Yves Belaval (ed)
Sämtliche schriften und briefe series VI volume 3
Deutsche Akademie der Wissenschaften (ed)
Date: autumn 1672 - winter 1672/3?
Translated from the Latin
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MIND, BODY AND SOUL
FREE WILL AND NECESSITY
POLITICS, LAW AND ETHICS
LEIBNIZ: THE PHILOSOPHER'S CONFESSION
[Bel p24] [A VI 3, p116]
THE THEOLOGIAN AS CATECHIST - Not long ago we spoke adequately, and more than adequately, about the immortality of the mind and the necessity of the Governor in the world. If you continue to satisfy me in such a way you will greatly lessen my task of instructing you. Today let us address the thorny matter of God's justice, for there is nothing more frequently or speciously opposed to providence than the disorder of things. I would like you to prepare this matter with the assistance of right reason, and polish it, as it were, so that when I bring the light of the revelations to it, souls should be struck by a purer reflection of their rays.
THE PHILOSOPHER AS CATECHUMEN - The condition pleases me, and it will be fruitful to both sides. But you begin the questioning.
THEOLOGIAN - Then let us seize the heart of the matter: do you believe that God is just?
PHILOSOPHER - Yes I believe it, in fact I know it.
TH - What do you call 'God'?
PH - A substance that is omniscient and omnipotent.
TH - And what is it 'to be just'?
PH - Just is he who loves everybody.
TH - But what is to love?
PH - To be delighted by the happiness of another.
TH - What is it to be delighted?
PH - To experience harmony.
TH - Finally, what is harmony?
PH - Similarity in variety, i.e., diversity compensated by identity.
TH - Assuming your definition, it seems necessary that God, if he is just, loves everybody.
PH - Yes, certainly.
TH - But you know that many people have denied this?
PH - It is denied by some great men, but also sometimes affirmed by the same men using a different meaning of words.
TH - We shall talk about this next, perhaps; for now I am eager to see what argument you will use.
PH - It will be taken from the responses given by us both. Is it not conceded that God is omniscient?
TH - What of it?
PH - Therefore there will be no harmony in any conceivable thing without him continually knowing of it.
TH - That is so.
PH - Moreover, all happiness is harmonic or beautiful?
TH - I agree.
PH - I shall prove this so that others cannot deny it. Happiness does not exist except in minds?
TH - Correct, for no one is happy unless he knows himself to be so (You know the following: O fortunatos nimium, bona si sua norint!)1 Whatever is aware of its own state is a mind. Therefore nobody is happy unless he is a mind.
PH - Well concluded. But happiness is evidently a state of mind most pleasing to the mind itself, but nothing is pleasing to the mind besides harmony.
TH - Doubtless that is so, since only a little earlier we agreed that to be delighted is nothing more than to experience harmony.
PH - Happiness will therefore consist of a state of mind which is as [Bel p28] harmonic as possible. The nature of the mind is to think. Therefore, the harmony of the mind will consist in thinking about [A VI 3, p117] harmony, and the greatest harmony of the mind, or happiness, will consist in concentration of universal harmony, i.e. of God, in the mind.
TH - Splendid! For it is proved at the same time that happiness of the mind and the contemplation of God are the same.
PH - I have therefore proved what I supposed, that all happiness is harmonic.
TH - Now it is time for you to finish your proof, that God loves everybody.
PH - Consider it done. If all happiness is harmonic (as demonstrated), and all harmony is known to God (by the definition of God), and all experience of harmony is a delight (by the definition of delight), the consequence is that all happiness is pleasing to God. Therefore (by the definition of love assumed a little earlier) God loves everybody, and hence (by the definition of just put forward) God is just.
TH - The proof lacks very little, and I say you have demonstrated it. And certainly I believe that no one, even those who have denied universal grace, will say otherwise, provided they have understood the words the way you used them, which did not differ from their ordinary usage.
PH - This, I think, can be deduced from their own opinion. For when they say that God only loves the elect, they show sufficiently that he loved some before others (for that is to elect), and hence since they cannot all be saved (by reason of the universal harmony of things, just as a painting is distinguished by shades, and concord by dissonance), there are some less loved, who have been rejected, not in fact by God willing it (for God does not will the death of the sinner), but by him permitting it when the nature of things required it. Consequently, when it is said that God loved one and hated another the sense is that he loved the latter less and hence rejected him since not all can be among the elect. However just as a 'lesser good' sometimes assumes the way of evil, so in the clash of two loves the 'lesser love' can be said [Bel p30] to assume the way of hatred, though such speech is less regular. But this is not the place to determine why God loves one before the other.
TH - On the contrary, it is from here in fact that the chief difficulties originate, so consider how you could solve them with the same good fortune.
PH - What are the difficulties?
TH - Take the important ones. If God is delighted by the happiness of everybody, why has he not made everybody happy? If he loves everybody, how is it he damns so many? If he is just, how is it he shows himself to be so unfair that from the matter by which all are equal, from the same clay, he fashions some vessels for honour and others for dishonour?2 And how is he not the patron of sin if, knowing about it (since he could eliminate it from the world), he admitted or tolerated it? Indeed, how is he not the author of sin if he created everything in such a way that sin would follow from it? And what of free-will if one assumes the necessity of sinning, what of the justice of punishment if free will is removed? What of the justice of the reward, if grace is the only factor that distinguishes some from others? Finally, if God is the ultimate reason for things, what do we ascribe to men, what to devils?
[A VI 3, p118]
PH - You overwhelm me with both the multitude and weight of the difficulties.
TH - Then let us proceed in a more precise way.3 Do you not accept, before all else, that nothing exists without a reason?
PH - I grant this to such a extent that I believe it can be demonstrated that nothing ever exists without it being possible (at least for one who is omniscient) to assign a sufficient reason why it exists rather than not, and why it is thus rather than otherwise. Whoever denies this overturns the distinction between being itself, and non-being. Whatever exists will certainly have all the requisites for existing. But all the requisites for existing taken together are the sufficient reason for existing. Therefore whatever exists has a sufficient reason for existing.
TH - I do not have anything to say against this demonstration, or rather against this opinion and, what is more, practice, of mankind. For all [Bel p32] men, when they experience something, especially if it is unfamiliar to them, ask why: that is, for the reason and either the efficient cause or, if the author is rational, the final cause. From that cur [why] originated the words curae [concern] and curiositas [curiosity], just as quaerere [to ask] is from quis quaeve [who or what]. And when a reason has been given, if they have time for it, or it seems to be worth the effort, they seek the reason of the reason until either as philosophers they come up with a clear reason which is necessary, i.e. is its own reason, or as ordinary people they come up with a reason which is common and already familiar to them, whereby they stop.
PH - It is entirely so, indeed, it is necessary that it is so, otherwise the foundations of sciences will be shattered. For just as the whole is greater than the part is the first principle of Arithmetic and of Geometry, i.e. of the sciences of quantity, so nothing is without a reason is the foundation of physics and morals, sciences of quality, or what is the same (since quality is nothing other than power of acting and suffering) the sciences of action, thought and motion. And you will acknowledge to me without risk that not even the smallest and easiest theorem of physics or morals can be demonstrated unless you assume this proposition: moreover the existence of God is dependant solely on it.
TH - Therefore you grant that nothing exists without a reason?
PH - Why would I not grant that, even though I do not see where this painstaking confirmation of such a clear proposition is headed.
TH - Pay attention for a short while, you will see clearly enough what knotty chain of difficulties is bound up with it. Here, for instance: Judas is damned.
PH - Who does not know that?
TH - Was it not on account of a reason?
PH - Please do not ask for what you know I granted a little while ago.
TH - So what is the reason?
PH - I think the state of he who was dying - namely the hatred of God which was burning in him when he died, in which consists the nature of despair. [A VI 3, p119] This [Bel p34] is sufficient for damnation however. For since the soul is not open4 to new external sensations from the moment of death until it is returned to the body, it perseveres5 only with its last thoughts, from which it does not stray, but increases the state it was in at death. From the hatred of God, i.e. the happiest of beings, follows the greatest pain, for hatred is to feel pain at another's happiness (just as to love is to delight in the happiness of the beloved), therefore the greatest pain arises from hatred of the greatest happiness. The greatest pain is misery or damnation. Thus he who hates God when dying damns himself.
TH - But from where in him does this hatred of God come, i.e. this wish or will to harm God?
PH - From nowhere except his belief of God's malevolence or hatred towards him. For thus is established the wonderful secret of providence that God will only harm those who are slavishly afraid of him or presume that he is going to harm them,6 when conversely, whoever firmly believes that he is elected, or is dear to God, he (because he resolutely loves God) causes himself to be elected.7
TH - Why did he believe that God wills him harm?
PH - Because he knew he was rebellious, he believed God was a tyrant; because he knew he had fallen he believed God would not relieve him; because he knew he was guilty he believed God was unmerciful; because he knew he was wretched he believed God was unjust.
TH - A quicker way to say it would have been to say that Judas was at the same time both penitent and desperate. But from where did this state of his soul originate?
