Ph.D. University of Massachusetts, Amherst, 2010
A.B. Lafayette College
Harriman Hall 234
Stony Brook University
Stony Brook, NY 11794-3750
Tel: (631) 632-7570
Andrew Platt earned his A.B. from Lafayette College, and his Ph.D. from the University
of Massachusetts, Amherst, in 2010. He has previously held visiting positions at St.
Cloud State University, the University of Delaware and Central Michigan University.
His research focuses on the history of seventeenth and eighteenth century philosophy,
especially on the history of metaphysics and the works of Descartes, Malebranche and
other “Cartesian” authors of the seventeenth century. In addition to teaching in
the history of philosophy of early modern (both at the graduate and undergraduate
level), he teaches undergraduate courses in logic, ethics, social-political philosophy,
epistemology, metaphysics, and the philosophy of religion.
Platt’s current research is on the topic of free will in early modern and late medieval
thought. Contemporary philosophers often express the “free will problem” in terms
of the concept of a law of nature: How can human actions truly be free, if every state
of the world is the result of prior events, together with the laws of nature? The
modern conception of a law of nature emerged in the first half of the seventeenth
century -- most notably in the works of Descartes. Yet when authors such as Descartes
and Malebranche discuss freedom of the will, they think about human free action in
different terms. In particular, they discuss freedom of the will in the context of
late Scholastic debates about the nature of God’s providence and grace. Platt’s work
explores the evolution of the “modern” problem of free will from the late sixteenth
century to the mid-eighteenth century – with special focus on early modern thinkers,
such as Margaret Cavendish and Mary Astell, whose views may not fit neatly in the
categories of the contemporary free will debate.
One True Cause (Oxford University Press, 2020), focuses on a theory of causation popular in the
seventeenth century, called occasionalism. Occasionalism is the thesis that God alone
is the true cause of every event, and created substances are merely “occasional causes.”
This doctrine was originally developed in medieval Islamic theology, and was widely
rejected in the works of Christian authors in medieval Europe. Yet despite its heterodoxy,
the doctrine of occasionalism was revived in the mid-seventeenth century by French
and Dutch followers of the philosophy of René Descartes. Perhaps surprisingly, these
early modern occasionalists were also champions of the new, mechanistic science that
Descartes helped to establish.
One True Cause explores the relationships between medieval views about divine providence, Descartes’
theories in physics and metaphysics, and the reasoning that led early modern authors
to revive occasionalism – and provides the first comprehensive account of occasionalism
in the early modern period.
Professor Andrew Platt’s CV