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 begins with Malebranche's conception of the will in terms of bodily motion, emphasizing his claim that such a conception fails to reveal the nature of the mental habits or dispositions that pertain to the will. Though Arnauld indicated some surface difficulties with this negative claim, he did not do justice to Malebranche's central point that Cartesians must admit that the will has a hidden structure, the nature of which they cannot understand fully. Section 2 then considers Malebranche's development of Descartes's claim that we are conscious of possessing a “freedom of indifference” that involves the action of an undetermined power. The emphasis here is on Malebranche's various attempts to show that our consciousness of such a power is compatible with his occasionalism, i.e., his doctrine that God is the only real cause. These attempts rely ultimately on the claim that this consciousness does not yield a clear understanding of the nature of this power. Malebranche took this result of his investigation of the undetermined freedom that Descartes posited to reinforce his thesis that Cartesians have only a confused knowledge of the nature of the soul and its faculties.

Keywords: Arnauld; Descartes; freedom; indifference; Malebranche; mental habits; occasionalism; will

Chapter.  24194 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

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