PH - I see you [A VI 3, p120] are going to ask questions without end. He was penitent because of his own conscience, desperate because of his ignorance of God: he knew he had sinned, so he believed God was going to punish him. He knew [Bel p36] he had sinned because God had endowed him with a mind and because it was true. He had sinned in betraying his Master because he had been willing and able to do so. His being able, God had allowed. He willed it because he thought it good.
TH - But why did he think good what was evil? Likewise, why did he despair at the discovery of his error?
PH - Here we must return to the cause of his belief, for even despair is a belief. Every belief has two causes: the temperament of the believer and the disposition of the object. I have not included another pre-existing belief because primitive beliefs are finally resolved into the object and the disposition of the soul and the temperament of the body, i.e. into the state of the person and the circumstances of the matter. Therefore the precise reason for Judas' false belief cannot be given unless each state of his mind, which is altered by objects, has been explained all the way back to its initial temperament at birth.
TH - Here I've caught you. Sin comes from power and the will. Power comes from God, the will from belief. The belief is from the temperament and also the object. Both come from God, therefore all the requisites of sin come from God, therefore the ultimate reason of sin and damnation (as well as of all other things) is God.8 You see what follows from the theorem that nothing is without a reason? Evidently, as you have said, all things which are not themselves the reason why they exist, such as sin and even damnation, must be reduced to a reason, and the reason of the reason, until they are reduced to that which is the reason of itself, i.e. Being from itself, or God. This reasoning coincides with the demonstration of the existence of God.
PH - I acknowledge the difficulty. I shall collect myself for a little while and catch my breath.
TH - Come now. Have you finally found something, my friend? Your suddenly stretched brow promises something lively and exciting.
PH - Pardon the pause, it was not unproductive. For if I have realized anything certain from the experience of this day, it is that if someone turns to God, or [A VI 3, p121] what is the same, withdraws from the senses and leads his mind back into itself, and if he attempts to reach the truth with a genuine passion, the darkness is divided as if hit with a beam of unexpected light, and through the dense fog in the middle of the night the way is revealed.
TH - These are the words of one who has attained this.
PH - You, then, shall be the judge of what I shall produce. I cannot deny that God is the ultimate reason of things, and hence also of the acts of sin.
TH - If you grant this, you grant everything.
PH - Not so much haste! No, I say, I cannot deny it because it is certain: if it is supposed that God is taken away then it must also be supposed that the whole series of things is taken away,9 even these creatures that have been or will be, the good and evil acts of creatures, and hence the sins in those acts. And yet I deny that sins originate from the divine will.
TH - So by this you want to say that sins occur not because God wills them, but because he exists?
PH - You have hit the nail on the head. Of course, even if God is the reason of sins he is nevertheless not their author; and, if I might be permitted to speak in the Scholastic way, the ultimate physical cause of sins (as of all creatures) is in God, but the moral cause is in the one who sins. I suppose by this they wanted to say that the substance of the act is from God but not its evilness, even if they were unable to explain how the evil does not follow from the act. They would have said it more correctly like this: God contributes everything to sin except the will, and hence he does not sin. I think, therefore, that sins should not be ascribed to the divine will, but to the divine understanding or, which is the same thing, to those eternal ideas, or the nature of things, so that no one should imagine that there are two principles of things, twin Gods hostile to one another, one being a principle of the good, the other of evil.
TH - You tell a wonderful story.
PH - However I shall make you acknowledge it to be true. I will give an example which will make my language clear and credible. That three times three is nine - to what, I ask, do we think it is to be ascribed? Perhaps the divine will?10 That in a square the diagonal is incommensurable with the side - shall we say that God [A VI 3, p122] decreed it?
TH - I suppose not, if we have understanding, for otherwise neither nine and three, nor square or side or diagonal could be understood. Indeed they would be names without a thing, just as if someone were to say blitiri or vizlipuzli.
PH - Therefore these theorems are to be attributed to the nature of things, namely to the idea of nine or the idea of square, and to the divine understanding in which the ideas of things have always subsisted from eternity. That is, God has not brought these theorems about by willing but by understanding: he understood them because he exists. For if God were non-existent all things would simply be impossible, and the number nine and the square would follow the common fate. You see, therefore, that God is the cause of something not by his will but by his own existence.
TH - I see. However, by which light can sins be comprehended? I await your answer, eager and wondering.
PH - You will realize that my digression to this point was not in vain. For just as it is ascribed not to the will but to the existence of God that three times three is nine, so it is to be ascribed to the same that the ratio of three to nine is that of four to twelve. For every ratio, proportion, analogy and proportionality is not from the will but the nature of God, or, which is the same, they originate from the idea of things.
TH - What next, then?
PH - If this is the case with ratio or proportionality, it is also the case with harmony and discordance, for they consist in the ratio of identity to diversity, since harmony is unity in multiplicity. There is harmony when many things are united, and the greatest harmony is when the greatest number of things are united, and they are disordered in appearance and restored by some unexpected and wonderful ratio to the highest consonance.
TH - Now at last I see where you are headed. Evidently sins happen and bring forth the universal harmony of things, distinguishing light by shadows. But the universal harmony is not from the will of God but his understanding or the idea, i.e. the nature of things. Therefore we should ascribe sins to the same thing; hence sins follow not from the will but the existence of God.11
[A VI 3, p123]
PH - You have guessed it. For it is so established with things that if sins had been removed the entire series of things would have been very much different. If the series of things is taken away or changed then the ultimate reason of things, i.e. God, will also be taken away and changed. For it is impossible that from the same reason, and the same sufficient and complete reason, such as is God with regard to the universe,12 there should be opposite consequences, i.e. that different things follow from the same thing. For if you add to the same, then you subtract the same, the same will arise. But what is reasoning other than the addition and subtraction of concepts? If anyone hereafter should resist, the demonstration to overcome their obstinacy is at hand. For let God be 'A' and this series of things 'B'. Now if God is the sufficient reason of things, i.e. being from itself, and the first cause, this series of things will follow (the existence of God assumed),13 otherwise God would not be the sufficient reason for it, and some other requisite, independent of God, would have to be added to bring it about that this series of things exists. From which it would follow that there would be more principles of things, according to the thinking of the Manichaeans, and either there would be more gods, or God would not be the only being from itself and first cause (both of which I suppose to be false). Therefore [Bel p44] it must be established that if God is assumed then this series of things follows, and [A VI 3, p124] hence this proposition is true: if 'A' exists, then 'B' will also exist. Now it is well known from the logical rules of the hypothetical syllogism that a conversion through contraposition holds good, and thence it can be inferred: if 'B' does not exist, 'A' will not exist. Therefore it will follow that if this series of things (which evidently includes sins) were taken away or changed then God would be taken away or changed, which was to be demonstrated. Therefore sins, included in this whole series of things, are due to the very ideas of things, i.e. to the existence of God: with his existence assumed, sins are assumed; with the existence of God taken away, sins are taken away.
TH - I admit the demonstration is impregnable and cannot be attacked with reason by any mortal, any more than the demonstration of the existence of God. But see whether it does not also follow that (a) all remaining good things, as with sins, are not to be ascribed to God's will but to his nature, or, what comes down to the same thing, to the harmony of things, and (b) that sins are necessary.
PH - I shall focus on answering the former objection so that, afterwards, the latter is easier to tackle. Why God wills things, then - I say it is not his will that is the cause of it (no-one in fact wills because they will, but because he thinks that the thing is merited), but the nature of the things themselves, which are evidently contained in the ideas themselves i.e. within the essence of God. But why does God create things? There are two causes (as there always are in the actions of other minds too): because he wills it, of course, and because he is able to. But sins are not among the things that God either wills or produces because, evidently, when considered one by one, i.e. in themselves, he does not find them good. But sins exist as a result of what God wills and produces, for he recognizes that they intervene in the best total harmony of things, chosen by him as a consequence, and because in the total series of harmony their existence is balanced against greater goods. Therefore he tolerates or even permits them, but he would exclude them if it were absolutely possible to do so, i.e. if he could have chosen another, better, series of things without them. However it must be said that the whole series is not permitted but willed, and sins too insofar as they are not considered separately but [Bel p46] diffused throughout the whole series. For the universal harmony, the existence alone of which delights God absolutely, is not of the parts, but of the whole series; everything else, except sins, also delights God through the parts considered in themselves. Still, would he therefore not be more delighted by the universal series if sins were absent? On the contrary, less; because that very harmony of the whole is rendered delightful by the interposed dissonances, and balanced by a wonderful ratio.
[A VI 3, p125]
TH - Your thought pleases me greatly, by which you show in a satisfactory way that God should be called the reason for all existence, but not the author except of those things which are considered to be good in themselves. However now see, to return to the second objection, whether it follows that sins are necessary. For since the existence of God is necessary and sins are a consequence of God's existence, i.e. of the ideas of things, sins will be necessary also. For whatever follows from something necessary, is necessary.
PH - You should infer from the same argument that everything is necessary, even that I am speaking and you listening, for these things are also included in the series of things, and hence contingency is removed from the nature of things. This is contrary to the custom of speaking accepted by the whole human race.
TH - But what if some Stoic, a patron of fatality, concedes this to you?
PH - It must not be conceded for it is contrary to the use of words, though those used in the explanation can be softened into the sense in which even Christ has said 'It must be, i.e. it is necessary, that inducements to sin come to pass.'14 But inducements to sin are certainly sins. For woe to him, as he continues, through whom they come to pass. Therefore if inducements to sin are necessary so also is woe, i.e. damnation will be necessary. But in ordinary speech these consequences have to be avoided. For it is not in accordance with our choice that the use of words in matters pertaining to life be distorted, lest hard and offensive consequences follow upon hearing them, which may disturb men unfamiliar with the less accepted meanings.
TH - But how will you answer this objection?
PH - How? Merely by showing that the entire difficulty arises from a distorted sense of words. From this source comes a labyrinth from which there is no return, which is a disaster in our field. The languages of all peoples have, through a kind of universal sophism, distorted the terms 'necessity', 'possibility', and also 'impossibility', 'will', 'author' and others of that kind, into various senses. So that this does not cause you to think or say that I am turning my back on a challenge, I shall give clear proof: omit only those words in this entire discussion (for I believe that if they were prohibited by edict, men could still express the thought of their minds without them) and, as often as needed, substitute them with their meanings, i.e. the definitions, and I shall contend, by wagering whatever you want, that immediately, as if by some exorcism and as if a torch were moved forward, all darkness will vanish and all spectres and phantoms of the difficulty will vanish into thin air. Behold, you have a secret not so common - a remedy for all errors, abuses and scandals, of a sort neither Valerius Cordus, nor Zwelfer, nor any other author of dispensatory works could have prescribed you. Urbanus Regius once wrote about the formulas for speaking carefully. Therefore almost all the precepts of this art are contained in this single ingenious device.
TH - [A VI 3, p126] Can such a matter be finished off with so little difficulty?
PH - Think of me as a prophet. There are often words which trouble, torment, hurt, provoke or aggravate us. If I should say to you: 'Sir, you assert something knowing it to be harmful to me, which you know to be otherwise', I suppose you would not resent this greatly but instead you would easily pass over the liberty of the speaker. But if I were to exclaim 'You are lying!' (although to lie is nothing other than knowing you have falsely said something harmful or unjust), immortal God, how you would raise a storm! Thus if someone were to say that sins are necessary, God is the cause of sin, God wills the damnation of some, it was impossible for Judas to be saved etc., doubtless he would disturb the Acheron; you would substitute with this: 'Since God is the ultimate reason of things, i.e. the sufficient reason of the universe, it follows that the reason for the universe is the most rational, which is consistent with supreme beauty, i.e. the universal harmony (for all universal harmony is supreme). [Bel p50] But the most exquisite harmony is where the most confused disorder is unexpectedly brought back to order, just as a painting is distinguished by shades; harmony balances the different dissonances into consonance (just as from two odd numbers an even number is made), sins themselves (which is noteworthy) impose their own punishment. The consequence is that, assuming God exists, sins and the punishment of sins also exist.15 But if by this it is said that this is necessary, that God willed it, that God becomes the author of it, it would be thoughtless, foolish and wrong on behalf of the one who says it and the one who hears and understands.'
TH - You have surely brought to light a wonderful secret of avoiding so many difficulties, and there is no reason to compel you to go further. Nevertheless, if it is possible, could you prove with the words you have eliminated that which you have proved with the words you have retained?
PH - I could prove this, if it were in my power to make men use words in no other way than for the honour of God and their own peaceful interests.
TH - But attempt it nevertheless.
PH - I shall try, but only on condition that everything I shall say about those words (which, as I have shown and explained, we can abstain from entirely) is considered as if this matter were settled instead of as superfluous and insufficiently binding or deceptive.
TH - I accept the condition.
PH - Therefore I shall call necessary that whose opposite implies contradiction, i.e. that which cannot be clearly understood. So it is necessary that three times three is nine, but it is not necessary for me to speak or to sin.16 For I can be understood to be myself and yet understood not to be speaking, but three times [A VI 3, p127] three which is not understood to be nine is to understand three times three which is not three times three, which implies contradiction, as the calculation shows (i.e. the reduction of both terms in [Bel p52] the definition to unities). Contingent things are those which are not necessary. Possible are those whose non-existence is not necessary. Impossible is that which is not possible, or, more briefly, possible is that which is able to be understood, i.e. (so that the expression 'is able' may not be placed in the definition of 'possible') that which is clearly understood by an attentive person. Impossible is that which is not possible. Necessary, whose opposite is impossible. Contingent, whose opposite is possible. To will is to be delighted with the existence of something.17 To not-will is to feel pain about the existence of something, or to be delighted about the non-existence of something. To permit is neither to will nor not-will something and yet to know it. To be the author is, by one's own will, to be the reason of another thing. With these definitions thus laid down, I am prepared to assert that no tortured consequences, which are anything less than honourable to the divine justice, can be wrenched out.
TH - What, then, will you say to that argument proposed before: the existence of God is necessary; sins included in the series of things follow from this; anything that follows from something necessary is necessary. Therefore sins are necessary.
PH - I answer: it is false that whatever follows from something necessary in itself is necessary in itself. Certainly it is agreed that nothing follows from truths except truth. Nevertheless, since a particular can follow from pure universals, as in Darapti and Felapton, why should something contingent, i.e. necessary according to another hypothesis, not follow from something necessary in itself? [A VI 3, p128] However, from this notion 'necessary in itself' I shall now finish off my investigation. For I have defined necessary as that whose opposite cannot be understood. Therefore the necessity and impossibility of things should be sought not outside the things themselves but in their own ideas, and we should see whether they can be understood or whether they imply a contradiction instead. In fact, from this point, we only call necessary what is necessary in itself, that which evidently has the reason for its existence and its truth within itself, such as the truths of geometry. Of existing things, only God has this, everything else which follows from this supposed series of things (i.e. from the harmony of things, [Bel p54] or the existence of God) is in itself contingent and is only necessary by the hypothesis, though nothing happens by chance since all things are fated; i.e. they follow as certain by a reason of providence. Therefore, if the essence of a thing can be conceived as clear and distinct (for example, a species of animal with an odd number of feet, likewise an immortal animal) then it must already be considered possible, and its contrary will not be necessary although, perhaps, it is opposed to the existing harmony of things and to the existence of God, and consequently it will never have a place in the world but will be impossible by accident. And therefore it is an error on the part of those who proclaim as impossible (absolutely, i.e. in itself) whatever has not been, is not and will not be.
TH - But in truth: is it not that whatever will be, will be absolutely necessary, just as whatever was, necessarily was? And at any rate, is it not the case that whatever is, necessarily is?
PH - On the contrary it is false, unless it is understood to be reduplicative, and to contain an ellipsis, which is something familiar to men who dislike having to say the same thing twice. For the sense of what you have said is: whatever exists, it is necessary that if it exists then it exists, or (necessary substituted by its definition) whatever is going to exist, it cannot be understood that if it is going to exist then it is not going to exist. If the reduplication is omitted, the proposition is false. For what is going to exist nevertheless can be understood as something that is not going to exist. Also, what was not can nevertheless be understood to have been. This very thing is a mark of an elegant poet - to devise something false yet possible. Barclay's Argenis is possible,18 i.e. it is clearly and distinctly imaginable although it is certain that she has never been alive, and I do not believe that she will ever be alive, unless someone is into that heresy where he persuades himself that in passing through the remaining infinite time all possibles will come forth and no story can be dreamt up which [A VI 3, p129] will not happen in the world, at least sometime or other. But even if we should allow that, it still remains the case that Argenis was not impossible although she has not existed yet. Those who think otherwise, that it is necessary, abolish the distinction between what is possible and what is true, between what is necessary and what is contingent, and by having distorted the meaning of words they oppose themselves to the usage [Bel p56] of human kind. Therefore sins and damnations and everything else of the series of contingent things are not necessary even if they follow from a necessary thing, the existence of God, i.e. the harmony of things. Nor is it necessary that whatever will never be and never has been or which cannot be understood to be consistent with the harmony of things, simply cannot be understood; i.e., is impossible. From which it is evident that it is not impossible, i.e. it is not a contradiction in terms, for Judas to be saved, although it is true, certain, foreseen and necessary by accident (i.e. following from the harmony of things) that he never will be saved.
TH - But this custom has crept up on all peoples and languages (and has grown strong by a universal equivocation), that what is known to be, to have been or will be, is called necessary, and that what is known not to be, not to have been or not going to be is called impossible.
PH - But this happens because of a kind of ellipsis of a reduplication when the same thing must be said twice, to which, as I have shown, all people incline because of their weariness of repetitions.
TH - Then perhaps it is from this source that we should seek the truth and reason of, and solution for, that idle sophism (lazy reason), scattered everywhere throughout the Earth, in which formerly the philosophers, and now the Mohammedans (persuaded by their leaders as useful in times of war or pestilence) attempt foolishly to conclude: resist in vain, nothing is to be done since fate is not to be avoided; what is denied by heaven is not to be obtained by labouring, and also what is bestowed by heaven shall be obtained by the lazy.
PH - You assert right: for this argument, so much dreaded and so very powerful to the minds of men, is a sophism based upon that rotten ellipsis of the hypothesis of the cause or of its presupposed existence. It is true that whatever will be, truly will be, but not necessarily (in the sense of an absolute necessity), i.e. no matter what one does or doesn't do. For the effect is not necessary except from the hypothesis of the cause.
TH - I am in the habit of rebuking like this those who drivel so dangerously: 'You fool, if it is in accordance with fate that you do not avoid evil, then perhaps your stupidity is fated too, in that you do not take care to avoid it. Nobody is determined to an end without the means [Bel p58] - those means being diligence or opportunities, only the former of which is to be trusted; the latter should be exploited only when opportunities come to pass.' 'But,' you say, 'it is still certain that whatever God foresees (i.e. whatever will be) will be.' I agree, but not without means and, for the most part, not without your deeds, for seldom does good fortune offer itself to those who are sleeping - actually the laws are written for those who are vigilant. Therefore, since it is not certain to you whether something is decreed for you or against you, for that reason act as if it was for you, or rather, act as if nothing [A VI 3, p130] has been decreed, since you cannot aim your actions at what is unknown. Therefore if you have done your own thing, then whatever comes about by fate, i.e. through the harmony of things, will not be held against you by God. The whole debate about foreknowledge, fate, predestination and the end of life is of no help with regard to how we live our life. All things are to be done in the same way, even if we do not think about these things. If someone will love God constantly, he shows by this very act that he was predestined from eternity. Thus we are able to be predestined if we will it (and what, beyond that, would we seek or demand?), although it is because of grace that we will it.
PH - Nothing is truer. If only our opponents could be persuaded!
TH - The question remains whether God wills or does not will sin. And at first sight it does not seem that he does not will sins that exist. For God does not suffer because of the existence of anything, because he cannot suffer at all.19 Therefore he does not suffer because of the existence of sins. However, it should be said that he who does not suffer because of the existence of a thing does not not-will its existence. Therefore, we should say that nothing is unwilled by God, except that which does not exist at all, for its non-existence can be said to be pleasing to him. Moreover, we must say that when we are delighted by the non-existence of something we do not will it, and that is so by the very definitions that you have brought forward.
PH - You conclude correctly: it should be said that God does not will sins in themselves which are understood not to exist [Bel p60]; if they exist because the harmony of things requires them thus, it should be said that he permits them; i.e. he neither wills them nor does not will them.
TH - But on the contrary he does appear to will them, for the harmony of things is pleasing to God and sins exist because of the harmony of things. But by your definition, we will those things whose existence delights us; therefore we must say that God wills sins.
PH - There is a deception in this reasoning: although the harmony is pleasing, nevertheless it does not immediately follow that everything about the harmony is pleasing. If the whole is pleasing it does not follow that the parts are also pleasing. Although the entire harmony is pleasing, nevertheless the dissonances themselves are not pleasing, however much they are mixed in according to the rules of art. But the disagreeableness that exists in these dissonances is destroyed by the excess, or rather by the progress, and thus by the increase of the pleasantness in the whole. Therefore on account of this compensation, the dissonance in this mixture becomes neither good nor bad, and thus is distinguished from the unpleasant, and as it is permitted it is distinguished from the rejected. Only the whole is pleasing, only the whole is harmonic, only the configuration of the whole, as it were, is harmony. God is delighted with the existing beatitude of the saved, whereas he does not suffer because of the lost beatitude of the damned because he suffers nothing, on account of pain being cancelled out in the universal harmony through compensation.
TH - You have certainly satisfied, beyond my expectation, the greatest difficulty, and you have shown (which till now hardly anyone has) that there are grounds to say that God neither wills [A VI 3, p131] nor does not will the sins which come to pass, but permits them.
PH - Then nothing remains?
TH - I foresee what you will say about the author of sin.
PH - Evidently it is not God, but only man or the devil, who will sin, i.e. they are delighted by evil.
TH - This is well put: i.e. they are delighted by evil, for otherwise one could object that man or the devil likewise merely permit sins. They do whatever is suited to their own affairs, and only bring about another's harm because it is bound up with what they want to do. However, this cannot be said about the one who sins mortally, in whom the hatred of God, i.e. of the universal good, [Bel p62] is the source of delight (therefore the delight is from the contrary of good, i.e. sin). But what about venial sins committed through a foolish slip rather than through wickedness? Shall we say that he permits such sins?
PH - Not even this, because to permit, according to the definition assumed above, is neither to will nor not-will, but yet to know, which is lacking in the one who sins because of an error: he wills to perform the sin, i.e. he wills the act. The sin itself he neither wills nor permits because he is ignorant of it. In brief: God permits sins because he knows that what he permits is not contrary to the common good, but that this dissonance is compensated for in another way. The man who commits a mortal sin, however, knows that what he does is contrary to the common good, insofar as he is able to judge, and cannot be reconciled with the common good except through his own punishment, and since he hates this and yet still wills the act, it is necessary that he hates the common good or the government of the world, and as a result he sins mortally.
TH - You have surely satisfied me, and in an excellent way you have absolved the will of God from sins. For, in order to draw together what you have said, if we sin because we are able to and we will to, and the reason for our power is not only from what is innate but also from what is received (what is innate is from the parents and what is received is from nourishment) then in either case it will be from external things. Moreover, if the operation of the intellect is the cause of willing, sensation the cause of the operation of the intellect, the object the cause of sensation, and the state of the object depends on external things, then both the power and the will of sinning depend on external things, i.e. the present state of things. The present state of things depends on the preceding state, the preceding state on another preceding state, and so on. Therefore the present state depends on the series of things, the series of things depends on the universal harmony, the universal harmony depends on those eternal and immutable ideas themselves. The ideas contained within the divine intellect do not themselves depend on an intervention from the divine will because God does not understand them because he wills, but because he exists. Therefore sins are not pleasing because of their own harmony, and they will only be permitted by the divine will on account of a harmony which is foreign to them, i.e. the universal harmony, which could not exist otherwise.
[Bel p64] [A VI 3, p132]
PH - Then to what further do you object?
TH - A number of things, for we certainly have not yet escaped all the difficulties. For what does it matter if sins are reconciled with the divine goodness if they cannot be reconciled with our freedom? What is the benefit of absolving God if the wicked are absolved with him? What do we profit by releasing the divine will, if we extinguish every will? For what, I implore, is human freedom, if we depend on external things, if they are what causes us to will, if some fatal connection rules our thoughts no less than the swerving and conjunction of atoms?
PH - I beg you not to become angry about an opinion which is seldom correctly understood, and seldom expressed carefully. You proposed, and I granted it above, that nothing exists without a sufficient reason, and therefore there will be some sufficient reason also for the act of willing itself. Therefore this reason will either be found in the act itself, and therefore it will be a Being from itself, i.e. God, which is absurd, or its sufficient reason is to be sought outside itself. Consequently, in order for us to discover the sufficient reason for an act of willing we must define what it is to will. So what is it to will something?
TH - It is to be delighted at the existence of something, as you defined it before, whether we perceive this something as really existing, or we imagine the existence of some non-existent thing.
PH - But delight is the experience of harmony, by our previous definitions; therefore we will nothing except what appears harmonic. But what appears harmonic depends on the disposition of the one perceiving and the object and the medium. That is why, although it is within our power to do what we will, it is nevertheless not within our power to will what we will, but only to will what we perceive to be pleasing or have established as being good. However, to establish or not establish something as good is not within our power: nobody, not even if he is torn between willing or not-willing something, could, without reason, bring it about that he believes what he does not believe. Therefore, since belief is not within the power of the will, the will itself will not be within [Bel p66] the power of the will. And suppose we will because we will, why do we will to will? Is it not again on account of another will, or on account of nothing i.e. without reason?
TH - I do not have a response to your argument, but neither have you with respect to my objection - that free will is thus ruined for us.
PH - I agree, if with some people you define it as the power which can act and not act, with all requisites for the act assumed, and with all existing things inside and outside the agent being equal.
TH - What? Is this definition faulty?
PH - Absolutely, unless it receives an explanation.20 That something (in this case an action) does not [A VI 3, p133] exist, although all its requisites exist - what is this other than the thing defined not existing, although by definition it is existing, or that the same thing exists and does not exist at the same time? If something does not exist it is certainly necessary that some requisites are absent, because a definition is nothing other than an enumeration of requisites.
TH - So the definition needs to be corrected: free will is the power to act or not to act, with all the requisites for acting, namely the external ones, being assumed.
PH - Thus the sense will be that even if all the aids for acting are at hand I am nevertheless able to disregard the act if I am unwilling to act. Nothing is more true, nothing is less unfavourable to me. Aristotle has defined spontaneous as when the principle of the action is in the agent, and free as spontaneous with choice.21 From which, a person is all the more spontaneous the more his acts flows from his own nature, and the less they are changed by external things. And he is more free the more he is capable of choice; i.e., the more things he understands with a pure and peaceful mind. Therefore spontaneity [Bel p68] comes from power, freedom from knowledge. But assuming we believe something good, it is impossible not to will it, assuming that we will it, and at the same time we know external aids are available to us, it is impossible not to act. Nothing is therefore more unworthy than to want to transform the notion of free will to some, I do not know what, unheard of and absurd power to act or not to act without a reason, such as nobody sane would wish for. To uphold the privilege of free will it is sufficient for us to be placed at a crossroads of life, so that we cannot do something unless we will and we cannot will something unless we believe it to be good. However, by the fullest given use of reason we are able to seek out what should be considered good,22 thus we have less reason to accuse nature than if she had given us that monstrous power of a somewhat rational irrationality.
