Malebranche, Meditation 1

1.) A substance is what can be thought of without thinking about something else.

2.) Definition: the extended is the uniform, undifferentiated, infinite and spacial. It has parts outside of parts, is divisible, etc.

3.) We cannot think of roundness, elephants, particles, etc. without thinking about the extended, but we can think about the extended without any of these.

4.) Therefore, the extended is substance, all else in the physical world is not a substance.

5.) Therefore, in looking at the world by sense, we do not see its substance.

6a.) The relations between ideas are not the relations of extension (like left-right, up-down, inertial-accelerating)

7a.) Ideas are not of the physical world.

8a.) Ideas must exist in God. This is true of nothing in the world, even its substance.

9a.) Ideas are therefore necessary and eternal whereas the physical are not.

6b.) The substance of the world is invisible in itself. It is not what we look at when we open our eyes and see differentiation of color, texture, density, etc.

7b.) We would see the same beauties if they were produced within us without any realities outside of us. Thus beauty can be conceived of without the material world. Beauty is thus more substantial than the physical world.

8b.) Beauty is not of the substance of the world.

9b.) The intelligible world is more substantial than the physical world, as all of its reality can be present in ideas apart from the reality of the world.




  1. Will Farris said,

    February 10, 2016 at 4:10 pm

    Which edition is this?

    These statements appear to be a thorough-going platonistic Theory of Ideas with God added in a la Augustine.

    • February 10, 2016 at 5:31 pm

      I’m reading this translation with Phil. 11.

      The work is immediately based on Descartes, and Descartes is broadly but profoundly in the Franciscan tradition while clearly doing his own thing.

      • February 11, 2016 at 7:32 am

        Malebranche also Augustinianizes Descartes; he was an Oratorian and as such would have read quite a bit of Augustine (although mostly in digests and anthologies of excerpts rather than in the original), and, of course, he lived in the days of the Jansenist controversy, when Augustine was the most discussed theologian in France.

        One thing to be wary of in that particular version is that Bennett regularly downplays, cuts out, or paraphrases around Malebranche’s Catholic terminology — a small but good example of this is the fact that Bennett consistently refuses to capitalize Reason, by which Malebranche always means the Divine Logos, or do anything to indicate that Malebranche explicitly uses terms from Trinitarian theology to talk about it.

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