Person: Malebranche, Nicolas
Nicolas Malebranche was a major French philosopher and follower of Descartes whose ideas he developed to bring them more in line with standard Roman Catholic orthodox belief.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- Malebranche studied philosophy and theology at the Collège de la Marche from 1654 to 1656 and graduated Master of Arts.
- Malebranche went to the Sorbonne in Paris until 1659, again intending to make theology his life's work but he found it no more to his liking than he had before.
- De Bérulle was a friend of Descartes and by the time Malebranche studied at the Oratory its teaching were strongly based on Descartes' philosophy.
- In 1664 Malebranche was ordained a priest having studied ecclesiastical history, Hebrew and Biblical criticism.
- Malebranche read Descartes' Traité de l'homme and this turned him towards a study of mathematics and physics.
- Malebranche was also influenced by Leibniz who visited Paris in 1672.
- The two had many meetings when they discussed ideas both of philosophy and of mathematics and, in particular, Leibniz conveyed many of his ideas about his new calculus to Malebranche.
- Malebranche became professor of mathematics at the Congregation of the Oratory from 1674.
- Although Malebranche made no outstanding mathematical discoveries, he is of major importance in the development of mathematics since through him the work of Leibniz and Descartes in mathematics was spread and developed.
- One of Malebranche's direct contributions to mathematics was his editorial role in the publication of de L'Hôpital's Analyse des infiniment petits pour l'intelligence des lignes courbes.
- Malebranche also had a strong influence through his teaching, in particular he taught mathematics and physics to Privat de Molières and Reyneau.
- Malebranche is a major philosopher and follower of Descartes.
- At first Malebranche's ideas of the physical world followed closely those of Descartes and were based on a belief in a rational geometrical world.
- However Leibniz tried, with some success, to persuade Malebranche that the laws of motion were not entirely mathematical laws but were the consequence of God's creation.
- When it came to an understanding of force, Malebranche found great difficulties with the ideas of his fellow scientists.
- How did Malebranche explain force?
- Malebranche needed to have a more active role for God in his universe and he did this through his concept of force.
- Malebranche's most important work is the three volumes of De la recherche de la vérité (1674-75).
- Criticism of his work, in particular by Arnauld, led to Malebranche's publication of Traité de la nature et de la grâce (1680), which was banned by the Roman Catholic Church ten years later.
- Another important work is Entretiens sur la métaphysique et sur la religion (1688) in which Malebranche sets out in the clearest way his metaphysics and philosophy.
- Malebranche's other work includes research into the nature of light and colour, studies in the infinitesimal calculus and work on vision.
- What was the opinion of contemporary and later writers on Malebranche and his ideas?
- Malebranche was to have a strong influence on many who visited Paris while he and his disciples exerted a strong influence there.
- One who was strongly influenced was Berkeley who visited Paris in 1713 and met with Malebranche.
- Malebranche was taken ill in 1715 while staying at the house of a friend at Villeneuve- Saint- Georges.
Born 6 August 1638, Paris, France. Died 13 October 1715, Paris, France.
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Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive