Graduate studies at Western
British Journal for the History of Philosophy 8 (1):21 – 53 (2000)
|Abstract||'God needs no instruments to act', Malebranche writes in Search 6.2.3; 'it suffices that He wills in order that a thing be, because it is a contradiction that He should will and that what He wills should not happen. Therefore, His power is His will' (450). After nearly identical language in Treatise 1.12, Malebranche writes that '[God's] wills are necessarily efficacious ... [H]is power differs not at all from [H]is will' (116). God's causal power, here, clearly traces only to His volitions - not merely to the fact that He wills, but specifically to the content of His volitions ('"what" He wills'). Yet despite the obviously key role the ordinary notion of volitional content plays for Malebranche, recent writers have paid surprisingly little attention either to it or its exegetical implications. I hope to rectify this situation here. The plan of this paper is this: first, to borrow current work in the philosophy of mind to sketch the notion of an incomplete volition, i.e. one whose content is 'incomplete' in a sense to be explained; second, to show that Malebranche clearly allows and uses something like this notion; third, to apply the notion to Malebranche's doctrine of human freedom. In so doing, I believe, we can understand this doctrine in a new way, and one which: (i) is clearly consistent with his texts, and (ii) unlike other interpretations makes coherent sense out of the conflicting streams in his heroic attempt to reconcile his occasionalism - the doctrine that no finite substances have genuine causal powers - with our freedom; fourth, Contrast my interpretation with those of two recent writers: Sleigh et al. (1998) and Schmaltz (1996); and Fifth, Summarize the major results.|
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