Malebranche's Rhetoric of the Incarnation
The gift of speech is the greatest talent, the language of the imagination is the surest of instruments, and a memory well-stocked with incomprehensible terms will always make its appearance with more brilliance, whatever the Cartesians say.
Le don cle la parole est le plus grand des talents, le langage d'imagination est le plus sûr des moyens et une mémoire remplie de termes incompréhensibles paraîtra toujours avecé clat, quoique les Cartésiens en puissent dire.
The Oratorian Nicolas Malebranche immediately established his reputation for hostility toward rhetoric in his first published work. The second book of La Recherche de la vérité ( 1674) indicts the imagination as a source of error. As examples of "the contagious communication of strong imaginations" ("la communication contagieuse des imaginations fortes"),1 the power of speakers with vivid imaginations to persuade an uncritical audience, he cites Tertullian, Seneca, and Montaigne. These three authors represent strikingly divergent styles of eloquence, but all enjoyed popularity in the seventeenth century for their treatment of moral and religious questions. Tertullian was popular among preachers, Seneca epitomized the neo-stoic revival, and Mon