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::: center home >> events >> lunchtime >> 2003-04 >> abstracts

Friday, 27 February 2004
The Metaphysics of Rest in Cartesian Physics
Tad Schmaltz
Duke University
12:05 pm, 817R Cathedral of Learning

Abstract: There has been considerable discussion in the literature on Descartes concerning the ontological status of the "force of rest" that he posited in his physics. I claim, against certain occasionalist readings of Descartes, that he identified this force with modes of the duration of resting bodies. My main concern is to show how Descartes's view, on this interpretation, is related to the later Cartesian rejection of the appeal to a force of rest. I consider in particular the very different arguments against such an appeal in the work of two French Cartesians, the occasionalist Nicolas Malebranche and his anti-occasionalist opponent Pierre-Sylvain Regis. For Malebranche, no force of rest is required since rest is a mere privation, and thus nothing that requires a power in God beyond what is involved in his creation of matter. This view in Malebranche calls into question a popular reading of his occasionalism. Though Regis initially accepted the existence of a force of rest, he also suggested something close to Malebranche's position that there is no force or power responsible for rest as such. However, in his mature writings Regis went beyond Malebranche in arguing that, Descartes's position to the contrary notwithstanding, rest bears only an indirect relation to the duration of bodies.

Revised 3/11/08 - Copyright 2006