Die philophischen schriften von Gottfried Wilheim Leibniz, vol. III
C. I. Gerhardt (ed)
pp 587-588

Date: 7 February 1716

Translated from the French

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[G III p587]

     I come to the curious and important article that examines the nature of things, which you represent, Sir, as being able to be explained by the rectangle A, supposing that nature is always equally perfect, or by the ordinates of hyperbola B, supposing that perfection has been increasing for all eternity without there having been a beginning, and lastly following the hypothesis of the triangle C, supposing a beginning of things of which the perfection grows, forever increasing without ever being able to attain a complete perfection, although the result is the most perfect that is possible, because God always chooses the best possible.1 Here are some propositions which seem to me to be able to help clarify the question, supposing for their foundation the existence of God, and that he is a being that one must not confuse with, or include amongst those things that compose the Universe.
  1. The Universe is a collection of different beings, the number of which has no last term.
  2. Every determined number of relations makes the individuality of beings, and distinguishes between them.
  3. The life of these beings consists in a continual change of relations, which must necessarily have a connection, which is to say that they must naturally follow one from another, so that they never lose their numerical individuality.
  4. Suppose an entire change of relations without any connection, and the result is another being. Apply this change to a given sequence of beings, and it will result in a new Universe. And it is the idea of all these changes and of all these combinations in an infinity of given sequences, which produces in the divine understanding knowledge of all possibles.
  5. The possibility of all these sequences, or of all these worlds, proves that the wisdom of God made a choice, and necessarily supposes that the actual world was among the number of possibles, before receiving existence.

    [G III p588]

  6. The perfection of all beings that compose the Universe consists in the agreement of their reciprocal relations, which ultimately all tend to the same end.
  7. The end of all these relations is solely to represent the existence and attributes of God, principally his infinite power, wisdom and goodness.
  8. At any given time, all limited beings can only respond to a limited number of relations, which prevents them from being able to receive all possible perfection at the beginning.

Morges, 7 Feb. 1716


1. Bourguet is here referring to 3 hypotheses described by Leibniz in his letter of 5 August 1715, an English translation of which is to be found in Lloyd Strickland (ed.), The Shorter Leibniz Texts (London: Continuum, 2006), p198.

© Lloyd Strickland 2003
With gratitude to Elizabeth Vinestock for advice and suggestions