The Cogito

Tad M. Schmaltz

in Malebranche's Theory of the Soul

Published in print October 2003 | ISBN: 9780195103441
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199833641 | DOI:
 The Cogito

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This chapter concerns Malebranche's reaction to Descartes's cogito argument, according to which we know with certainty the existence of the self as a thinking thing. Section 1 indicates that Malebranche accepted with various revisions and complications the view in Descartes that consciousness provides direct access to our thoughts, and to our sensory thoughts in particular. Section 2 then makes clear Malebranche's commitment to Descartes's conclusion that such thoughts reveal immediately the existence of the self as a thinking thing. Yet, Section 3 emphasizes Malebranche's negative claim that what consciousness reveals about the nature of the soul is much less clear than what we know about the nature of the body through the idea of extension. Drawing on a distinction in the recent work of Thomas Nagel between objective and subjective viewpoints, this section offers an interpretation of Malebranche in which he claimed that consciousness is restricted to a subjective view of modifications of the soul that is inferior in kind to the objective view of bodily modifications that derives from the idea of extension.

Keywords: cogito; consciousness; Descartes; Malebranche; Thomas Nagel; objectivity; self; subjectivity

Chapter.  16076 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

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