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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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Vision in God

(p.81) 5 Malebranche
The Light of the Soul

Nicholas Jolley (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

In the first part of this chapter, I shall argue that Malebranche takes over three central doctrines from Descartes and transforms at least two of them; when they are combined, the result is vision in God. The three central doctrines are the distinction between primary and secondary qualities; the representative theory of perception; and the conclusion of the wax meditation—the thesis that bodies are perceived through the intellect, not the senses. In the second half of the chapter, I shall show how Malebranche uses Cartesian innovations to extend Augustine's theory of divine illumination. With the help of Descartes's teaching, Malebranche is able to argue that we can see bodies—changing and corruptible things—in God, without falling foul of divine immutability. In this way, he can overcome Augustine's scruples about the theological dangers of seeking to extend his theory of divine illumination.

Keywords:   Augustine, Descartes, dispositional properties, divine, Gueroult, illumination, immutability, perception, primary and secondary qualities, vision in God, wax, Bernard Williams

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