The Philosophy of Malebranche: A Study of His Integration of Faith, Reason, and Experimental Observation

The Philosophy of Malebranche: A Study of His Integration of Faith, Reason, and Experimental Observation

The Philosophy of Malebranche: A Study of His Integration of Faith, Reason, and Experimental Observation

The Philosophy of Malebranche: A Study of His Integration of Faith, Reason, and Experimental Observation

Excerpt

Je crois que tout le monde tombe d'accord que nous n'apercevons point les objets qui sont hors de nous par eux-mêmes. Nous voyons le soleil, les étoiles et une infinité d'objets hors de nous; et il n'est pas vraisemblable que l'âme sorte du corps et qu'elle aille, pour ainsi dire, se promener dans les cieux pour y contempler tous ces objets. Elle ne les voit donc point par eux-memês; et l'objet immédiat de notre esprit lorsqu'il voit le soleil, par exemple, nest pas le soleil, mais quelque chose qui est intimement unie à notre âme, et c'est ce que j'appelle idée. Ainsi par ce mot idée, je n'entends ici autre chose que ce qui est l'objet immédiat, ou le plus proche de l'esprit quand il aperçoit quelque objet, c'est- à-dire ce qui touche et modifie l'esprit de la perception qu'il a d'un objet.

With this vivid preamble, later claimed to be no more than a bit of literary, ornamental raillery and good humor, Malebranche begins his serious epistemological inquiry into the nature of ideas, which, after the rejection of four alternative hypotheses, culminates in the Vision in God. This investigation occurs in Part II of Book III (on the pure understanding) of the Recherche , and the whole discussion occupies no more than nineteen or twenty pages. Such scantiness for so weighty and difficult a topic seems perplexing. What does Malebranche mean by an 'idea'? And what by 'representative'? Is this a copy theory in sense perception, or is it one that is concerned with essences or universals, or is it both? It is therefore no wonder that Church calls Malebranche to task for this dogmatic brevity. Malebranche, however, is not entirely blameworthy.

Nowhere more than in his discussion on ideas is the influence of Augustine apparent, not only in the letter of the doctrine, but espe-

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