Philosophical Review 107 (2):334 (1998)

Fred Ablondi
Hendrix College
While there has been a resurgence in Malebranche scholarship in the anglophone world over the last twenty years, most of it has focused on Malebranche’s theory of ideas, and little attention has been paid to his philosophy of mind. Schmaltz’s book thus comes as a welcome addition to the Malebranche literature; that he has given us such a well-researched and carefully argued study is even more welcome. The focus of this work is Malebranche’s split with Descartes on the question of our knowledge of the nature of the mind; the book concentrates specifically on Malebranche’s rejection of the claim that we know the nature of the mind better than we know the nature of body. Schmaltz maintains that Malebranche’s arguments for his position are, for the most part, successful against the Cartesians who opposed him, though he claims—and this is perhaps the central claim of the book—that “Malebranche took his negative thesis concerning our knowledge of the soul to involve not so much a rejection of Cartesianism as an internal correction of it”. While acknowledging that Augustine was “the primary inspiration for [Malebranche’s] view of the ideas that are the objects of perception”, Schmaltz’s interpretation of Malebranche’s theory of the soul “presents it as fundamentally Cartesian”. According to Schmaltz, not only is Malebranche closer to Descartes in this regard than is generally thought, he is closer to him than are many other Cartesians. Part 1 of the book examines Malebranche’s position that while we have certain knowledge of the soul’s existence, we have only confused knowledge of its nature. Part 2 focuses on Arnauld’s objection that if in fact we had no clear idea of the soul, we could not, despite Malebranche’s claims to the contrary, know anything of its immortality, spirituality, or freedom.
Keywords Analytic Philosophy  Contemporary Philosophy  General Interest
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ISBN(s) 0031-8108
DOI 10.2307/2998503
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Virtual Reflection: Antoine Arnauld on Descartes' Concept of Conscientia.Daniel Schmal - 2020 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 28 (4):714-734.

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