The Theory of Ideas
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’.
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