Skip Navigation
Search

  Andrew Platt

Andrew Platt

Assistant Professor

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 @stonybrook.edu

 

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. 

Platt’s book, 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