Die philophischen schriften von Gottfried Wilheim Leibniz, vol. I
C. I. Gerhardt (ed)
pp 360-361

Date: January 1712

Translated from the French

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[G I p360]

     My very Reverend Father,

     It seems from the letter I had the honour to receive from you that the principal part of my work has not displeased you.1 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 together with the fecundity of the ways 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 there will be a need to turn to this position: that God's remaining unmoveable at the fall of man and permitting it shows that the most excellent creatures are nothing in relation to him;2 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 owes to 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 his presence, 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 matter of comparing them with ordinary lines; and I think I have already used this analogy. But it is true that God ought not to have disturbed his work to prevent the fall of man; this kindness for a single type of creature, however excellent it is, would have been too great. I also agree that grace is not bestowed on the basis of merit, although both good and bad actions are taken into account, as with everything else, 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,3 is not imitable by those who consider that one would have to declare under oath that one believes that what one knows to be poorly founded novelties are essential truths. The remaining nations must not have had enough complacency to allow themselves to 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.]4
     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 led them astray is that, being ill-informed of mathematical knowledge, they have not sufficiently understood the nature of eternal truths.
     Mathematics is obliged to you to for having formerly instructed Father Prestet, of whom I believe Reverend Father Reineau is a disciple; but he has gone much further than him, and I have high hopes for his genius and application. For, far from this subject being exhausted, I find that there is still an infinity of things to do.


1. In the letter from Malebranche to which Leibniz is responding, the Frenchman had indicated that he had been reading Leibniz's Theodicy (Amsterdam, 1710), and thought that Leibniz had done a good job of proving, a priori, "that of all the possible plans of works that God discovers in his wisdom, he must choose the best." Malebranche to Leibniz, 14 December 1711, in G I, 359.
2. Malebranche had written "Mr Bayle says that as God has foreseen the sin of the first man and all of its consequences, he could prevent it etc. Yes, but he should not do so. For, by remaining unmoveable at the fall of man, he thereby shows that the worship of the most excellent of his creatures is nothing to him." Malebranche to Leibniz, 14 December 1711, in G I, 359.
3. Malebranche had written: "I admit to you, Sir, that Mr Bayle's last works often irritated me, and I praise your zeal and at the same time your moderation in the manner in which you refute his dangerous and seductive thoughts. I beg God to reward you for that, and to grant you the grace to imitate your very illustrious prince." Malebranche to Leibniz, 14 December 1711, in G I, 359.
4. Gerhardt notes that the passage in square brackets would not have appeared in the letter Leibniz sent to Malebranche. The bad-tempered tone is unusual for Leibniz, and indicates that he was greatly irritated by parts of Malebranche's letter.

© Lloyd Strickland 2003. Revised 2018