Sämtliche schriften und briefe series VI volume 4
Deutsche Akademie der Wissenschaften (ed)
pp 1455-1460

Date: summer 1680 - summer 1684?

Translated from the Latin

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[A VI 4, p1455]

     Freedom should be explained in such a way that it has its origin in the nature of the mind, because only minds are free. Therefore its formal reason is not to be located in absolute indifference, which has nothing in common with the mind; for it is not apparent why absolute indifference, if [A VI 4, p1456] indeed it is possible, can belong to mind more than anything else. Therefore the root of freedom is in this: that the mind does not choose by reasons of necessity but by reasons of goodness, true or apparent, to which it is inclined.
     In fact all acts of creatures are contingent, for they do not necessarily follow from a preceding state of affairs, but because of a decree of the divine will. But contingent acts effected by reason are free, whether they proceed from divine or human will. Consequently it is not to be supposed that a stone falls by necessity, or that a body once set in motion continues to move. For that only happens because of a free decree of God.1
     Indifference is absolute when the will finds itself of the same mind in relation to each of two opposites, and is not inclined towards one more than the other. What point is there in fighting for these things which never exist? I do not think such indifference ever exists, or if it does exist, then as long as it remains no act will follow.
     Respective or limited indifference is when the will is certainly inclined more towards one or the other, but is nevertheless still able to act or not to act, even if perhaps it may be certainly about to act. And this is of the essence of freedom. For no inclination, however great, exists in the freely acting mind, from which action must necessarily follow.2
     In every agent something must be posited immediately before the action from which the action certainly follows in accordance with the existing circumstances, there being some underlying divine decree which must be observed. For the action has some immediate basis in the agent, so that the agent about to act would be affected differently by being about to perform action a than by being about to perform action b.
     The mind has the ability not only to choose one or the other, but also to suspend judgement. No apparent good (except the highest) can be so evident that the mind cannot suspend judgement before the final decision, if it wishes (and has the chance to deliberate), and that happens while other topics of thought are presented to the mind, and it is either carried away towards them without deliberation, or in deliberating it concludes it would rather think about other things. If the mind is not diverted from deliberation, what it is about to choose can certainly be known: for it is certain that it is about to choose that which appears best to it. Nor will any example be given [A VI 4, p1457] to the contrary. But again, how shall we know whether it is to be diverted or not? Doubtless it can be known from the state of the mind itself together with what is external to it whether it will be interrupted or not. After it is assumed that it is to be interrupted, it can be known whether it may be diverted without deliberation or with deliberation. For all that does not depend on the will, but on the series of acts of the intellect. But if it is to be diverted without deliberation, we have what we purpose: for it is known that the mind is going to choose nothing. But if the deliberation about to follow concerns whether the matter under consideration is to be pursued or changed, the same reasoning can again be established from this concerning that new deliberation, and hence finally it will either come to the diversion without deliberation, which can be foreseen from the nature of the intellect, or to the conclusion without diversion, and what kind it will be can be foreseen from the nature of the will. For unless the will is diverted to other thoughts, it will certainly choose that which appears best. And in this indirect way we resist our intellect and our self-knowledge, while we change the object of thought, whether by a deliberate plan or by the custom of sliding into what is pleasant. Grace helps us in two ways: one insofar as it illuminates the intellect, the other insofar as it gives attention and fixes the mind so that it may not move from the object. No creature is able to foresee infallibly what a man is about to choose.
     Everywhere in the schools human freedom is being discussed in a foolish way, with no respect for what actually happens. A perfect indifference never occurs. A reason could always have been given for a choice, if someone had observed accurately the ways through which the mind came to it.
     The necessity of the consequence is that which is founded on the principle of contradiction, or on the hypothesis, which already involves the very thing that is asked about.3 From this it follows that in matters of fact no necessity of the consequent can exist, i.e. that these matters of fact already involve necessity without any hypothesis, for necessity cannot be demonstrated except through the principle of contradiction, i.e. from the fact that the matter is already supposed. But in propositions of eternal truth the matter is otherwise, because there it is not a question of existence, but only of hypothetical propositions. [A VI 4, p1458] Hence it can be said that no absolute proposition except that which follows from the nature of God is necessary. Indeed no being exists through its own essence or of necessity except God.

