Sämtliche schriften und briefe series I, volume 18
Deutsche Akademie der Wissenschaften (ed)

Date: June 1700

Translated from the Latin

View this translation in PDF format (11k)

Back to home page

Search texts by keyword(s):

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


[A I 18, p696]

     ...As for the rest, I'll whisper it to you. When our most serene Electress1 who, as you know, is never able to refrain from paradoxes, interrupted me during lunch recently, she provoked me to a discussion about the definition of the soul and its real distinction from an extended thing. She then asked me to write down my thoughts on this matter; I wrote them and sent them to her.2 The most serene Electress attacked them and did not even respond to my arguments, but multiplied questions, as she is in the habit of doing, some of which were irrelevant while others were very easy to answer. In the end, she said that she would make you be the arbiter of this dispute, and to that end would send my paper to you, which she has done I'm sure.3

[A I 18, p697]

     For my part, I dare to hope and pray that you think like I do in this regard, namely that the soul is a thinking thing and is really distinct from an extended thing; if this is not granted, what will become of the immortality of the soul? However if, contrary to my every expectation, you should think otherwise, our most serene Electress must surely not be aware of it, and I therefore beg you that you will think it right to help me with your response, or, if this is too difficult, at least you will not decide to harm me with it. I am confident that our friendship requires that you do this. I am persuaded that your feelings towards me demand that you will not do otherwise.
     - 4 June 1700


[A I 18, p718]

     The most serene Madam Electress has sent me what you discussed in the French conversation. Obviously I approve of your opinion that the body is extended and the soul is thinking, and that each is distinguished from the other, although I think that the Cartesian proof of this has some difficulties. For in order to conclude that extension and thought are incompatible in one and the same subject, the Cartesians must put forward a definition of both. Therefore I do not so much disagree with you or the Cartesians about this as attempt to resolve matters which they have left unexplained and insufficiently well-founded. For I define both extension (which involves plurality, continuity and coexistence) and thought, which is of the multitude expressed in a single thing, and so to speak the Iliad in a nutshell. For souls are true unities or simple substances, lacking plurality or parts. Consequently, no natural way of destroying them can be imagined.
     - 22 June 1700


1. Electress Sophie.
2. Molanus' paper is printed in A I 18, pp92-6.
3. Sophie sent Molanus' paper to Leibniz with her letter of 2 June 1700. See A I 18, pp90-2.

© Lloyd Strickland 2006