[A VI 3, p134]
TH - But yet there are some who claim so much freedom for themselves that they say they can do or not do something, knowingly and intentionally, without any reason (by a whim).
PH - Then I confidently say this: they deceive or are deceived. This very pleasure they get from obstinacy (never the will alone), is for them their reason.
TH - But yet I propose to you that I am ready to gesticulate with my hand - am I not able to turn it unrestrictedly, here and there?
PH - You can turn it however you like.
TH - So what is the reason why I now, as you can see, turn it more to the right?
PH - Do not doubt that some subtle reasons underlie that. For instance, by chance it first came into your mind to act thus because it occurred first to your senses; perhaps your hand is more accustomed to doing that, or turning it in the other direction was recently troublesome yet in this direction it was entirely successful, and whatever those other tiny details of the circumstances are that cannot be described by any pen.
TH - If you, an angel, indeed even God, were to predict direction in which I am going to turn my hand, I shall immediately turn it the opposite direction, and assert my freedom against the wishes of the prophet.
PH - You will not for that reason be more free, for thus to you the very [Bel p70] pleasure of contradiction is your reason. And if that prophet is infallible he would, even if he does not predict it to you and if he knew that you would do the opposite to the prediction, still silently foresee it, or even, with you not knowing, prophesy it in the presence of a third person.
TH - So he is not able to predict to me the truth? But why would he not be able to do so if he foreknew the truth? For anyone is able to say what he knows to any listener. But yet I shall do the opposite of what he says; therefore he did not foreknow what I am going to do, which is contrary to the hypothesis. Consequently, either foreknowledge or freedom will be destroyed.
PH - This argument is subtle but it only demonstrates that a mind that is of the nature that it wills and is able to do (even want to do) the opposite of what anyone may predict, is from that number of things which are incompatible with the existence of the omniscient being, i.e. with the harmony of things, and thus neither have been, are or will be.
TH - But what will you say to that well-known expression I see and approve the better course, but I follow the worse?23
PH - Only that if it is incorrectly understood it is absurd. Medea, whose words these are in the writings of Ovid, wants to say by this that she sees the injustice of the deed when she slaughters her own children, but still experiences pleasure from vengeance as if this were a greater good than the crime was evil. Or in a few words, she sins against her conscience. Therefore 'better' and 'worse' in [A VI 3, p135] that verse are used for 'just' and 'shameful'. Now from this it cannot be proved that she imagines choosing that which is worse on the whole. Whoever thinks the opposite overturns all moral principles of the matter, and cannot even say what it is to will.
TH - You almost persuade me.
PH - Oh therefore foolish are we who have scorned the privileges of nature and God, we demand unknown chimeras and are not contented by the use of reason - the true basis of freedom. Unless it happens by an irrational power we do not think ourselves to be sufficiently free, as if it were not [Bel p72] the highest freedom to make use of one's own intellect and will in the most perfect way, and for the intellect to be constrained by things to recognize true goods, and for the will to be constrained by the intellect to embrace them, to be unable to resist the truth, to accept the pure rays from objects, neither refracted nor corrupted by the cloud of the passions. If these passions are absent it is as impossible for us to err in thought and to sin in willing as it is for an attentive mind with opened eyes not misled by a defect, not to see a coloured object in its proper size and distance, in a clear, illuminated medium. The freedom of God is certainly the highest, even if he cannot err in the choice of the best, and that of the blessed angels increased when they ceased to be fallible. Therefore, freedom comes from the use of reason, and according to whether it is pure or infected, we either walk right along the royal road of duties or stagger through the wilderness.
TH - Therefore every sin is due to error.
PH - Agreed.
TH - Therefore every sin must be excused.
PH - Not at all, for just as chinks of light flowing into the middle of darkness the means of escape is within our power, but only if we want to use it.
TH - But why do some want to use it while others do not?
PH - Because with those not wanting to it has not even come into their mind that they could use it with profit, or else it is in their soul as if it did not exist, i.e. without reflection or attention, so that in seeing they do not see and in hearing they do not hear. In this the beginnings of denied grace are situated, and what Holy Scripture calls hardening of the heart.24 How many of us have not heard these a thousand times: why are you doing this?, or consider the result, or watch what you are doing? And still, it is certain that with one single such thought, perceived correctly and set constantly in front of one and made inviolable as if by certain laws and stern punishments, every single man as if in the blink of an eye, [Bel p74] by an instant metamorphosis, would become infallible, prudent and blessed - beyond all the Stoic paradoxes of the wise man.25
TH - Therefore is it not the case that all evil people should, in the final analysis, be supposed unhappy because [A VI 3, p136] they have not paid attention to the way of happiness, which shows itself so easy and at hand?
PH - I admit that.
TH - Are they not to be pitied?
PH - I cannot deny that.
TH - And is their malice owing to their misfortune?
PH - Undoubtedly, since the ultimate reason of the will is outside of the one willing. And it has been demonstrated that all these things are ultimately traced back to the series of things, i.e. to the universal harmony.
TH - And likewise with the insane?
PH - That is almost true, but not entirely. The insane, no more than the drunk or those who are asleep, cannot collect themselves and think why are you doing this?, in which all prudence is contained, even if they wanted to. And if it were to come to their minds it would persist there. But on the other hand, stupid, erring or wicked people use their minds sensibly but not for the purpose of the highest things: they deliberate, but about anything other than happiness. The insane are disturbed by disease and a sort of matter harmful to the nerves and spirits, and a sort of insomnia, as it were. With the stupid and the evil reason is overthrown by another kind of reason, a lesser reason grown out of a certain kind of temperament, education and use, corrupts the higher, universal reason. Yet there is no doubt that to the angels the evil appear as stupid as the stupid do to us.
TH - Therefore they will at least be similar to those who, as they say, are born on the fourth day of the moon, those who are badly educated, those who are led astray by acquaintances, those who are ruined by marriage, those who endure misfortune, who cannot deny that they are criminal, yet they have the occasion to complain, whether about fortune or about other people, because of their desperate lives.
PH - It is entirely so; indeed, it is necessary that it is so: nobody has willingly made himself evil otherwise he would be evil before he made himself evil.
TH - Yes, but on the other hand there is need of courage and a firm heart for we have reached the summit;26 we have come, without realizing it, to the height of the difficulty. If fortune does not forsake you here you have succeeded forever. For that unyielding problem opposes us, and whatever sophistry we employ the form of the complaint of the damned is just - that they were born and sent into the world in such a way that encountered times, men or occasions such that they were not able not to be ruined. The mind, occupied too early by vicious thoughts, found itself in circumstances which favoured evil, which stimulated it, and those that would liberate them and hold them back from evil were lacking, as if the fates were conspiring in the ruin of the wretched. If anyone had intervened with a healthy warning, their attention would have forsaken them as well as reflection itself, the soul of wisdom, that why are you doing this?, that consider the result, the greatest gift of grace which is only perceived correctly when we are vigilant. How unjust that in the common sleep some are awakened while others are left behind to be sacrificed! If it was necessary that so many creatures be ruined, if otherwise the reason of the world would not remain constant, at least the unhappy ones should have been drawn by lot.
PH - It has happened like that, for it is the same if something happens by fate or by lot, and on account of the universal harmony.
TH - I beg you not to interrupt until [A VI 3, p137] you have heard everything. How cruel, indeed, when the one who has caused misery looks at it unmoved, when a father, who has a child unwisely and raised it wickedly, actually wants to punish it, while he himself needs to be punished! They curse the nature of things, which is only fertile in order that it might ruin them; they curse God, who is happy with the misery of others; they curse themselves, who cannot be extinguished; they curse the series of the universe, which has implicated them too; and finally, they curse the eternal and immutable possibility of the ideas, the first source of their own misfortunes, and determiner of the universal harmony, [Bel p78] and thereby of the existence of things. And hence, from so many possibilities no other state of the universe emerges than that which contains their misery, so that the happiness of others becomes evidently more conspicuous to them.
PH - This is more tragically than correctly said, which I shall demonstrate to you both with particular signs and certain reason, if God, whom this concerns, furnishes me the strength and mind. You may actually judge, then, how empty this complaint is from this: the complaint can be made by one who is damned, but not by one who is damnable, although even at that time he foreknows all the things which the damned will know. I ask you, can time by itself (if nothing else is changed) make the just out of the unjust? I think not, for efficacy is not a matter of time but to things flowing in time. Therefore, if the complaint of a damnable person (who knows all the same things as one who is damned) is unjust, so also will be that of the damned. Consequently I propose to you a man who is damnable - let hell be presented to his eyes and soul in all its horror and depth, add that he is to be shown the very same corner that he has been assigned for his eternal torments if he acts in such a way. Can a person living and seeing this complain about God, or about the nature of things, as the cause of his own damnation?
TH - At that time he certainly cannot, because one can immediately respond that he is able not to be damned, if he so wishes.27
PH - This of course is what I wanted. Let us assume, then, the same man proceeds nevertheless and (according to the hypothesis) is damned. Can he then return with any semblance of justification to the same complaints we have already rejected? Can he ascribe his misery to something other than his own will?
