Sämtliche schriften und briefe series I, volume 3
Deutsche Akademie der Wissenschaften (ed)
Date: 23 October/3 November 1682
Translated from the French
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MIND, BODY AND SOUL
FREE WILL AND NECESSITY
POLITICS, LAW AND ETHICS
LEIBNIZ TO LANDGRAVE ERNST VON HESSEN-RHEINFELS
[A I 3, p272]
It seems to me I once wrote to Your Serene Highness that I should go to Frankfurt to assist Mr de Grote, our ambassador there; indeed it was settled, for it was thought that there would be discussions to have concerning history and the law. But with that not having taken place, my trip has been deemed no longer necessary since the capture of Strasbourg. That is why, being deprived of the honour of seeing Your Serene Highness, I take the liberty again of writing, although I do not know if you are at St. Goar.
I have often reread the excellent discourse on the complaints of the French reformers, which Your Highness gave me as a gift; there is nothing so moderate nor so sound. But people in France are far removed from it, and since then even doctors and apothecaries have been forbidden from practising their profession, and the edict of Nantes is no longer in season. Duke Georg Wilhelm said, in a nice way, to some of this religion who complained of the behaviour of the most Christian King: console yourselves, gentlemen - he wages war for you in Hungary.
The way of conferences which Your Highness proposes seems to me much fairer. And if there were many books like those by Your Highness, or like the one by Mr de Condom, I think much progress would be made towards reunion. And for my part, if The Discreet Catholic was approved by the Pope as well as Mr de Condom's exposition, I think it would have much more of an effect than the latter. Mr de Condom's book was only written to show that the dogmas of the Roman Church are not intolerable, but that is not enough to convince people to enter into this church, since to be in it one has to believe that these dogmas are not only tolerable, but also true. The arguments of the summary of The Discreet Catholic go much further, and if they were genuinely approved they would be of great consequence. I even think that it would not be impossible to get approval for them if certain things were removed which are bound to offend the Court of Rome, and which are not essential or even always justified. The majority of the objections that can be made against Rome are against the practice of its people rather than against its dogmas, and if this practice was publicly disavowed, these objections would stop. The approval of a book like the one of The Discreet Catholic would serve as such a disclaimer.
As regards dogmas, the principal difficulty to my mind consists in transubstantiation. And this transubstantiation implies contradiction if the philosophy of the Moderns is true, which holds that the essence of body is to be extended and to fill a certain space. I see that the philosophy of the Gassendists and Cartesians has the upper hand, [A I 3, p273] even in France, and I do not understand how those who believe it are able to be Catholics in good faith.
As this same philosophy no less destroys the real presence, I have on occasion applied myself to it, and I have found certain demonstrations, dependent on mathematics and the nature of motion, which give me a great satisfaction on these matters, and I even think that the possibility of transubstantiation could be deduced from them, which is an important point, for as transubstantiation seems, moreover, to conform sufficiently to the opinions of the ancient church, there is only its apparent impossibility which prevents thoughtful people lending credence to it. Nevertheless I would like to know if the way I explain it could be received in the Roman Church, although it seems to me that it is sufficiently in agreement with the principles of Scholastic theology, which the explanation of the Cartesians is not. After the redress and the repudiation of bad practices, I do not see anything which is so important for reunion than to be able to resolve the apparent absurdities of transubstantiation, since all the other dogmas are much more in conformity with reason. And to want to renounce reason in the matter of religion is, in my opinion, a near certain sign either of a obstinate passion similar to enthusiasm or, what is worse, of hypocrisy. One only believes anything, whether in religion or in anything else, by the true or false reasons which lead us to it: necessaria sunt motiva credibilitatis,1 which, being only probable, as can be ascertained by Gregor of Valencia's l'analyse de la foy, and other works,2 can be destroyed or outweighed by reasons of impossibility. (For I do not speak of the divine faith, which overcomes human motives.)
But I do not know how my pen has embarked on things which were not in my mind when I began this letter, and I ought to know in the first instance if Your Highness is happy that I address him once again through letters. It is right that I await his permission, and yet I am with devotion,
1. 'motives of credibility are necessary'.
2. Gregor of Valencia, Analysis fidei catholicae [Analysis of the Catholic Faith] (Ingolstadt, 1585).
© Lloyd Strickland 2007