Opera Omnia volume 5
Ludovic Dutens (ed)
pp 390-391

Date: January - April 1713

Translated from the Latin

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[D V, p390]

It is to be wished rather than hoped that there are wise men who are always guided only by the counsel of right reason. These things concern the idea of the best republic, which we envision in order that we might approach it as much as is possible. I greatly disapprove of the fact that in the work of distinguished men like Samuel Pufendorf, Christian Thomasius, and those who follow them, it is taught that the immortality of the soul, as well as punishments and rewards beyond this present life, are known through revelation alone. The Pythagoreans and Platonists understood this better. I have observed in a letter to Böhmer about Pufendorf's little book on duties,1 that this foundation of natural theology2 is evident to any populace which acknowledges divine providence and the consequences of it, even leaving aside metaphysical arguments, of which we have insuperable examples. [D V p391] A doctrine of morals, justice, and duties, which depends on the goods of this life alone, is very imperfect, as I have shown in the same letter. The doctrine of providence is useless without the immortality of the soul, and has no more power to obligate men than Epicurus' gods, which are devoid of providence. Accordingly, if God does not convey to us the principles from which we might learn of our immortality, natural theology is useless, and is of no use whatsoever against practical atheism. And it was possible for men to be atheists before revelation, since the divinity does not always avenge itself in this life. In order to uphold the immortality of the soul it is not necessary to say that the soul is a separate substance, for it could always remain clothed with a subtle body, such as I also attribute to angels. It remains to say, farewell, and think well of me. 1713


1. The letter in question was written in 1706, and is printed in Political Writings, trans. and ed. Patrick Riley (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2ed), 65-75.
2. In other words, the immortality of the soul.

© Lloyd Strickland 2016