TH - You have refuted rather than satisfied me.
PH - I will make sure that when the matter is clearly perceived you will also admit to being satisfied.
TH - I acknowledge that he will ascribe everything to his own will, but he will also ascribe his own will to fortune, i.e. to God, or at least, as you wish, to the nature of things.
PH - I have mentioned before to you that the contrary implies contradiction, [Bel p80] that no one willingly makes himself evil, otherwise he would be evil before it happened. No one is the voluntary cause of his own will, for what you will to will you already will, just as that [A VI 3, p138] rule of law which says that 'whoever is able to bring it about that he is able, already is able'. Therefore, if this excuse is to be accepted, punishment must be removed from the nature of things. No one will be evil, no one needs to be punished, no one is without an excuse.
TH - What then?
PH - Only that in all judgements about the imposition of punishment it will be sufficient that there is a well, known to be extremely wicked and resolved, from wherever it originated. Then what stupidity it is on the part of those critics of divine justice who, in trying to avert punishment, want to go beyond the known will of the criminal, i.e. into the infinite.
TH - You have persuaded me that the damned are left with not any shade of an excuse, nor do they have a reason to complain. Nevertheless they have a reason to be indignant, or rather, they have a reason to complain but they do not have anything to complain about. They have the anger of a dog towards a stone, of foolish dice-players towards fortune, of the desperate towards themselves, such is their anger towards the universal harmony, which is consistent with the nature of things itself (i.e. the ideas) and the cause of this course of things. The anger is surely as foolish as that of someone who, after counting badly, examining the result of the operation and realizing that the answer is too small, then becomes resentful of arithmetic rather than himself, and laments in vain that three times three is not ten rather than being nine (because the harmony of things also depends on such necessary proportions). They have, therefore, anger without an object, a pain without escape, and finally a complaint which they are neither able to prove to themselves nor yet give up - certainly remarkable additions to incite that furious misfortune on which damnation is chiefly founded.
PH - That is an exceptionally good argument: the pain for them is without escape and almost, if it is permitted to say so, pleasing to them. The damned are not able to prove their own complaints to themselves. It was this that I was in fact about to say to you in order that you be fully convinced. I add in fact that they are never, through all eternity, utterly damned; although they are always damnable, they are always able to be freed, but they never will it. Therefore their conscience [Bel p82] continually protests yet they cannot, at any time, even complain consistently, without contradiction.
TH - You speak in mysteries.
PH - Or, as others prefer, in paradoxes.
TH - That is of no importance. We are alone, pull away the curtain.
PH - Indeed, if you turn your mind to it you will see that I have pulled it away. You may remember from a little earlier that we agreed about the nature of mortal sin, i.e. the reason for damnation.
TH - I ask you to repeat it, and apply it to the present subject.
PH - Can it be that you have forgotten what I answered when you asked for the reason for Judas' damnation? It is worth the trouble to repeat these words again because they are excellent. You asked for the reason for damnation. I answered: the state of he who was dying - namely the hatred of God which was burning in him when he died. For since the soul is not open to new external sensations from the moment of death until it is returned to the body, it perseveres only with its last thoughts, [A VI 3, p139] from which it does not stray, but increases the state it was in at death. However, from the hatred of God, i.e. of the greatest happiness, follows the greatest pain. For just as to love is to be delighted by happiness, so hatred is to feel pain by it, and therefore the greatest pain arises from hatred of the greatest happiness. The greatest pain is misery, i.e. damnation. Thus he who hates God when dying damns himself.28 I don't know whether these words are far from a demonstration because they give a reason for the magnitude of the misery from the magnitude of the hatred, and for the magnitude of hatred from the magnitude of its object.
TH - But here you have gone a little bit beyond anything you have said, i.e. that they are always damnable, never damned.
PH - This is how I understand it: just as what is moved is never constantly in a place but always tends towards another place, so they are never damned, but always damnable (in that they cannot cease to be damnable, even if they want to), i.e. they damn themselves again and again.
TH - I would like this to be proved.
PH - That's very easy to do. If anyone, by his hatred of God, damns himself, he, by the continuation - more correctly by the increase - of his hatred, will continue and increase his own damnation. And just as the blessed, by a continuous increase in all eternity once they have been received into God, i.e. into the universal harmony and the highest reason, and have grasped it as if concentrated in a single stroke of vision, nevertheless experience delight incessantly on account of endless distinct reflections upon the parts of their joy, because without perpetual novelty and progress there is no thinking and hence no pleasure; so those furious haters of the nature of things, the more they advance in the knowledge of creatures through a diabolical result of knowledge, the more they will be continually irritated by new material of indignation, of hatred, of jealousy and, in a word, of madness.
TH - You certainly paint your hypotheses very nicely, but allow me to ask you two questions.
PH - Even a hundred if you like.
TH - One occurs in passing, the other is the chief one. You say that misery increases constantly, likewise happiness. However I do not grasp how the vision of the divine essence can increase, for if it is of the essence then it is complete, and if it is complete it cannot increase.
PH - The knowledge can increase even if it is complete, not through new materials but through new reflection. If you have nine units in front of you, you have completely grasped essence of nine. But even if you have the matter of all its properties, you would still not have the form, i.e. the reflection, for if you do not observe three times three, four and five, six and three, seven and two, and a thousand other combinations are nine, you have nonetheless considered the essence of nine. I add nothing about the comparison of nine with other unities outside itself because with these not only the form but also the matter of the thoughts is changed, because these are properties of the whole from both numbers rather than of the number nine. This is not the case with regard to God, who, since [Bel p86] he has everything inside himself, cannot be compared with anything outside himself. I shall therefore give an example of a finite thing with infinite properties without any comparison with external things. Here is a circle [A VI 3, p140] - if you know that all lines from the centre to the circumference are equal, you have grasped, I suppose, the essence of it clearly enough. But you have not thereby grasped innumerable theorems, for within the circle you can draw as many diverse and regular shapes (i.e. even if they are not marked out they are already there) as there are numbers - therefore infinitely many, none of which would not furnish an investigator with vast material for theorems.
TH - I admit I have often wondered what kind of pleasure might exist in the beatific vision, when the soul is paralysed as it were, and fixed in a single unchanging gaze. Happily, you have sufficiently dissipated this cloud for me and you have reconciled novelty with completeness. But this was just in passing, it is the second question which I had chiefly wanted answered: from what source arises that separation of souls? Why do some become inflamed in the love of God while others are brought to a hatred which is fatal to them? What is that point of separation and, to put it like this, the centre of the divergence? Since it is often probable that the damnable are so similar in external appearance to those who will be blessed, it is by no means rare that we take one for the other.
PH - You ask important questions my friend, about which philosophy doubts its adequacy to answer.
TH - But nevertheless try to answer them, for reason is permitted to advance as far as its aids are sufficient, for till now, as one not yet initiated, in our entire conversation you have not touched, with profane hands, on revelation.
PH - Hear what I have at last squeezed out through much meditation: know, therefore, just as in a commonwealth, so also in the world, there are cursorily two kinds of men, some contented with the present state, others hostile to it. Not that the former, who are content and at peace, do not every day [Bel p88] undertake something - they strive to win, learn, to increase possessions, friends, power, pleasures and fame, otherwise they would be brought to a standstill rather than content. But when they are prevented from succeeding they do not thereby decant their hatred on to the form of commonwealth which opposes their plans, and do not make plans for revolution, but with a calm mind they continue on the course of life, disturbed no more than if they had tried removing a fly by an ineffective blow. This most true of distinctions between good and bad citizens also applies, with greater strictness, to the universal commonwealth whose ruler is God.
TH - That is surely so. For in a commonwealth, unless it is the best (such as in human affairs it is to be despaired of), it cannot be avoided that sometimes the misery of certain subjects may be derived from the laws themselves. Still, it is justified for them to think about change because it is necessary for them. In the commonwealth of the universe, i.e. the best commonwealth, whose king is God, there is no misery unless someone wills it.
PH - Precisely. Therefore in the world no indignation is ever justified, no movement of the soul (except tranquillity) free from reproach.29 Even to desire in such a way that you will feel pain if thwarted, [A VI 3, p141] is a sin, and a sort of hidden anger towards God, towards the present state of things, and towards the universal series and harmony on which that state depends.
TH - But yet it is impossible not to feel pain when abandoned by success.
PH - What in the body is an impulse [conatus], in the mind is a passion. Yet there are impulses, some of which prevail while others are cancelled out by contrary impulses: if a body strives to go from east to west, and at the same time it is driven back along the same line by an equal force from west to east, it will be at rest on account of the mutual contrary impulses [Bel p90] equal on both sides. Likewise the principal passions and motions cannot be destroyed but they can be cancelled out by contrary passions so that they lose their effectiveness. Therefore someone frustrated in his wish cannot but feel pain at that moment. But also, if he is content with the government of the world, he cannot persevere in his pain for he will immediately consider that whatever is, is the best, not only for himself but also for anyone recognizing this, and hence everything will turn out good for anyone loving God.30 Therefore it must be considered as certain that all those who are displeased with the government of the world (to whom it seems that God somehow could have been able to do better) and also those who, from the confusion of things (which they themselves invent), take up arguments for atheism, are against God. From this it is evident that hatred of God occurs even in atheists. Indeed, whatever they believe or say, only the nature and state of things displeases them; by that very fact they hate God although what they hate they do not call 'God'.
