Philosophy colloquium: Laura Georgescu (Online event)

Title: Cavendishian observations on principal and occasional causes

By Laura Georgescu (Groningen, Philosophy)

Date: Thursday April 28, 2022

Time: 15.30-17.00 (GMT+3)

This is an online event. All are welcome. If you would like to listen to the talk please click on the following link when the event is due to begin. 

Zoom link:

Meeting ID: 951 7783 0727

Abstract: Suppose you are an early modern natural philosopher committed to a substance–mode ontology. If all the available entities in your ontology are substances and their modes, then change has to be explained either as change in modes or as change in substance. But, since substance is that which persists through change, you are pretty much left with explaining change purely as modal change. Modal change as a general account of change turns out to be less intelligible than meets the eye. Or, at least, this is what Margaret Cavendish – one of the early moderns committed to both naturalism and a thoroughgoing materialism – aims to show. If change as modal change is not intelligible, but change is possible, then, Cavendish argues, occasional causation is the best available account of change, and perhaps the only intelligible account. This talk presents Cavendish’s theory of occasional causation. We will first stop to understand Cavendish’s reasons against modal change. Then we will look at the decoupling of occasional causation from occasionalism (the view that God is the only efficient cause). Finally, in the third part of the talk, we will try to make sense of how Cavendishian occasional causation works, and what difficulties it encounters (i.e., what remains unexplained in Cavendish’s own solution to the problem of change).

About the speaker: Laura Georgescu is currently an assistant professor in the department of History of Philosophy, University of Groningen. She works primarily on early modern philosophy and science. Recently, Laura and her colleague, Han Thomas Adriaenssen, published an edited volume on Kenelm Digby’s natural philosophy, with Springer. Today, her talk will not focus on Digby, but on a woman philosopher Laura enjoys working on, Margaret Cavendish.




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