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A History of Philosophy in Epitome by Schwegler

Malebranche approached this consequence


Closely connected with this view of Geulincx, and at the same time a real consequence and a wider development of the Cartesian philosophizing, is the philosophic standpoint of _Nicolas Malebranche_. He was born at Paris in 1638, chosen a member of the "_Congregation de l'oratoire_" in his twenty-second year, won over to philosophy through the writings of Descartes, and died, after numerous feuds with theological opposers, in 1715.

Malebranche started with the Cartesian view of the relation between mind and matter. Both are strictly distinct from each other, and in their essence opposed. How now does the mind, (_i. e._ the Ego) gain a knowledge of the external world and have ideas of corporeal things? For it comes to know things only by means of ideas,--not through itself, not immediately. Now the mind can neither gain these ideas from itself, nor from the things themselves. Not from itself, for it is absolutely opposed to the bodily world, and hence has no capacity to idealize, to spiritualize material things, though they must become spiritualized before they can be introduced to the mind; in a word, the mind, which in relation to the material world is only an opposition, has no power to destroy this opposition. Just as little has the mind derived these ideas from things: for matter is not visible through itself, but rather as antithetic to mind is it that which is absolutely unintelligible, and which cannot be idealized, that which is absolutely

without light and clearness.--It only remains, therefore, that the mind beholds things in a third that stands above the opposition of the two, viz., God. God, as the absolute substance, is the absolute ideality, the infinite power to spiritualize all things. Material things have no real opposition for God, to him they are no impenetrable darkness, but an ideal existence; all things are in him spiritually and ideally; the whole world, as intellectual or ideal, is God. God is, therefore, the higher mean between the Ego and the external world. In him we behold ideas, we being so strictly united with him, that he may properly be called the place of minds.

The philosophy of Malebranche, whose simple thought is this, that we know and see all things in God,--shows itself, like the occasionalism of Geulincx, to be a peculiar attempt to stand upon the basis of the Cartesian philosophy, and with its fundamental thought to overcome its dualism.

3. Two defects or inner contradictions have manifested themselves in the philosophy of Descartes. He had considered mind and matter as substances, each one of which excluded the other from itself, and had sought a mediation of the two. But with such conditions no mediation other than an external one is possible. If thought and existence are each one substance, then can they only negate and exclude each other. Unnatural theories, like those which have been mentioned, are the inevitable result of this. The simplest way out of the difficulty is to give up the principle first assumed, to strip off their independence from the two opposites, and instead of regarding them as substances, view them as accidents of one substance. This way of escape is moreover indicated by a particular circumstance. According to Descartes, God is the infinite substance, the peculiar substance in the proper sense of the word. Mind and matter are indeed substances, but only in relation to each other; in relation to God they are dependent, and not substances. This is, strictly taken, a contradiction. The true consequence were rather to say that neither the Ego (_i. e._ the individual thinking) nor the material things are independent, but that this can be predicated only of the one substance, God; this substance alone has a real being, and all the being which belongs to individual essences these latter possess not as a substantial being, but only as accidents of the one only true and real substance. Malebranche approached this consequence. With him the bodily world is ideally at least resolved and made to sink in God, in whom are the eternal archetypes of all things. But _Spinoza_ has most decidedly and logically adopted this consequence, and affirmed the accidence of all individual being and the exclusive substantiality of God alone. His system is the perfection and the truth of the Cartesian.

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