Malebranche and Descartes on Method: Psychologism, Free Will, and Doubt


  • David Scott

    1. University of Victoria
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      David Scott is Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Victoria (since 1999). He earned his PhD at the University of Reading (1993). He has held appointments at Memorial University, University of Reading, and Gonzaga University. His interests include early modern philosophy, philosophy of mind, and metaphysics. He has a translation of Malebranche's Dialogues on Metaphysics (1997) and is the author of On Malebranche (2001). His articles on early modern philosophy have appeared in The Southern Journal of Philosophy, British Journal for the History of Philosophy, Journal of the History of Ideas, and Journal of the History of Philosophy.


The subject of this paper is Malebranche's relation to Descartes on the question of method. Using recent commentary as a springboard, it examines whether Malebranche advances a nonpsychologistic account of method, in contrast to the psychologism typically thought to characterize the Cartesian view. I explore this question with respect to two issues of central importance to method generally: doubt and free will. My argument is that, despite superficial differences of emphasis, Descartes and Malebranche adopt positions on doubt and free will that effectively ensure that their respective accounts of method are substantially the same.