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Antoine Arnauld – On True and False Ideas, 1683

Des vrayes et des fausses idées, contre ce qu'enseigne l'auteur de la recherche de la vérité. Cologne: Nicolas Schouten, 1683.

First edition of Arnauld’s famous critique of Malebranche’s Recherche de la vérité (1674), and in particular its account of ‘ideas’ in perception and cognition. The eponymous fausses idées are Malebranche’s êtres répresentatifs – his entities present to the mind but metaphysically distinct from it. These entities, insists Arnauld, are chimeras: true ideas are simply acts of the mind, not any kind of mediatory objects somehow present to it. The book also attacks Malebranche’s theory of intelligible extension, his doctrine of the Vision in God, his views on reflexive knowledge of one’s own soul, and his position on the demonstrability of the existence of the external world. This was Arnauld’s opening salvo in his dispute with Malebranche that was to last more than twenty years. It was the most vicious and protracted quarrel in the history of early modern philosophy.

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