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.

chapter |17 pages


ByDominik Perler, Sebastian Bender

chapter 1|21 pages

Suárez on Intellectual Cognition and Occasional Causation

ByDominik Perler

chapter 2|22 pages

Descartes on the Causal Structure of Cognition

ByAlison Simmons

chapter 3|22 pages

Cartesian Causation and Cognition

Louis de la Forge and Géraud de Cordemoy
ByTad M. Schmaltz

chapter 4|22 pages

Causation and Cognition in Malebranche

ByStephan Schmid

chapter 5|18 pages

Ralph Cudworth

Plastic Nature, Cognition, and the Cognizable World
BySarah Hutton

chapter 6|22 pages

Nothing Is Simply One Thing

Conway on Multiplicity in Causation and Cognition
ByJulia Borcherding

chapter 7|26 pages

Cavendish on Material Causation and Cognition

ByDavid Cunning

chapter 8|23 pages

The Mechanical Mind

Hobbes on Sense Cognition and Imagination
ByMartine Pécharman

chapter 9|18 pages

Knowing Mind Through Knowing Body

Spinoza on Causal Knowledge of the Self and the External World
ByDaniel Garber

chapter 10|21 pages

The Many Faces of Spinoza’s Causal Axiom

ByMartin Lin

chapter 11|19 pages

Locke on Causation and Cognition

ByJennifer Marušić

chapter 12|22 pages

Embodied Cognition Without Causal Interaction in Leibniz

ByJulia Jorati

chapter 13|21 pages

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

ByHan Thomas Adriaenssen

chapter 14|22 pages

Berkeley on Causation, Ideas, and Necessary Connections

BySebastian Bender

chapter 15|14 pages

Hume and “Reason as a Kind of Cause”

ByP. J. E. Kail

chapter 16|17 pages

Reid on Intentionality and Causation

ByJames Van Cleve