Source:

Sämtliche schriften und briefe series VI, volume 1
Deutsche Akademie der Wissenschaften (ed)
pp 532-535



Date: 1669 - 1670(?)

Translated from the Latin



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LEIBNIZ: ON THE INCARNATION OF GOD, OR, ON THE HYPOSTATIC UNION


[A VI 1, p532]

     It is noteworthy that heretics were only considered - even by the ancients - to be those who were subjects. Hence law 12, chapter on heretics - the Goths are excused the punishments laid down for heretics because they are not subjects but allies [foederati].1 Therefore the crime of heresy is a kind of civil disobedience, and heretics were considered to be those who did not obey the magistracy when it expounded on religion. This law 12 deserves a special practice.2

[A VI 1, p533]

     These are able to be hypostatically united: 1) God and mind, 2) Mind and body, 3) Body and body through a common mind. Body and body cannot be hypostatically united in themselves because no body subsists in itself. Mind and mind cannot be hypostatically united unless one is perfect and the other imperfect, because an imperfect mind does not act outside of itself except through body. From which it follows that demons are not hypostatically united to the souls of the possessed because they act on those souls through intermediate bodies, and are not hypostatically united to them. Moreover, a created - and hence imperfect - mind is not united to every body, but only to the one in which it is rooted and from which it cannot be separated. In the human body, for example, it should not be thought that the soul is hypostatically united to all the corpuscles in it since they are constantly in passage; instead, the soul inheres in the very centre of the brain, to a certain fixed and inseparable flower of substance which is most subtly mobile in the centre of the animal spirits, and it is substantially united so that it is not separated even by death. Therefore the bodies of the possessed are not united to the demon, because their bodies are not inseparably united to it; instead it acts on them only by means of its own body. It now needs to be investigated whether God is hypostatically united to all bodies, that is, to the whole world, or whether he can be to some bodies or to none. And I think that the world, i.e. bodies, is not hypostatically united to God, because there is no hypostatic union of anything except by means of one thing's action on another, yet God is unable to act on bodies in any other way (annihilation and creation excepted) than by impressing motion. Moreover, for as long as bodies are moved, they are continually created, as I have demonstrated. Therefore they are united to God for more than an instant, but just as that which does not remain in a place for more than an instant is not considered to be at rest in it but only passes through it, so bodies not united to God for more than an instant are not properly united but are only in transition. It is otherwise in minds which are not created, for as long as God acts on them, nor is any demonstration for this matter evident, but minds are free and have a principle of activity in themselves, with the exception of that mind whose principle of activity is God, i.e. the one which is united to God. But how, then, are bodies hypostatically united to minds, since they are only actually united by motion yet do not continuously exist in motion?3 For that reason, then, should it rather be said that bodies are not hypostatically united to God, because he does not act on them in an extraordinary way but is united to all things equally? - on the contrary, even though he cannot act on bodies in an extraordinary way. Because every action of his on bodies is creation, then although in one way he creates, in another way he does not. He does nothing outside the ordinary in this matter,4 for every extraordinary action of God is extraordinary not by reason of the act, but by reason of the time and place, for example, because he annihilates a body from a time and a place in which [A VI 1, p534] he is otherwise unaccustomed to annihilate one, namely from a time and a place in which it is at rest, or when he creates a body at a time he does not usually create one, for example when it did not pre-exist beforehand. Or when he creates a body where he is not accustomed to create one, for example, in a place very far removed from many intervening spaces. Therefore it is not God's action on bodies which is extraordinary and special, but the time of the action. But God's action on a mind is special and as it were determined to this mind even by reason of the act. For God is not accustomed to be the internal principle of acting, and therefore to act on minds in this way, except on that one alone which he has hypostatically united. Therefore let there be a hypostatic union in those things of which one constantly acts on the other by a special manner of action, that is, of which one is the other's immediate instrument of acting.5 For it is possible to find here the distinction between the mind's action on the body, and God's action on the body. The mind does not act on the body by creating, but by moving; God creates. Conversely, God acts on bodies only by creating. Moreover, whoever creates, acts on the thing, and does not act by means of the thing, and so the thing is not his instrument of acting. In truth, the instrument of God is the mind, united to God, and by means of which God acts on bodies otherwise than by creating. The "hypostatically united" is therefore nothing other than what is the immediate instrument of a thing having a principle of action in itself. And hypostatic union is the action of a thing which has in itself a principle of acting immediately through another thing. And these are the requisites for hypostatic union: 1) A thing subsisting through itself, i.e. having in itself a principle of acting, to which it is united. 2) Some other thing which is united. 3) The action of the subsisting thing through the united thing on a third thing, that is, so that the united thing is an instrument of the subsisting thing. 4) The immediacy of its action, that is, that it does not act through another thing to which the same thing on which it acts, and which is said to be united to the first thing, is not united. For the united of the united is the united of the first thing. Where A is the uniting thing, and B that which is said to be united: 1) A is a thing subsisting through itself, 2) A acts on C through B, 3) A acts immediately on B, that is, not through another thing. But, you will say, against the third rule, is not the body of Christ united to the Deity? Yes of course, but it is united to the Deity not immediately, but through mind, so I say that here A is not the Deity alone, but the Deity together with everything which is united to it, or, which is the same thing, the third rule may be conceived here as follows: A acts on B only through that on which A immediately acts, or through another thing on which it immediately acts. That is, A does not act on B except either immediately or through an intermediate thing, or rather through intermediary things subsisting through themselves which continuously act immediately. In this way, the whole concept of the hypostatic union seems perfect and complete to me.6 Until now I have worked on this matter mostly in vain. These will be amazing wonders to the Scholastics.
     It should be noted that even though mind does not act continually on body, it still thinks. But the difficulty is, as we said above, that there is no union of mind and body except through the action of the one on the other, yet there is no action except through the impression [A VI 1, p535] of motion. Therefore there will be no union except through the impression of motion. On the one hand there is no thought without a union, because to make itself thought is the action of one thing on another, and on the other hand, every action is not between united things by definition of a union. For a union is not contiguity, but continuity, i.e. a common motion or action. Therefore when created things are at rest, God will know nothing about them. I say in response that he will know that they are at rest because, negatively, he would know if they were moved (and yet this process of reasoning does not occur in God, although he has negative knowledge of a thing negative by itself). And similarly with the mind. And there is some thought without a union, namely that which existed at the time of the union, i.e. a thought preceding it, and this is an actual rule: without a union there is no thought, namely a new thought, although the old thought remains. Besides, nothing new happens to resting bodies (except that others approach them and move away from them, which is known from their union and motion, and at that time there is a thought composed from an old and new thought). But in truth, you will say, many things happen in a mind without motion, so how will God know them, since he does not act on the actual mind through itself. The answer is that the mind is indeed not moved, but that all of its actions are accompanied by a motion of the bodies to which it is united and from which God will know its actions; demons will not know them, because they do not act on those bodies but through bodies, and therefore they do not enter into the interior bodies but only the surface of the corpuscles of minds. At any rate, God foreknows and thinks of all things at once, because nothing happens against his will, therefore nothing happens with him knowing it too. He knows what he is going to do, therefore he knows what the future must be. And yet there is no process of reasoning in him, which should sometime be explained more carefully.
     The question is how a mind which is implanted in the point of a body in dissipating motion does not perish too. Should it be said that points do not perish because they are not parts of bodies but limits, and because that demonstration about bodies is invalid with regard to points? For at any instant whatsoever a point is present in a certain point of space, but that which exists in a body besides points is sometimes not in any place and therefore at that time is nothing. Amazing. But few people - only the most subtle - will grasp these secrets of things.
     It is notable that the doctrine of the Socinians is far more dangerous than that of the Catholics. For the Catholic Church worships only one God, and worships him only because he is supreme. Even though it recognizes in him a threefold way of subsisting, it neither divides or multiplies God in this way. Conversely, the Socinians worship a being which they hold to be created, which they do not reckon to be the supreme God, and whom they think has an essence distinct from the supreme God. Therefore they have two Gods. They worship a mere man, while we worship God inhabiting a man.





