The Relationship Between the Concept of God and Ideas in Malebranche

Dissertation, The University of Memphis (2003)

Malebranche, like Descartes, is articulating a new metaphysics that takes the new physics as the base. Decartes's notion of extension is the driving point. Scholastic notions of how we know are repudiated, and the term ideas assumes a meaning that accommodates the new metaphysics. Malebranche, however, finding Descartes's account of ideas unsatisfactory, offers his own. This dissertation, therefore, explores two major topics that taken together mend the breach between mind and extension. These topics are, first, the concept of God as infinite; and second, ideas understood as entities in the mind of God, with a corresponding intentionality thesis. ;Malebranche, like Descartes, emphasizes the infinity of God. He has a proof for God's existence that he believes is a complement to Descartes's so-called ontological proof. Malebranche calls his proof the 'simple vue' since it is more immediate than Descartes's discursive proof. Malebranche thinks that his principle "nothing is not visible" is the foundation of Descartes's "whatever is clearly and distinctly perceived as belonging to a thing does belong to that thing." Malebranche thinks that his own principle gives him a privileged perception of the idea of the infinite. ;For Malebranche ideas are in God. This is his 'vision in God' thesis. Malebranche contrasts the finite with the infinite to show that ideas cannot be representations in finite minds. The ideas we have of things are instead what in God represents those things, whether physical things or eternal truths. He has already taken as his first principle that nothingness or the false cannot be perceived; it is not intelligible. But this principle is true only if ideas are necessary, immutable, divine. ;Intentionality is the relationship between perception and a really present entity. Sensations are blank events in the mind. They have no external reference. On the other hand, ideas are about something. Objective reality, reality in the mind, is the determinate content of ideas, which gives the perception intentionality. Nevertheless, neither the content nor the intentionality belongs to the mind. Instead, when the right sensations are experienced by the mind, the Infinite shares his ideas with the perceiver
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