Order, Laws and Divine Volitions: Malebranche’s Occasionalism and the Problem of Miracles

  • Steven Nadler University of Winsconsin-Madison
Keywords: Malebranche, Miracles, God, Volitions, Order


Malebranche’s definition of a miracle as an event brought about by a particular volition in God – a volition that is not in accordance with any law – combined with his account of God’s mode of action, which is always through general volitions (that is, volitions that are in accordance with some law), seem to rule out the possibility of miracles. Many of the “miraculous” events of the Hebrew Bible, then, do not qualify as true miracles, because God brings them about as a result of the laws of angelic motion or the laws of grace. Even those rare events that are exceptions to all the laws created by God, and thus which seem to be miracles in a strict sense, appear to follow from a yet higher law, which Malebranche calls “Order”. Thus, Malebranche’s philosophical system seems to rule out any truly particular volitions whatsoever, and, thereby, miracles.