occasionalism, metaphysical doctrine that denies that finite things have any active power and asserts that God is the only cause, whereas physical events and mental states are only occasions for God's action. Muslim theologians in the 8th cent. developed a version of occasionalism as an alternative to Aristotelian theories of causality. Occasionalism gained currency in the West in the 17th cent., when Arnold Geulincx and Nicolas Malebranche developed theories to resolve the problem of interaction in general, and of that between mind (immaterial) and body (material) in particular, which was posed by the dualism of René Descartes.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.