Nicolas Malebranche  

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Nicolas Malebranche (August 6, 1638October 13, 1715) was a rationalist French Philosopher. In his works, he sought to synthesize the thought of St. Augustine and Descartes in order to demonstrate the active role of God in every aspect of the world. Malebranche is most famous for his doctrines of vision in God and occasionalism. A believer of God, some of his works were nevertheless placed on The Index.



  • 1638 - Born in Paris to Nicolas Malebranche and Catherine de Lauzon.
  • 1654 - Enters Collège de la Marche and later the Sorbonne to study philosophy and theology.
  • 1660 - Ordained as a member of the Augustinian Oratory.
  • 1664 - First reads Descartes' Treatise on Man and spends the next ten years studying philosophy.
  • 1674-75 - Publishes The Search After Truth.
  • 1678 - Adds Elucidations to new edition of the Search.
  • 1680 - Publishes Treatise Of Nature And Grace.
  • 1683 - Publishes Christian and Metaphysical Meditations. Arnauld publishes On True And False Ideas, the opening salvo in their dispute.
  • 1684 - Publishes Treatise On Ethics.
  • 1688 - Publishes Dialogues On Metaphysics And Religion.
  • 1690 - Treatise Of Nature And Grace is placed on the Index of Prohibited Books.
  • 1694 - Death of Arnauld.
  • 1708—Publishes Dialogue Between A Christian Philosopher And A Chinese Philosopher.
  • 1709 - The Search After Truth is also placed on the Index.
  • 1713-14 - Correspondence with Dortous de Mairan on Spinozism.
  • 1715 - Malebranche dies.


Works of Malebranche in English

  • The Search after Truth and Elucidations, eds. Thomas M. Lennon and Paul J. Olscamp. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997). First published, with Philosophical Commentary, by Ohio State University Press, 1980).
  • Dialogues on Metaphysics and Religion, eds. Nicholas Jolley and David Scott. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997). Supersedes 1923 translation by Morris Ginsberg.
  • Treatise on Nature and Grace, tr. Patrick Riley. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992).
  • Philosophical Selections, ed. Steven Nadler. (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1992). Contains selections (some in alternative translations) from above three works.
  • Treatise on Ethics, tr. Craig Walton. (Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1993).
  • Dialogue between a Christian Philosopher and a Chinese Philosopher on the Existence and Nature of God, tr. Dominick A. Iorio. (University Press of America, 1980).
  • Correspondence with Dortous de Mairan, in Malebranche's First and Last Critics, tr. Richard A. Watson and Marjorie Grene. (Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1995).

The Thomas Taylor translation of the Search (1694; second edition 1700) includes material not contained in the Lennon and Olscamp edition (which is based on the 1712 version of the text). It is bound with Malebranche's Defence against the Accusation of M. de la Ville, which has not been available in English at all since the seventeenth century. The Treatise of Nature and Grace is also included in the same volume. Rival translations of all three of these works were also published by Richard Sault in 1694-95. In addition, the Conversations chrétiennes were translated in 1695 as Christian Conferences... to which is added, Meditations on Humility and Repentance: this work has also been unavailable in English since the seventeenth century.

The standard edition of Malebranche's works in French is the Oeuvres Complètes, ed. André Robinet, twenty volumes (Paris: J. Vrin, 1958–78).

Secondary Works

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