The Ontological Foundations of Nicholas Malebranche’s Philosophy of BigliJune 27, 2021
The effort of “analyzing things according to their origins and sources”, which is the main problem of philosophical ontology, is the primary method that almost every system philosopher is interested in.
Malebranche also tries to solve this issue by first dealing with the matter-substance harmony that Descartes left incomplete. This subject is included in the part of the philosopher’s philosophy on the senses. Here, the relationship of the soul with the bodies and God is discussed, the nature of all human faculties, the tendency to err and the points to be considered in order to avoid mistakes are shown; In a sense, the structure of the human being is discussed.
According to Malebranche, “the most beautiful, most pleasant and most necessary of all our knowledge is science that introduces us to ourselves, that is, belongs to more people, informs and teaches people. However, this science is neither the most advanced nor the most mature of the sciences at our disposal” (Malebranche 1997/I: xxxvii).
The priority that Malebranche gives to getting to know the person stems from his belief that this issue has been neglected. Because people do not make enough effort to know themselves. However, it is impossible to achieve an efficient result without knowing the person.
The reason why Malebranche considers the subject so important is that it is related to the problem of how this entity, which contains two separate substances such as matter and spirit, can reconcile these two different characteristics, which he strives to solve. The problems of the Cartesian school in general, and Malebranche in particular, the ontological problem between spirit and matter, soul and body; the relationship between the soul and God, the absolute power of God, the problem of human freedom; It is also possible to summarize it as a moral problem, which is somehow connected with this result.
Weber summarizes this problem or problems that Malebranche had to solve: “To solve the first, it was necessary to reconcile reasoning with experiment. When we look at the facts alone, sensation is undoubtedly the effect of the body on the soul, the effect that the soul receives from matter. Voluntary movement is undoubtedly also the effect of the soul on the body. We are under the influence of the substance, we affect it. So there is a close connection between these two substances. But when we compare this result of observation with Descartes’ dualist metaphysics, the Cartesians get lost in insoluble difficulties, they arrive at an insoluble mystery” (Weber 1993: 223) Although reconciling material substance, spiritual substance and God substance with each other, it is not possible to explain it in a positive way. Although the difficulty is obvious, it does not seem like a big problem for Malebranche. For according to him, God’s word and human reason are one; It is a mistake to think that these are different things. With a transfer from Augustine, God immediately establishes the harmony between the soul and the body (skin), Malebranche (1997/I: xxxıı) In this hierarchy, God comes first, then the soul, and thirdly the body.
Malebranche shows the concept of “truth” in a very broad sense and as a goal to be achieved. He states that the real purpose of his related work, in which he presents the method of searching for truth, is the promotion of the human spirit (ibid., xxxiv).
According to Malebranche, “man’s soul is undoubtedly a simple substance, since it is not at all material and extended. This substance is indivisible, and there is no combination of parts in this substance.” Now it’s time to establish the relationship of these two abstract concepts with concrete reality. First of all, the concepts related to these two faculties and the concepts obtained through them are not clear enough and it is difficult to relate them to the material world. Since the material world is related to the senses, it is easy to understand and express these entities with concepts. However, Malebranche warns against the idea that spirit and matter are completely compatible with each other. The thinker states that there is nothing more natural than the union of spirit or matter with their creator, the “highest being”. The problem is easily solved by the “belief” that they all come from a common principle! Malebranche, who achieved this harmony, also confirms Augustine’s idea that the soul attains a lower level after merging with the body, and that the primary cause of all human mistakes and misery is the union of the soul with the body (1997: XIX).
While explaining the subject of “original sin”, Malebranche also talks about the union of soul and skin and the place where they meet, but does not explain where this junction is (ibid., 45).
For Malebranche, the solution is summarized in one sentence: “We see all things in God”, that is, “all things are in God” (1997/III: 91). “God is the spiritual universe as the material universe is the place of bodies” (ibid., 107).
Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy D