Nicolas Malebranche


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French Cartesian philosopher. Malebranche was born in Paris and educated in philosophy and theology at the Sorbonne. Deeply impressed by the philosophy of Descartes, he produced in 1674 and 1675 the two volumes of De la recherche de la vérité (‘On the Search for Truth’). In this work Malebranche expounds and develops many of the views of Descartes, but his own originality is apparent in two main areas. He inherits the Cartesian view that pure sensation has no representative power, and so adds the doctrine that knowledge of objects requires other representative ideas that are somehow surrogates for external objects. These are archetypes or ideas of objects as they exist in the mind of God, so that ‘we see all things in God’. Berkeley (Three Dialogues, ii. 43) takes care to distinguish himself from Malebranche, whose doctrine might sound similar. The point was the subject of acrimonious debate with Arnauld. The other doctrine for which he is remembered is the denial of causal efficacy to bodies. Like Islamic occasionalists such as Al-Ghazali, Malebranche reserves causal power to God. On both the denial of empirical causation, and the nature of the soul, there is much in common between his philosophy and that of Hume, who always refers to him with respect. Malebranche defended his system further in the Entretiens sur la métaphysique et sur la religion (1688, trs. as Dialogues on Metaphysics and Religion, 1923).

http://www-history.mcs.st-andrews.ac.uk/Biographies/Malebranche.html A biography of Malebranche

http://oregonstate.edu/instruct/phl302/philosophers/malbranche.html A brief tutorial on Malebranche's philosophy

Subjects: Philosophy.

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