NOTES:

1. Leibniz is referring here to Justianian's Codex, or Corpus jurus civilis: "Considering that we often reckon the Goths our devoted allies to whom neither nature nor their past life has given such minds [as to be to orthodox], we have decided to relax, to a certain extent, the severity [of the laws] in their regard, and permit them to be our allies and to be decorated with honors, to the extent that those things seem good to us." Corpus juris civilis [Body of civil law]. I.5.12, para. 17.
2. practice. | With regard to the incarnation of the son of GOD, or the hypostatic union, these things should be noted. For a hypostatic union it is a requirement that there are similar natures. | deleted.
3. motion? | Because for that reason they are inseparable. And it should be noted that there is as it were a disjunctive requirement for hypostatic union, for it requires either inseparability | deleted.
4. Marginal note: And here all miracles in bodies, the nature of which is known by very few, are dispelled. NB. Angels cannot stir or stop a body except in another way. All miracles in bodies consist in creating them, annihilating them, stopping or stimulating their motion, moving them in an instant, or deflecting them from their ordinary path. Angels and men cannot do all these things, for they disturb an object on its ordinary path by means of another body. Minds, though, can move, stop and deflect the bodies which are united to them.
5. Marginal note: We can also respond like this: only a point is substantially, i.e. hypostatically united to a mind, and that point is not annihilated in motion. In moving a thing, however, God, does not act on points, as minds do, but on the body. Add at the end: amazing.
6. Marginal note: NB. A wonderful and notable specimen of the definition of the analogous, whereby the genus cannot be defined except by a mention made of one principal species, and everything else by means of that.


© Lloyd Strickland 2009
With gratitude to John Thorley for advice and suggestions