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:

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In this chapter, Section 1 considers Malebranche's development of the position, which he claimed to find in Descartes, that sensible qualities are only modifications of our soul. Section 2 then takes up Malebranche's thesis that we know the nature of these modifications through a confused consciousness rather than through a clear idea. Critics as varied as Arnauld, Desgabets, and Regis objected that Cartesians have as much reason to say that they know their sensations through a clear idea of thought as they have to say that they know bodily modifications through a clear idea of extension. However, these critics failed to grapple with Malebranche's main contention that our objective view of the body is superior in kind to our subjective view of our own sensations. Such a contention is linked to the point that we have only a limited understanding of the nature of sensory qualia. Section 3 concludes by focusing on two arguments in Malebranche for the claim that what the Cartesians themselves say about our knowledge of our sensory modifications reveals that they lack access to a clear idea of the soul.

Keywords: Arnauld; consciousness; Descartes; Desgabets; Malebranche; qualia; Regis; sensation; sensible qualities; subjectivity

Chapter.  27561 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

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