existing things at that level form the occasional cause.

Many philosophers and theologians reject the idea of occasional causes, especially as it was promulgated by Nicolas Malebranche in the seventeenth century. According to Malebranche, there are no actual powers in the world, and God is the immediate cause of all the events that occur. Previous physical events, our own minds and decisions, etc., are merely the occasion for God choosing to act to produce the effects we see. This view is commonly rejected because it gives no individual powers to created objects or living creatures (including humans). We are no longer our own agents of action but merely a set of excuses for God to act. Theologically, this makes God directly responsible for all actions, whether good or evil and whether in accord with God’s will or not. Every act in the world, no matter how mundane, is therefore God acting and never us.

The theism being developed in this book does, at first glance, look like occasionalism. Every act of causation is the operation of a principal cause according to some previous occasion or instrumental cause. Events in the world are only instrumental causes and do not, strictly speaking, cause their effects! But, if we follow the causal philosophy of Chapter 4 then we must oppose this interpretation, for surely physical objects, as constituted by their dispositions to act, must have causal powers distinct from God. Would this not be a contradiction?

My answer is that it would indeed be a contradiction but only if there were only two generative levels in the world, namely God along with the ultimate level of physical effects. In this case, all events would certainly be directly caused by God, and there would be no created objects with their own powers and certainly no objects consisting of their own powers.

But in fact, the theism here has multiple levels of substance between God and the ultimate physical effects. The actions of God now do not produce the physical effects directly. God does not have to act directly and continually in the physical world. Rather, as we see just above in Section 18.1, the actions of God create spiritual objects which in turn create mental objects. Then both together create physical objects. The intermediate objects are not made purely of events but are themselves dispositions and, therefore, substances. These substances are therefore what usually act directly and continually in the world, and it is not necessary for God to do so. Still, we admit, all the being, powers and action of those substances are derived from God, who is therefore immanent with them.


Previous: 18.1 Spiritual, mental and physical operations Up: 18. We are Sustained by Influx From God, Directly and Indirectly Next: 18.3 Multiple spaces and discrete degrees

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