Occasionalism at a Crossroads. Leibniz’s Debt to Malebranche

  • Matteo Favaretti University of Venice
Keywords: Leibniz, Malebranche, Occasionalism, Mind-Body Interaction, Miracles


Leibniz’s attitude towards occasionalism was notoriously ambivalent. On the one hand, he strove to discredit occasionalism as a dangerous doctrine, responsible for paving the way to Spinozism. On the other hand, he presented the system of occasional causes as the immediate historical precedent of the system of pre-established harmony. Moreover, he sometimes claimed to feel indebted to the most prominent occasionalist, Nicolas Malebranche. Whereas most studies on the topic have sought to clarify Leibniz’s divergences from the occasionalist doctrine, this paper aims to cast light on whether and in what way Leibniz was really indebted to occasionalism and to Malebranche in particular. By exploring, first, Leibniz’s reasons for rejecting physical influence and, second, the Malebranchean remnants in Leibniz’s account of miracles, the paper concludes that for Leibniz occasionalism was not only a polemical target but also a source of inspiration for rethinking causality and divine concurrence.