Die philophischen schriften von Gottfried Wilheim Leibniz, vol. VII
C. I. Gerhardt (ed)
pp 534-536

Date: 8 July 1711

Translated from the French

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[G VII p534]

Hanover, 8 July 1711.

     I am most obliged for the honour of your letter and for the paper you enclosed with it. I was asked on your behalf, when I was in Berlin, to send you the letters that I have had from Mr Bayle. But the three or four that I had from him were largely related to other writings, which means that I have not kept them with care and cannot rediscover them easily though they will still be in my pile of old papers. I remember that in one of his letters he believed that I conceived the force that I gave to bodies as something that can be contained in them, even when they are at rest. But I showed him that, to me, force is always accompanied by a real motion, more or less as this happens in the soul, and is always accompanied by that which corresponds to it in the soul. Also a momentary state of a body that is in motion, not being able to accommodate any motion as that requires time, nevertheless contains force.
     However, in order to satisfy something of your request, Sir, I send you my reply to what Mr Bayle has written with respect to my system in the second edition of his Dictionary, article 'Rorarius'. Perhaps Mr Bayle has replied in some supplement to his Dictionary, or in some other place not yet published. For he said to me, I seem to recall, that he wanted to think about it. But as this reply (neither my copy nor his duplicates) has still not been published, I send you my paper, which is almost the same as I sent to Mr Bayle. I say almost because I changed a few things while rereading. And I would be delighted to have your impression on it, if you are happy to compare it with what Mr Bayle says, as I would be delighted also to have it on my last book.1
     I come now to the fragment of your comments on my new system,2 sent to Mr Bayle, and which I would like to see in full. I do not at all refuse to men the privilege that I grant to animals. Thus I believe that the souls of men have pre-existed, not in rational souls, but in sensitive souls only, which only attained this superior degree [G VII p535], i.e. reason, when the man, whom the soul must animate, was conceived. I therefore grant an existence as ancient as the world, not only to the souls of beasts, but generally to all monads or simple substances, which form the resultant phenomena; and I hold that every soul or monad is always accompanied by an organic body, but which is in perpetual change so that the body is not the same, although the soul and the animal will be. These rules also apply to the human body, but apparently in a more excellent manner than with the other animals that we are aware of; for man has to remain not only an animal, but also an individual and citizen of the city of God, which is the most perfect possible state under the most perfect monarch. You said in your fragment, Sir, that you do not understand too well what these other corporeal substances are, besides animals, in whose complete extinction one has until now believed. But if there are living organic bodies in nature other than those of animals, as there certainly appears to be and as plants seem to furnish us with an example, these bodies will also have their simple substances or monads that will give them life, i.e. perception and appetite, although it is not at all necessary that this perception will be a sensation. There is apparently an infinity of degrees of perception, and consequently an infinity of degrees in living beings, but these living beings will always be indestructible, not only with regard to being a simple substance, but also because they always retain some organic body.
     As for the ancients, I admit that their sentiments do not approach mine on the inextinction of animals. Their notion of indestructibility ordinarily only applies to matter, or at the very most to atoms. And it can be said that in any hypothesis that does not admit either atoms or entelechies, no substance can be conserved. Nevertheless, in this variety of ancient thoughts it might be that there are some who have opinions approaching mine. Plato believed that material things were in perpetual flux, but that true substances subsisted; it appears that this was only applied to souls. But perhaps Democritus, utter Atomist that he was, still conserved the animal. For he taught of the return to life, [G VII p536] since Pliny said of him: reviviscendi promissa Democrito vanitas, qui ipse non revixit.3 We know almost nothing of this great man except from what Epicurus borrowed, who was not always capable of taking the best. Perhaps Parmenides who (with Plato), taught that all was One, has some sentiments similar to those of Spinoza, and thus it would not be necessary to be so surprised if one of them would have approached mine. And although the conservation of the animal is favoured by the microscopes, nevertheless men recognized minute bodies before their discovery, and thus one could very well have also predicted the existence of small animals, just as Democritus predicted imperceptible stars in the milky way before the discovery of telescopes. The simple conservation of matter or elements does not appear sufficient to explain the author of the Diet,4 since he positively says that no living being dies, and generally that any true being (any substance) is neither born nor perishes. If he meant only the conservation of matter, would he talk about it this way? At least it will be necessary to admit that in this case his words would be better suited to my system than to his.
     Moreover, you are right, Sir, to attribute to me in this fragment a remnant of Cartesianism, for I admit to agreeing with part of the doctrine of the Cartesians. But my sentiment on the commerce of the soul and body has foundations received, generally, before the birth of Cartesianism.
     The sheet of paper is full, and I can only add that which it is necessary to say, that I am sincerely etc.


1. Theodicy (1710).
2. Desmaizeaux had enclosed part of a paper written in 1700 criticizing Leibniz's 'New System'.
3. 'to be returned to life promised the vanity of Democritus, who himself has not returned to life'. Leibniz is here referring to Pliny, Natural History VII.55, although he is not giving a direct quote.
4. Leibniz is here referring to Hippocrates.

© Lloyd Strickland 2003