Nicholas Malebranche’s Understanding of Bigli TheoryJune 27, 2021
Malebranche, definition, source, possibility of knowledge, etc. It deals with explanations that can be evaluated within the framework of classical problems of epistemology in a scattered way, but it is not difficult to reach explanations that can answer almost all of these questions.
We have stated that Malebranche’s doctrine of knowledge constitutes an important part of his effort to seek the truth. Let us now look at the philosopher’s definition of truth and its types in a little more detail. According to Malebranche, there are two kinds of truth; necessary and contingent truth. “Those that are unchangeable in nature and ordained by the will of God are necessary truths, all the rest are contingent truths. Mathematics, metaphysics, even physics and much of morality contain necessary truths. History, grammar, private law or customs and many other information based on the changing will of people include contingent truths” (1997/I: 35).
So, according to Malebranche, the absolute truth is God and what is in Him. Ultimately, there is only one truth to Malebranche. Philosophy on the way to achieve this means nothing more than a tool. It should be noted right away that Malebranche wants absolute belief in the uniqueness of the “truth” and advances his whole philosophy in this way. Then, according to Malebranche, necessary knowledge, which is a part of necessary truth, will definitely be in God. While conveying the meaning and types of truth for Malebranche, it was mentioned that the disciplines mentioned are contingent, and it was expressed that the information given by almost all disciplines, including the positive sciences such as mathematics and physics, is contingent for the individual.
In this case, according to Malebranche, two types of knowledge emerge, the first is the absolute, necessary knowledge of God, that is, “ideas”, and the other is the contingent knowledge that man has been given, that he can never be mistaken for and that he has obtained with his limited abilities. The discussions about the knowledge we will discuss here will naturally be related to the latter. Because the first is unique to God, its existence is certain and cannot be disputed.
While rationalist and idealist philosophers make it a prerequisite to accept the existence of innate ideas, empiricists, especially Locke, reject innate ideas completely (Locke 1996: 85–86).
Contrary to empiricism, which emphasizes the senses as the first source of knowledge, those who adopt the idealist point of view argue that real knowledge or “truth” is ideas, and this absolute knowledge, which has the feature of necessity, can only be found in God. The most striking distinction in Malebranche’s epistemology is that he did not limit knowledge to what is gained from experience. It is possible to clearly see that the philosopher, who successfully pursues the Cartesian understanding, which also offers solutions to the phenomena that are beyond the perception capacity of the senses, is also trying to establish soul-body communication in this section. It should be known from the beginning that the truth cannot be reached with the information obtained only through the senses. As will be explained later, the senses provide us with the first information, memory or imagination acquires new information with the help of the impressions obtained from it, but there is a big difference in degree between having such information and seeking the truth. Malebranche does not see sense knowledge, imagination, mental knowledge, and the soul, which has become prone to error by contacting the outside world, as an absolute source of knowledge. (1997/I: 41).
Malebranche’s method is apparently Descartes’ mathematical-physics method, and he expresses his admiration for this method at every opportunity (1997/VI: 310). Both the material world and the information about the spiritual world are explained by following a positive process.
For example, the senses are God-given faculties to harmonize man with the outside world, providing the knowledge materials of both the imagination and the soul. The soul also has a special place in Malebranche’s teaching of knowledge. The philosopher, who calls knowledge exactly what the soul perceives, is of the opinion that this knowledge reaches the soul in three ways. One of these means is the instant, the second is imagination, and the third is the senses. Through the mind, the soul fully perceives spiritual things, universals, general concepts, the idea of perfection, the idea of an infinitely perfect being, material things and space with its properties. Again, the soul perceives only material things through imagination. Malebranche says that the soul acts as a kind of memory. The soul creates instant images thanks to the material information it acquires, and makes them exist for itself even when the first examples are not present.
The soul enables the imagination to work with the help of uniting the near, separating the distant, that is, with the help of similarities and contradictions. In this process, shapes of all kinds can be visualized, whether foreseen or not, such as a circle, a triangle, a face, a horse, cities and countryside. Malebranche calls such perceptions imagination. Although the soul can make designs by forming images in the mind, it cannot imagine such things because the image of spiritual things has not been formed.