TH - If we philosophize like this then it will not even be possible to work for the improvement of things.
PH - On the contrary, not only is it just and possible, but also necessary, otherwise we would return to the idle sophism rejected before.31 Consequently, to love God, i.e. the universal harmony, is to be content with the past. Indeed, because past things cannot be undone it is certain that God willed them, and hence that they are the best. But with future things, since nothing is decided beforehand so far as we are concerned, a place is left for diligence and deliberation and the conscience of each. [A VI 3, p142] Whence if someone who loves God considers his own or another's defect or evil, private or public, either to remove it or correct it, he will hold as certain that it ought not to have been corrected yesterday, but will presume that it ought to be corrected tomorrow. He will presume so, I say, until, with success forsaking him again, the contrary is proved. The disappointment will nevertheless not tire or shatter his efforts for the future [Bel p92] for it is not for us to dictate times to God, and only those who persevere will be triumphant. Therefore the person who loves God will consider the past as good and will endeavour to deliver the best future. He who is affected in this way finally attains the tranquillity of mind which serious philosophers urge, and the resignation of all in God, which mystical theologians urge. Whoever thinks otherwise, however much words like 'faith', 'charity', 'God' and 'neighbour' come out of his mouth, neither knows God, whom he does not know is the highest reason of all things, nor loves him. No one who does not know God can love him properly, but such a person can hate him nevertheless. Therefore, he who hates God, hates nature, hates things, hates the world: he who wants these things to be different wants God to be different. He who dies malcontent dies a hater of God and now, as if pushed to the edge of an abyss, he follows the path on which he began, external things no more calling him back. With the access to the senses closed off he nourishes his soul, which has withdrawn into itself, with the hatred of things already began, and with that misery and loathing, indignation, jealousy and displeasure, which increase more and more. When reunited with the body, and when the senses have returned, he continually finds new material for contempt, disapproval and anger, and is so much more tormented the less he is able to change and endure the torrent of things displeasing to him. However, in a certain way the pain turns into pleasure and the wretched are glad to find something by which they are tormented. Just as with humans too, the unhappy, while envying the happy, seek at the same time to wear them down, with no other outcome than that they become indignant, as they think the inept are the masters of things, and their pain, more unimpeded and more unchecked, is turned into a kind of harmony, i.e. an appearance of reason. For in the case of the jealous, indignant and malcontent of this kind, pleasure is mixed with pain in a remarkable way, for just as they are pleased and delighted by their belief in their own wisdom, so they suffer so much more furious pain because they lack the power they think is due to them, or rather is in others they deem unworthy. Here you have the explanation of those extraordinary paradoxes, [Bel p94] that no one is damned unless he wills it, but also that no one remains damned unless damned by himself. The damned are never absolutely damned, always damnable. They are damned by stubbornness and a perverse [A VI 3, p143] appetite, by an aversion to God, so that nothing gladdens them more than to have something by which they may feel pain; they seek nothing more than to discover a reason for them to get angry. This is the highest degree of madness of reason - it is voluntary, irredeemable, desperate and eternal! The damned, therefore, even if they wanted to, can never make use of those complaints which we ascribed to them earlier, and so cannot accuse nature, the universal harmony and God as being the authors of their own misery.
TH - Immortal God! How you have brought about endoxa from your paradoxes. I realize that the Holy Fathers were not averse to this kind of explanation. And the pious ancients summed up the innate character of the damned very much like this in a simple but wise fable. Some hermit, in the depths of contemplation as if intoxicated, begins to be pained in earnest on account of there being so many creatures coming to ruin. Therefore he approaches God with his prayers, and shows the sincerity of his own longing - 'Oh father,' he says, 'can you watch the destruction of so many healthy children? Ah, receive into your grace those wretched demons, which drag so many souls with them into the abyss.' To him who cried out like this, the almighty calmly replies, with an expression which brightens the sky and quietens the storm: 'I see, my son, the simplicity of your heart, and I forgive the exuberance of your emotions, and in my case there is indeed no obstacle. Let those who seek forgiveness come to me.' The hermit then says, in adoration: 'You are blessed, oh Father of all mercy, oh inexhaustible source of grace. And now I go with your permission in order to meet he who is wretched to himself and others - he who so far is ignorant of the happiness of this day.' He departs to meet the prince of devils, not an infrequent visitor for him, and immediately upon making his way in, says: 'Oh you are fortunate! Oh fortunate this day, [Bel p96] on which the way of salvation is opened to you, which almost from the beginning of the world has been closed! Come now, and complain about the cruelty of God, in whose presence the supplication of a miserable hermit on behalf of rebels of so many centuries has been effective.' The prince of devils, like the indignant and like those speaking menacingly, replies 'And who has appointed you as our agent? Who has persuaded you to so foolish a pity? Understand, foolish one, that we need neither you as mediator [A VI 3, p144] nor God's pardon.'
PH - With this delightful interlude you have punctuated the austerity of our argument, or rather you have sealed it with an epilogue. Indeed, if I am not mistaken we are now able to finish safely.
TH - Permit me to ask yet one more question. I realize that you have demonstrated that the damned are not able, and do not want to be able, to complain about God, about the world, or about anything. One issue remains, that God satisfies those astounded by this mysterious judgement that is hidden from other minds, indeed that he satisfies himself; for although it seems to me that I can foresee, from our assumptions and from a distance as it were, the way the matter is to be settled, I nevertheless prefer to hear it reconciled by you.
PH - What is there, then, that anyone is still able to complain about? For neither God nor anyone blessed would be blessed (indeed would exist) if the series of things were not thus.33
TH - No one has grounds to complain, I agree, though some will only be able to wonder at two things. First, why the plan for the world was not established without the damnation of anyone. Second, why the circumstances of things will have produced this soul rather than that, in this mass of flesh rather than that, to make itself - indeed, to will itself - unhappy.
[Bel p102] [A VI 3, p146]
PH - The first question is the easiest and most difficult at the same time. It is easiest if you grant to me that this plan for the world was thus the best, and consistent with the universal harmony; this is shown from the effect, and to speak as the Scholastics do, a posteriori, by the very fact that it has happened. For whatever exists is the best, or the highest harmony; this is proved by an invincible demonstration, because the first and only efficient cause of things is mind. The cause that rouses the mind, or the final cause of things, is harmony; and the most perfect mind is roused by the greatest harmony.34 However, if you are not content with this argument, and you want the actual harmony (the cause of so many wonderful things) to be disclosed to you and be demonstrated a priori (for there were reasons for it to happen thus in the world), you desire an impossible thing for man, who is not yet admitted to the secrets of the vision of God.
TH - If only the world could be persuaded of what you have clearly proved: if you consider the whole of things, whatever is, is best. Certainly if everyone believed this we would have less sin, if they always remembered it, then none.35 Everyone would love the creator; the mouth of the atheist would be shut and those foolish critics of providence, who having heard a few strokes of music rush headlong into a rash judgement about the whole melody, would be compelled to be silent. They are ignorant with regard to the near infinity of things and, so to speak, with regard to the replication of worlds within worlds (for the continuum is divisible to infinity). It is impossible for a mortal not yet purified to grasp, with his mind, the whole song, nor to acknowledge that these scattered dissonances in the parts will be restored to make the consonance of the universe more exquisite, just as two odd numbers are combined into one even number. Indeed, it is of the essence of harmony that a distorted diversity is counterbalanced in a wonderful way, unexpected as it were, into a unity. Not only composers of music, but also those who invent delighting stories, [Bel p104] [A VI 3, p147] which they call novels, consider this as a principle of art. Still there is this second question left over for you to settle - since souls are similar to each another, or as the Scholastics say, since they differ only in number, or at any rate in degree, and consequently they vary only by external impressions, what reason for their diversity can there be in universal harmony? Why are these souls rather than those exposed to circumstances which corrupt the will, or (what is the same) why are they put in this time and this place?
PH - The question seems difficult, but because of the distorted manner of the question rather than the nature of the matter. It touches in fact upon the very thorny problem of the principle of individuation, or the discrimination of things differing only in number. Let there be two eggs so similar to each another (of the greatest similarity, according to the hypothesis) that not even an angel is able to spot the difference; and yet who would deny that they differ? At least to the extent that one is 'this one' while the other is 'that one', i.e. they differ in haeccity, or because they are one and another, i.e. they differ in number. However, what do we want when we count, or when we say this? (for to count is in fact the repetition of 'this') What is this? Or how is it determined? What if not the sense of time and place, i.e. the movement either of a given thing with regard to us or to an already determined thing, or the movement of our hand or finger by which we point to it, or even of a thing already determined, such as a stick, to point to a given thing. Therefore here, you may be amazed, are the principles of individuation, outside of the thing itself; in fact it is not possible for either an angel or, to speak boldly, for God to assign another distinction between these eggs (of the greatest similarity, according to the hypothesis) than that at this present time this one is in place A and that one is in place B. Hence in order for you to be able to continually distinguish them, in which their designation (i.e. their continual determination) is situated, it is necessary - supposing that no one is permitted to daub them, attach marks or impress signs by which they cease to be utterly similar - that either you store these eggs in a fixed place where they too will be at rest, or you ensure that [Bel p106] their location, or vessel if it is movable, is nevertheless not breakable, and that the eggs are so supported in it that they always preserve the same position with regard to parts of the vessel already determined by some certain marks impressed in it. Or finally, if you are going to leave them in total freedom, it will be necessary to follow with your eyes or hands or another kind of contact, the movement of one and the other through the whole course of time and through all places.
