Die philophischen schriften von Gottfried Wilheim Leibniz, vol. I
C. I. Gerhardt (ed)
Date: January 1712
Translated from the French
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MIND, BODY AND SOUL
FREE WILL AND NECESSITY
POLITICS, LAW AND ETHICS
LEIBNIZ TO NICOLAS MALEBRANCHE
[G I p360]
My very Reverend Father,
It seems from the letter that I had the honour to receive from you that the principal part of my work has not displeased you. I am delighted about this, as I hardly know a better judge than you.
In fact, when I consider the work of God, I consider his ways as a part of the work, and the simplicity of the ways joined with fecundity form a part of the excellence of the work: for in the whole the means form a part of the end. However I do not know if it will be necessary to turn to this expedient: that God's staying still during the fall of man and permitting it shows that the most excellent creatures are nothing in comparison with him; for one could abuse it, and infer from it that the good of creatures and their salvation are indifferent to him, which could come back to the despotism of the supralapsarians and diminish the love that one must have for God. Ultimately he is not indifferent to anything, and he does not count any creature or creaturely action as nothing although they are as nothing in comparison with him. They keep their proportions between themselves, even in front of him, just as lines that we conceive as infinitely small have their useful relationships between themselves, although one counts them for nothing when it is a question of comparing them with ordinary lines; and I believe that I have already used this similarity. But it is true that God did not have to disturb his work to prevent the fall of man; this kindness for a single type of creature, as excellent as they are, would have been too great. I also remain agreed that grace is never to be given on the basis of merit, although as many good actions as bad are taken into account, as with everything else, in order to form the whole plan in which salvation is included. Prayers, good intentions, good actions, all are useful, and even sometimes necessary, but none of them are sufficient. [Moreover, the example of the illustrious Prince, of which you spoke at the end of your letter, is not imitable by those who consider that it would be necessary to declare by oath that one believes what one knows to be poorly founded novelties are essential truths. The remaining nations must have been fed up with complacency to let themselves be led by the Italians, who mock them; and by the looks of it [G I p361] they will one day regret having forged their last so-called Ecumenical Council, which makes them irreconcilable.]
I also try to fight in passing certain lax philosophers, such as Mr Locke, Mr le Clerc and their kind, who have false and ignoble ideas of man, of the soul, of the understanding and even of the divinity, and who treat as fanciful all who pass by their popular and superficial notions. What has made them at fault is that, being ill informed of mathematical knowledge, they did not sufficiently know the nature of the eternal truths.
Mathematics is obliged to you to for having formerly trained Father Prestet, of whom I believe the Reverend Father Reineau is a disciple; but he has gone further forward than him, and I still wait for much of his genius and application. For, far from this subject being exhausted, I find that there is still an infinity of things to do.
© Lloyd Strickland 2003