Res Philosophica

Volume 92, Issue 1, January 2015

The 11th Robert J. Henle Conference

Tad M. Schmaltz
Pages 21-40

The Metaphysics of Rest in Descartes and Malebranche

I consider a somewhat obscure but important feature of Descartes’s physics that concerns the notion of the “force of rest.” Contrary to a prominent occasionalist interpretation of Descartes’s physics, I argue that Descartes himself attributes real forces to resting bodies. I also take his account of rest to conflict with the view that God conserves the world by “re-creating” it anew at each moment. I turn next to the role of rest in Malebranche. Malebranche takes Descartes to endorse his own occasionalist version of physics. However, he nonetheless rejects Descartes’s account of rest by appealing to the fact that whereas God’s production of motion requires a power beyond the mere power to create, his production of rest requires only the latter power. It turns out that this argument in Malebranche is incompatible with the sort of “re-creationist” account of divine conservation that he is widely thought to have inherited from Descartes.