Opera Omnia volume 5
Ludovic Dutens (ed)
p 169

Date: 15 March 1713

Translated from the Latin

View this translation in PDF format (64k)

Back to home page

Search texts by keyword(s):

(For search strings, just type the words; don't use quotation marks)


[D V, p169]

He [Christian Goldbach] objects that what follows from the choice of the best is a fatal necessity.1 But unless I am mistaken, such objections have recently been answered in my book,2 so there is no need for repetition. The necessity which flows from the choice of the best, which I call moral, is not to be shunned, nor can it be avoided without denying supreme divine perfection in the process. But the necessity that is to be avoided is the one which consists in the necessity of the object, namely where the very opposite object involves a contradiction in its own concept, likewise if the necessity is brute, which is the sort of thing maintained by the like of Democritus, Hobbes and Spinoza, who claim that the world exists not as a result of choice but as a result of the necessity of things, as for instance from the concourse of atoms or from matter and motion. If a world different from our world were to imply contradiction in its own concept, this world would be absolutely necessary. But because an infinity of other worlds can be imagined and distinctly conceived, like the stories of Milesia or Utopia,3 and only the choice of the best, extrinsic to the object, means that our world exists rather than those ones, it follows that our world is necessary only morally, and is absolutely speaking contingent. Otherwise it is to want to talk about problems where there aren't any, and to aspire to paradoxes along with Bayle, although in fact it is only to quarrel about the use of words, ignoring their scope, which should be established in advance in the case of the necessity to be avoided, in order that existence of things may be sought in divine wisdom and power rather than in the necessity of the objects, that is, in the extrinsic nature of things. Farewell, and think kindly of me.
     Sent from Vienna, 15 March 1713


1. See Goldbach's letter to Leibniz of 5 January 1713: LBr 1015 Bl. 7-8.
2. Leibniz is referring here to his Theodicée (Amsterdam, 1710).
3. A reference to the Milesian Tales of Aristides from the second century BCE, and the novel Utopia by Thomas More, published in 1516.

© Lloyd Strickland 2011 (revised 2016)