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The Light of the SoulTheories of Ideas in Leibniz, Malebranche, and Descartes$
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Nicholas Jolley

Print publication date: 1998

Print ISBN-13: 9780198238195

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0198238193.001.0001

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The Theory of Ideas

(p.55) 4 Malebranche
The Light of the Soul

Nicholas Jolley (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Malebranche holds that the Cartesian doctrine of ideas not merely conflates logic and psychology, but it thereby opens the door to scepticism and to a voluntarist theory of the eternal truths, which Malebranche regards as both incoherent in itself and dangerous in ethics. We shall see, then, how Malebranche attempts to solve these problems by means of his theory of ideas. We shall also examine the difficulties raised by Malebranche's insistence on locating ideas in God. Since Malebranche locates all ideas in God, there is a sense in which all mental activity involving ideas might be described as ‘vision in God’, but the term ‘vision in God’ may also be taken in a narrower sense to denote Malebranche's theory of visual perception. However, in the present chapter, we shall be concerned with his theory of ideas in general and conclude that, for Malebranche, the Cartesian mind is altogether too godlike; in spite of Descartes's assurances that all knowledge depends on God, the Cartesian mind is really ‘a light to itself’.

Keywords:   Arnauld, Descartes, eternal truths, formal reality, Gueroult, Malebranche, objective reality, psychologism, representational content, scepticism, vision in God, voluntarism

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