Sämtliche schriften und briefe series VI volume 4
Deutsche Akademie der Wissenschaften (ed)
pp 1449-1450

Date: summer 1680 - summer 1684?

Translated from the Latin

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[A VI 4, p1449]

     If all propositions, even the contingent ones, are resolved into identical propositions, are they not all necessary? My answer is: certainly not. For even if it is certain that what is more perfect is what will exist, the less perfect is nevertheless still possible. In propositions of fact, existence is involved. But the notion of existence is such that existence is a state of the universe such that it pleases God. But what is more perfect freely pleases God. Therefore a free act is eventually involved. But can a reason not be given for a free act? Certainly if we were to suppose a free act of God as occurring in time its reason will be another, preceding action of God, equally free, and so on. If we suppose an eternal free action, what then is the reason why God has always formed such an action rather than another? It is indeed his very nature, i.e. the divine perfection, and it must be said that in contingent things the predicate is not in fact demonstrated from the concept of the subject, but only its reason is given, which does not necessitate but inclines.
     Man acts freely whenever something follows according to his choice, but what happens freely in man happens by physical necessity in body, from the hypothesis of the divine decree.

[A VI 4, p1450]

     What Descartes said, that the mind is able to determine as it were the course of the animal spirits,1 is foolish, for it is necessary that the determination of any body is changed by another motion. And we should recognize that not only the same quantity of motion is preserved in the world, but also the same determination overall.


1. Descartes, Meditations, fourth response.

© Lloyd Strickland 2005
With gratitude to Harry Parkinson and John Thorley for advice and suggestions