Religious Studies

Malebranche's natural theodicy and the incompleteness of God's volitions

a1 Department of Philosophy, Kenyon College, Gambier, OH 43022–9623


The causal power of Malebranche's God is a function of the content of His will. Yet despite its significance for Malebranche, little exegetical attention has been paid to his notion of volitional content. In this paper I develop the notion of an ‘incomplete’ volition, note that Malebranche accepted and used something like it, and then examine Malebranche's natural theodicy in its light. This yields a new interpretation in which, unlike previous interpretations, Malebranche actually succeeds in reconciling his seemingly incompatible beliefs that: (1) God alone is causally responsible for all natural states of affairs; (2) God's power is His will; (3) God wills to produce only goods; and yet (4) genuine evils exist.