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Nicolas Malebranche (6 August 1638 – 13 October 1715) was born in Paris, France. The philosopher and theologian was considered one of the most important thinkers of his time. Malebrasch was a pupil of René Descartes, whose works he read with passion. It eventually became one of the main driving forces behind episodism, a doctrine created by disciples of the French philosopher. Malebranche breathed new life into the doctrine to include ideas based on Augustineism.

According to this philosophy, body and mind are separate units, connected to each other by God’s intervention, also because for them the relationship between cause and effect is determined by God’s intervention, cause which becomes the cause of God’s action. His most remarkable works are The Search for the Truth (1674-1675) and Christian and Metaphysical Meditations (1683).

Early years

son of Nicolas Malebranche and Catherine de Luzon. His father was a prominent government official. Malebrasch was the last of the couple’s twelve children. In his early years he received a deep religious upbringing from his mother who influenced his personality, was thoughtful and collected. At that time he studied at La Marche and a few years later at the Sorbonne, where he studied theology and philosophy from 1656 to 1659.

Later he became interested in his religious vocation and joined the oratorio community as a novice, whose decision was probably influenced by his character and the loss of his parents at the beginning of the 16th century. During his novitiate Malebranche focused on meditation and spiritual development. After several years of quiet life, he was ordained a priest in September 1664.

After his consecration he devoted himself to the study of various subjects. A practice that follows the principles of the Oratory, a centre where religious leaders not only focus on their religious activities, but also carry out various studies on cultural and historical issues. The early studies of Malebranche focused on the history of Eastern languages and the history of the Fathers of the (patriotic) Church.

At the same time he became interested in the life and work of Saint Augustine, a religious figure about whom he wrote several books. In addition, he studies and interprets sacred texts, but these subjects do not seem to him to be passionate. On the contrary, that’s what happened to the work of Renee Descartes. After reading the Traité de l’Homme, he became interested in all the works of the French philosopher, who he studied in depth and analysed each work in detail. At that time he studied mathematics, physics and physiology. Based on these new results he analysed the work of Cartesian and Augustine.

Work of Nicholas Malebrance

The philosopher’s first book was The Quest for Truth (1674), a work in which Malebranche deepens the spirit, the relationship to the body and to God and emphasizes the importance of the relationship between the spirit and God. In this critique of pagan and Christian philosophers, because they did not deepen this relationship, he proposes the task for the philosophers to emphasize the bond between God and the Spirit, an idea related to episodic doctrine; after a while he published two more volumes of the book.

Two years later, he published the Conversations of the Christian (1676), then the Treatise on Nature and Grace (1680), a treatise he wrote after his conversations with Father Arnaud. This book deals with themes such as creation, incarnation, divine grace and human freedom. After its publication, it was strongly criticized for trying to solve the stubborn problems of religion by harmonizing the different concepts so that the divine plan and the way God deals with all things can be understood. Given the subject he was working on, he was quickly included in the index. In the following years he published the Treatise on Moral, Christian and Metaphysical Meditations (1683) and the Treatise on Metapsychology (1688).

In the late 1690s he wrote and published Entretiens sur la mort (1696), a book about conversations and ideas about the death of three people, one of whom felt that life was too short, the other that it was too long, and the last, more spiritual and conscious experience he had experienced raised the question that death only broadened our minds. This work is based on the almost fatal experience the philosopher had when he was seriously ill. A year later, he published a treatise on the love of God (1697) which, as its title suggests, speaks of the love of God and underlines how man is attracted to the love of God and how this brings happiness.

Two years later he was appointed honorary member of the French Academy of Sciences for his contribution to the development of mathematics. His latest work, The Conversation of the Christian Philosopher and the Chinese Philosopher (1708), is a book in which he deals with subjects such as the existence of God and his being from two angles. The work of this philosopher was criticized by several writers and religious personalities of the time, such as Father Arnaud, Jacques-Beninh Bosset, François Fénelon and others. The famous philosopher and man of religion died on the 13th. October 1715 in Paris.

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