- Spinoza-Malebranche: à la croisée des interprétations ed. by Raffaele Carbone, et al
This collection includes material from the international conference, “Spinoza-Malebranche,” held in 2015, first at the Université Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne and subsequently at the École Normale Supérieure in Lyon. The justification for the volume, as indicated in Chantel Jaquet’s preface (see 9 and 11–12), is that the relations between Spinoza and Malebranche have not recently drawn the sort of attention from scholars that the relations of each to Descartes have received. Of course, there is the question of why the former relations are worthy of investigation, a question that is perhaps not as pressing in the case of the relations that Spinoza and Malebranche each bear to Descartes. I return to this “why” question in brief closing remarks.
Following Jaquet’s preface and an introductory essay from Raffaele Carbone, the first part of this collection, “From Ontology to Politics,” is devoted to conceptual relations among the views in Spinoza and Malebranche on a range issues. These issues include some with respect to which the two are seldom compared in the literature (see especially the last two essays in this section). The first part comprises the following (here, as elsewhere, translations of titles are my own): Pierre-François Moreau’s “On the Brink of the Precipice: Dortous de Mairan between Malebranche and Spinoza”; Cristina Santinellis’s “Mos geometricus and Attention after Descartes: Spinoza, Malebranche and the Method of Philosophy”; Éric Marquer’s “Spinoza and Malebranche on Consciousness and the Imagination”; Dániel Schmal’s “The Concept of Representation in Malebranche and Spinoza”; Francesco Toto’s “Humility and Penitence in Malebranche and Spinoza: Theological Roots of an Ethical Difference”; and Carbone’s “Passions and Civil Society in Spinoza and Malebranche.”
The second part of the volume, “Intersecting Receptions,” concerns evaluations and appropriations of Spinoza and Malebranche in the work of others. This part consists in the following essays: Antonella Del Prete’s “Malebranche-Spinoza, Round-Trip: The Polemical Course of Pierre-Sylvain Régis”; Marine Picon’s “Idea and Intellection: The Formation of the Leibnizian Noetic between Spinoza and Malebranche”; Gianni Paganini’s “The Heterodox Malebranchism of the Clandestines Challe and Du Marsais”; Laetitia Simonetta’s “The Condillacian Reception of Malebranche and Spinoza”; and Sophie Bergont’s “Hume in ‘Fairyland’: The Destiny of Malebranchean Occasionalism in Humean Philosophy.” The volume closes with Moreau’s postscript, “Concerning an Epistemology of the Confrontation between Philosophies.”
As is typical for collections drawn from conferences, certain essays do not completely fit the overall theme, and there are problems with evenness of the coverage. The most obvious illustrations of lack of fit are the essays from the second part by Paganini and Bergont, both of which focus on early modern receptions of Malebranche and offer only passing mentions of Spinoza. To be sure, there is something of value in these essays. Indeed, I found to be particularly intriguing Paganini’s discussion of selective uses of Malebranche in certain protodeist tracts. It is just that such a discussion does not contribute much to the consideration of the ways in which receptions of Malebranche intersect with those of Spinoza.
With respect to evenness of coverage, the first part is dominated by issues in psychology (attention, consciousness, imagination, ideas, representation), with no treatment of certain [End Page 170] other important intersecting issues in ontology (e.g. causation and miracles). Related to this latter point is the fact that there is no discussion in the second part of Leibniz’s charge that Malebranche’s occasionalism leads to Spinozism. Picon’s essay on the Leibniz reception focuses rather on epistemological issues, where the connection to Spinoza is, by the author’s own admission (see 192–93), somewhat attenuated. Moreover, though some of the essays mention the ways in which Arnauld invokes Spinoza in his critique of Malebranche, it would have been helpful for the volume to include an essay devoted to the Arnauld...