All of the essays Nadler has assembled are by well-known scholars, and all are worthwhile. The first point to make is that occasionalism—the view that God is the only true cause, and that finite substances lack all true causal power—was neither silly, nor was Malebranche its only proponent. As Nadler's own essay makes clear, the doctrine or variations thereof has roots in medieval philosophy as well as in Descartes, and was favored by other Cartesians preceding Malebranche, such as Cordemoy, la Forge, Geulincx, and Clauberg; further, Malebranche offered numerous distinct arguments for it, and, as evidenced in essays by Schmaltz, Rutherford, Kremer, and Riley, intended it to fit with his other metaphysical views in a complete and coherent system.
Even if, as some of these same authors suggest, Malebranche failed to get everything to fit quite right, it's at least clear that the oft-raised charge that occasionalism was merely an ad hoc solution to the Cartesian mind-body problem is unjustified. There is of course room to disagree with certain details here: I've argued elsewhere, for example against Nadler, that despite evidence to the contrary Malebranche does not invoke continuous creation as an argument for occasionalism, and, in effect, against Kremer, that Malebranche can succeed in reconciling occasionalism and his conception of free will.
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But then the fact that scholars can disagree on points such as these is precisely evidence that Malebranche is a rich subject of study. Different essays have different virtues. Some are especially strong in philosophical analysis. Schmaltz provides penetrating analyses of Malebranche's doctrine that we see [End Page ] all things "in God" as well as of related issues such as the distinction between the intellectual and the sensible , and also traces their roots in or ramifications for thinkers such as Augustine, Descartes, Arnauld, and Regis; Kremer, too, does an impressive job disentangling the many discrete threads in Malebranche's theory of free will.
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Essays by Moreau and Riley are particularly useful for their overview or synthetic nature: Moreau presents the many points of contention in the decades-long dispute between Malebranche and Arnauld, while Riley makes explicit the implications that many of the doctrines discussed by other contributors have for Malebranche's moral theory in the process perhaps implicitly supporting the claim that Malebranche's moral theory may be essential for understanding his metaphysics.
Brown's and Robinet's contributions, the former detailing Malebranche's positive influence on or critical reception by figures such as Locke, Leibniz, Berkeley, Hume, and Reid, the latter focusing on disputes between Malebranche, Arnauld, and Leibniz, are essential for those interested as all should be in working Malebranche into standard undergraduate courses on modern philosophy, and will also be Access options available:.
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