Causal Skepticism and the Destruction of Antiquity
Jordan, Jason M.
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Jordan, Jason M.
This dissertation examines the development of skeptical views concerning causation from the medieval to the early modern period. While causal skepticism is often overlooked by intellectual historians, I argue that, in spite of its typical motivation as a religious response to shibboleths of ancient philosophy that stood askance from the dogmas of Abrahamic theology, causal skepticism was the greatest intellectual development of post-antiquity and ultimately culminated into modern Science. The first chapter examines Hume's famous analysis of causation and serves as a foil for the prior history of causal skepticism addressed in the subsequent chapters. The second chapter addresses the dispute over causation in medieval Islamic philosophy. I argue that virtually the entirety of Hume's analysis was anticipated, and in some cases superseded, by al-Ghazali in the eleventh century. The third chapter examines Averroes' critique of al-Ghazali, as well as the development of Aristotelian causal metaphysics in the Christian West. The fourth chapter concerns the development of the nominalist tradition skeptical attitude towards efficient causal explanation in the aftermath of the anti-Aristotelian condemnations of 1277. The fifth chapter addresses the Cartesian occasionalist tradition and its skeptical stance on secondary causation and the relation between this causal skepticism and central doctrines of Cartesian physics and metaphysics. The sixth and final chapter of my dissertation concerns the collapse of occasionalism and its many offspring. My ultimate thesis is that the hallmarks of both modern philosophy and modern science trace their origin to the failure of occasionalism to resolve its own internal contradictions.