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American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly

Volume 93, Issue 3, Summer 2019

Julie Walsh, Eric Stencil
Pages 497-526
DOI: 10.5840/acpq2019521183

The Protestant and the Pelagian
Arnauld and Malebranche on Grace and Power

One of the longest and most acrimonious polemics in the history of philosophy is between Antoine Arnauld and Nicolas Malebranche. Their central disagreements are over the nature of ideas, theodicy, and—the topic of this paper—grace. We offer the most in-depth English-language treatment of their discussion of grace to date. Our focus is one particular aspect of the polemic: the power of finite agents to assent to grace. We defend two theses. First, we show that as the debate progresses, the differences between Arnauld and Malebranche become, surprisingly, less pronounced—despite mutual accusations of Pelagianism and Calvinism. Our second thesis is developed to explain the outcome of the first. We argue that the employment of different methodologies to interrogate the relationship between efficacious grace and human power prohibits any possibility of reconciliation between Arnauld and Malebranche.