1st Edition

Causation and Cognition in Early Modern Philosophy

Edited By Dominik Perler, Sebastian Bender Copyright 2020
    368 Pages
    by Routledge

    368 Pages
    by Routledge

    This book re-examines the roles of causation and cognition in early modern philosophy. The standard historical narrative suggests that early modern thinkers abandoned Aristotelian models of formal causation in favor of doctrines that appealed to relations of efficient causation between material objects and cognizers. This narrative has been criticized in recent scholarship from at least two directions. Scholars have emphasized that we should not think of the Aristotelian tradition in such monolithic terms, and that many early modern thinkers did not unequivocally reduce all causation to efficient causation.

    In line with this general approach, this book features original essays written by leading experts in early modern philosophy. It is organized around five guiding questions:

    • What are the entities involved in causal processes leading to cognition?
    • What type(s) or kind(s) of causality are at stake? Are early modern thinkers confined to efficient causation or do other types of causation play a role?
    • What is God's role in causal processes leading to cognition?
    • How do cognitive causal processes relate to other, non-cognitive causal processes?
    • Is the causal process in the case of human cognition in any way special? How does it relate to processes involved in the case of non-human cognition?

    The essays explore how fifteen early modern thinkers answered these questions: Francisco Suárez, René Descartes, Louis de la Forge, Géraud de Cordemoy, Nicolas Malebranche, Thomas Hobbes, Baruch de Spinoza, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Ralph Cudworth, Margaret Cavendish, John Locke, John Sergeant, George Berkeley, David Hume, and Thomas Reid. The volume is unique in that it explores both well-known and understudied historical figures, and in that it emphasizes the intimate relationship between causation and cognition to open up new perspectives on early modern philosophy of mind and metaphysics.


    Dominik Perler & Sebastian Bender

    1. Suárez on Intellectual Cognition and Occasional Causation

    Dominik Perler

    2. Descartes on the Causal Structure of Cognition

    Alison Simmons

    3. Cartesian Causation and Cognition: Louis de la Forge and Géraud de Cordemoy

    Tad Schmaltz

    4. Causation and Cognition in Malebranche

    Stephan Schmid

    5. Ralph Cudworth: Plastic Nature, Cognition and the Cognizable World

    Sarah Hutton

    6. Nothing Is Simply One Thing: Conway on Multiplicity in Causation and Cognition

    Julia Borcherding

    7. Cavendish on Material Causation and Cognition

    David Cunning

    8. The Mechanical Mind: Hobbes on Sense Cognition and Imagination

    Martine Pécharman

    9. Knowing Mind through Knowing Body: Spinoza on Causal Knowledge of the Self and the External World

    Daniel Garber

    10. The Many Faces of Spinoza’s Causal Axiom

    Martin Lin

    11. Locke on Causation and Cognition

    Jennifer Marušić

    12. Embodied Cognition without Causal Interaction in Leibniz

    Julia Jorati

    13. John Sergeant and Antoine Le Grand on the Occasional Cause of Cognition

    Han Thomas Adriaenssen

    14. Berkeley on Causation, Ideas and Necessary Connections

    Sebastian Bender

    15. Hume and "Reason as a Kind of Cause"

    P. J. E. Kail

    16. Reid on Intentionality and Causation

    James Van Cleve


    Dominik Perler is Professor of Philosophy at Humboldt-Universität, Berlin, and Member of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Arts and Science. His books include Partitioning the Soul: Debates from Plato Leibniz (ed., 2014), The Faculties: A History (ed., 2015), Feelings Transformed: Philosophical Theories of the Emotions, 1270-1670 (2018).

    Sebastian Bender is Lecturer at the philosophy department at Humboldt-Universität, Berlin. His research focuses primarily on early modern philosophy, in particular on the metaphysics and philosophy of mind of this era. In 2016, he published his first book, Leibniz’ Metaphysik der Modalität.

    "This volume is a welcome addition to early modern scholarship, providing a source of reflection on the connection between cognition theory and causation theory. The collection's great merit is exploiting this cognition-causation connection to provide a new avenue for historical research that is at the same time philosophically significant."

    Journal of the History of Philosophy