Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Only Darkness by Himself

Man is only darkness by himself. It is not that he produces in himself the ideas by which he perceives all things, for he is not his own light. And Philosophy teaches me that the objects cannot form in the mind the ideas that they represent, that it must be recognized that there is nothing but God that can enlighten us. He is the great Son who penetrates all, and who fills all with his light. He is the great teacher who instructs all those who come into this world; it is in Him that we see all that we see, and that we are able to see all that which we are capable of seeing: because God contains the ideas or the resemblances of all beings, and being in him as we are, "in ipso enim vivimus, movemur, et sumus," we see in Him, or we are able to see in Him all beings successively. Finally, He is the intelligible world in which minds exist, and in which they perceive the material world that is neither visible, nor intelligible by itself.

This is from Malebranche, Méditations pour se disposer a l'humilité et a la pénitence (1676) in the Oeuvres Complètes 17(1):393-394. My (rough) translation. This is the least depressing of the Considerations, which are reflections on various issues that are supposed to incline us to humility and penitence. I have translated it here because I've never seen it translated before and it has relevance to the philosophical issues that are most discussed in Malebranche scholarship. The Latin phrase, of course, is from Acts 17:8, which is perhaps the most quoted Bible verse in early modern philosophical literature.

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