[A VI 3, p148]
TH - You relate wonderful ideas which, I believe, have not come into the mind of any of the Scholastics, even in a dream, but which nevertheless no one can deny since they are drawn from the experience of life. For men do not reason in a different way when distinguishing similar things. But what have you inferred from that with regard to souls?
PH - Only that souls (or as I prefer to call them, minds) are likewise individuated, or become these, by place and time. With this assumed, the whole question becomes void. Indeed, to ask why this soul rather than another is subjected from the beginning to these circumstances of time and place (from which arises the whole series of life, death and salvation or damnation), and consequently why it passes from one set of circumstances to others, the series of things outside itself stirring it thus, is to ask why this soul is this soul. Imagine that another soul began to exist in this body (i.e. this same place and time) in the same place and time where this soul had begun. That very soul which you call 'another' would not be another, but this.36 If someone were indignant that he was not born of some queen or, conversely, that a king was not born of his own mother, he would be indignant that he was not another; more correctly, he would be indignant for nothing, for everything would only turn out the same and he, then a royal boy, would not dream of himself as now the son of a peasant. In the same way I have sometimes crushed those who were indignant that God did not immediately remove Adam and Eve from the world once fallen (so that the fault might not [Bel p108] be propagated among their descendants), and substituted them with another, better, couple. For I have reminded them that if God had done this, with the sin removed it would have been by far a different series of things, by far different combinations of circumstances, of men, of marriages, and by far different men would have been produced, and hence if the sin had been removed or extinguished they themselves would not have existed in the world. Therefore they have no reason to be indignant because of Adam or Eve's sinning, much less because of God's enduring it, when they rather owe their own existence to the tolerance of these very sinners. You see how vain the questions are that men trouble themselves with, just as if someone half-noble were to get angry at his father who has taken an inferior wife (although similar feelings are not lacking in men, indeed more foolish ones), not considering that if his father had taken another, not he but another man would have come to exist in the world.
[A VI 3, p149]
TH - There is nothing more for me to ask, to complain about, to object to or to be amazed at except the unexpected clarity of your explanations of the whole matter. I would submit more of them to the recommendation of others except I fear that men would suspect us of acting in collusion.
PH - Then let other men judge instead, but only good and intelligent men, who pay close attention, who accept the sense of the words I have supposed and do not infer a foreign sense, who hate the distorted consequences ascribed to the author (which he was not thinking even in a dream), who hate caustic jestings, signs of disturbances of the soul, and who are inflamed by the same zeal for vindicating the divine glory and the enlightening of minds.
[The remainder of the text was deleted by Leibniz]
TH - But if you were to have gone astray, it is sufficient to free you from blame that not even chicanery and envy itself can prevail (which would be heretical), or else he who may speak thus, may believe thus, and may die thus, will be damnable, and ought not to be considered a son of our common mother, the Church, or which is the same, as our brother.
PH - I am certainly confident of that, and full of this hope I submit myself to the universal consensus, to the received opinions of the church, of the Christian commonwealth, of antiquity, also of our century, and finally to anyone whose reasoning is correct. That I may be reproached I cannot prevent; I beg not to be prejudged. [Bel p110] For I hope that if I am heard, or rather if I am read carefully, it will be proved - if the tricks of words (which generally confuse humankind more than the matters under discussion) are removed and all things are explained with the greatest possible simplicity - that I have proclaimed nothing which is not to be recognized as necessary by all men. At any rate, I have today said nothing about the merit of Christ, about the assistance of the Holy Spirit, and the extraordinary concourse of divine grace, matters depending on the divine revelation. For so it was agreed between us that I, as Catechumen, would explain to you the theology of the Philosopher, before you in return would initiate me into the revealed mysteries of Christian wisdom, so that your effort would be lessened, Theophilus, of proving what I have confessed and acknowledged, to make clearer the harmony of faith and reason, and more conspicuous to all the foolishness of those who, puffed up with education think little of religion, or who, proud of the revelations, hate philosophy, the exposer of their own ignorance.
TH - I praise your modesty and I acknowledge the fruits I have reaped from this conversation, and I am glad to have, through you, those arguments by which I may stop up the mouths of those who, through the greatest insolence, are not moved by reverence for Sacred Scripture or by the consensus, the authority and the examples of the holy Fathers; those who rely on I know not what kind of reasons, which you have shown to be frivolous more clearly than the light of midday. There will be a time (so I predict and pray) when I shall have in you an instrument more prepared for greater things, so that when we have also engaged the inner matters of faith, by the light of right reason all the darkness and the spectres of the vainest difficulties, by which souls are disturbed and seduced into the wilderness, are frightened off as if by a kind of exorcism. Farewell.
1. 'O more than happy, if they only knew their advantages.' Virgil, Georgics II, 458.
2. An allusion to Romans 9.21: 'Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?'
3. Leibniz wrote in the margin here: 'Fragment of a dialogue about human freedom and God's justice.'
4. In the margin Steno commented: 'This is a supposition, for why can't the soul perceive the conditions of the place in which it finds itself?' Leibniz replied: 'How could it, except through the senses of the body?'
5. In the margin Steno commented: 'And this is a supposition, for why can't the soul also consider all the thoughts of its entire life? But it seems that while one thing is said another is intended, and 'nothing more' is to be applied to the last thoughts, namely that when the extended part has been destroyed and the orderly motion has ceased, all thoughts cease, i.e. when the proper proportion of parts is destroyed, there are no opinions. But how many suppositions are there in this system? What is the basis of this philosophizing?' Leibniz replied: 'This is to quibble with the manifest intention of the author.'
6. In the margin Steno commented: ' ' TO BE ADDED.
7. In the margin Steno commented: 'Nothing more suitable can be said for Luther's 'by faith alone', although I would like this to be proved philosophically. For I have seen men living an evil life most firmly believing themselves elect, and if they were to die in such a state everyone would rightly believe them damned.' Leibniz replied: 'Again there is an equivocation here, for no one can actually believe himself dear to God unless God is dear to him. In addition, it is not sufficient that someone believes himself dear to God unless he believes himself dear to God because he loves God.'
8. In the margin Steno commented: ' ' TO BE ADDED.
9. In the margin Steno commented: ' ' TO BE ADDED.
10. In the margin Steno commented: ' ' TO BE ADDED.
11. In the margin Steno commented: ' ' TO BE ADDED.
12. In the margin Steno commented: ' ' TO BE ADDED.
13. In the margin Steno commented: ' ' TO BE ADDED.
14. Luke 17.1: 'Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come!' Matthew 18.7: 'Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!'
15. In the margin, Steno commented: 'There can be beings who can freely resist his will, and will actually resist it, and therefore will be forced to suffer punishment for their disobedience.'
16. In the margin Steno commented: ' ' TO BE ADDED.
17. In the margin Steno commented: ' ' TO BE ADDED.
18. A reference to John Barclay's novel Argenis (Paris, 1621).
19. In the margin Steno commented: ' ' TO BE ADDED.
20. In the margin Steno commented: ' ' TO BE ADDED.
21. Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics 1111a22-1112a17.
22. In the margin Steno commented: ' ' TO BE ADDED.
23. Ovid, Metamorphoses VII.20-21.
24. An allusion to John 12.40: 'He blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, so that they might not see with their eyes and understand with their heart and be converted, and I would heal them.'
25. In the margin, Steno commented: 'Such things are easy to write and say, but how are they to be reconciled with the system?' Leibniz replied: 'This is a sign that my critic does not understand this system very well.'
26. Virgil, Aeneid VI.261
27. In the margin Steno commented: 'But because of the series of things which has been assumed, this is not possible for him.' Leibniz replied: 'I say he can, if he wills it. But he will not will it. So my opinion is the same as the common opinion, for at any rate God has foreseen that he will not will it.'
28. This is not precisely what the philosopher said earlier, at A VI 3, pp118-19, though it does not differ in any really significant way.
29. In the margin, Steno commented: 'But how is this to be reconciled with the system?' Leibniz replied: 'This is a sign that the critic does not understand the system.'
30. In the margin Steno commented: ' ' TO BE ADDED.
31. In the margin Steno commented: ' ' TO BE ADDED.
32. Seneca, Phaedra 1201.
33. Leibniz here deleted the following: 'Although this series is chosen freely, nevertheless it is chosen infallibly, because it is the best. As I have proved above.'
34. In the margin Steno commented: ' ' TO BE ADDED.
35. In the margin Steno commented: ' ' TO BE ADDED.
36. In the margin, Steno commented: ' '. TO BE ADDED.
© Lloyd Strickland 2003, 2007