Hume, Malebranche and 'rationalism'

Philosophy 83 (3):311-332 (2008)
Abstract
Traditionally Hume is seen as offering an 'empiricist' critique of 'rationalism'. This view is often illustrated -- or rejected -- by comparing Hume's views with those of Descartes'. However the textual evidence shows that Hume's most sustained engagement with a canonical 'rationalist' is with Nicolas Malebranche. The author shows that the fundamental differences (among the many similarities) between the two on the self and causal power do indeed rest on a principled distinction between 'rationalism' and 'empiricism', and that there is some truth in the traditional story. This, however, is very far from saying that Hume's general orientation is an attack on something called 'rationalism'
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