     With regard to that great question whether the second cause determines the first, or the first the second, it is to be answered that the first is determined by the second taken ideally, that is, the idea of the second as perceived in the divine intellect determines the first will. But the second taken actually is determined by the first, i.e. each takes its own entity from it.
     No substance is capable of transeunt action, but only of immanent action, except God alone, upon whom all other substances depend.
     It is not sufficient to say that the complete concept of a creature also involves each series of graces. For as divine graces are free and proceed from a decree, a complete concept will also involve divine decrees and their reasons. And so the question in turn becomes, what is the reason of a decree for giving grace? Therefore it is in turn to be obtained from a consideration of whatever is left in that possible concept when the decree of grace has been removed. More correctly, however, it is possible that decrees of grace are connected in innumerable ways according to certain orders of things, but God chooses only one of them. Therefore the reason for the decrees of grace or for their concourse is to be obtained from each possible order of the whole universe.
     The question is, what is that thing in the human will that God in his consideration chooses to concur with one act rather than another? It is not the action of the will, because it essentially involves the concourse of God already. Therefore will it be simply and precisely the very futurity of the action, but is the very futurity of the action an intrinsic denomination, i.e. some real disposition in the will? If it is, the will is not indifferent, because it is naturally affected by this predetermining quality from which action infallibly follows. If that futurity is an extrinsic denomination, the question is, does it have its foundation in some intrinsic denomination, in which case it must be either in God or in the will itself, for other things have nothing to do with the matter. If it is in God, we come to a predetermination by God, if it is in the will, we come to an ideal predetermination by the creature.

[A VI 4, p1459]

     If men had considered the idea or concept of a creature (involving possible general divine decrees) to be prior to the decree of the divine will (actual and particular to the creature itself), as it is established in his understanding, certainly they would have easily avoided all difficulties, and they would see how God produces every reality in evil actions and yet is not the cause of evil, and they would see how just he is, and that he does not determine the fate of men indifferently, some to misery and others to happiness, because their ideas are never indifferent.4
     The most celebrated question is whether that created entity or reality, in which the nature of effective grace consists, has an infallible connection with the consent of man because of the power of its own being, i.e. whether it is effective by itself, or indeed whether that very certainty must be sought in the conditional knowledge of God, who had foreseen that a mind would consent if such grace were granted to it. But we may assume, if we have judged the matter right, that God's certainty arises from the fact that he has foreseen that a mind will assent. The question is, from where has he foreseen this connexion? Entirely from a consideration both of the mind and of grace, for not only does he know what the future state of a mind will be, but also what grace will add to it, and it is just as if he were asked. Nevertheless it is certain that grace is the first active principle concerning pious actions.
# It can be asked5 whether or not effective and non-effective grace are sometimes similar in themselves. In truth they differ only in the receiving subject. For it can happen that what is effective in one person is ineffective in another. And in fact in this question consists the whole force of the controversy about auxiliaries. That is to say, whether in all to whom effective grace is given, such a degree of grace is given that by its nature it would bring about conversion in whatever subject it occurs.
# Certainly it seems that it must be admitted even by those who deny the nearest and most immediate concourse of God with all acts, that God concurs with an act of love in a different way than with an act of hatred. And yet Ludovicus a Dola seems obliquely to deny this, page 107.6

[A VI 4, p1460]

     Because it is an impossible situation that a creature might operate without the concourse of God, it is impossible that God could foresee what a creature in itself may be about to do by the power of free will alone. So God is only able to foresee to what a creature may be more inclined. And so the matter finally returns to the doctrine of non-necessitating inclinations.
     Can it be said that divine wills are contained in possible ideas, and the concourses with what must exist are possible as it were, that is, a form of existence may itself have a certain essence? But from that it would follow that new existence is necessary. The formal reason for the existence of contingent things seems to be that they give pleasure to the necessary being. But is it not possible that those things which do not exist also give pleasure to the necessary being? It certainly is possible, but it is not possible that they give more pleasure. Therefore it is not possible for them to exist. The difficulty must be solved.


1. Leibniz wrote in the margin here: 'Can it be said that the decrees of God are contingent? Certainly they are not necessary.'
2. Here Leibniz wrote and then deleted: 'The mind has the ability not only to choose one or the other, but also to suspend judgement.'
3. Here Leibniz wrote in the margin: 'note well'.
4. Here Leibniz wrote and then deleted: 'There is no necessary connection between actions and states of minds, for it is in accordance with certain laws of order...'
5. Leibniz wrote in the margin here: 'Questions of this kind can be found under the # signs: they restore the matter from Scholastic terms to popular ones.'
6. Ludovicus a Dola, De modo conjunctionis concursuum Dei et creatarum (Lyon, 1634).

© Lloyd Strickland 2004-2005
With gratitude to Harry Parkinson and John Thorley for advice and suggestions