Textes inédits tome 2
Gaston Grua (ed)
pp 491-493

Malebranche et Leibniz
André Robinet (ed)
pp 392-395

Date: January - February 1706

Note - The italicised text within + ... + is Leibniz's own comments on the material.

Translated from the French and Latin

Note - the portion of this text that is included in my Shorter Leibniz Texts is not included here.

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[Gr p491] [ML p392]

Reply to the questions from a provincial.
     Book III, Rotterdam 1706.
     What Mr Bayle says, Chapter 139, from p748 until the end of the chapter p759, against the freedom of complete indifference, is absolutely to my taste...
     p. 896. Father Malebranche's system is the work of a superior genius, and one of the greatest achievements of the human spirit. He tries to bring together two revealed truths (see Mr Arnauld's Reflections on the new system of nature and grace, book 2, p60ff.): the first, that God wants all men to be saved, the second, that not all men are saved. He supposes that God's love for wisdom is stronger than God's love for mankind. + I answer: we should say that God's wisdom is stronger than his love for men. Goodness must be moderated by wisdom. I have said elsewhere that universal justice or justice taken in its broadest sense is charity or goodness conforming to wisdom. +

[Gr p492]

     p. 897. Father Malebranche continues to say that God acts by the simplest ways or those most worthy of his wisdom, and his work cannot be more beautiful or more abundant than it is. + I believe that we have to understand the ways themselves in the work, for the means that God chooses are themselves ends in as much as they can be, in order that he produces as much good as is possible.1 + God's wisdom would not permit him to perform miracles at every moment. He does not save all men, although he wants to save them all. He is not free to act by particular wills. + But I do not believe that miracles and particular wills are the same thing at all. In my opinion, all the wills of God with regard to a singular thing are particular. But they are the result of universal application, that is to say, they are reasonable.2 + [ML p393] On p362 Mr Arnaud maintains that people claim that God has harmed his goodness by not following particular wills. This behaviour does not express the character of his attributes. Here it is thought that his objection could have been avoided by saying that God has followed the behaviour which best expresses the character of some of his attributes, and as much as is possible the behaviour of the others. + In my opinion, there is no need to oppose goodness to wisdom. On the contrary, wisdom has to show the way to produce the most goodness that is possible. This is also what it has done. I have demonstrated elsewhere that God strives for as much goodness (that is to say perfection) as is possible, that his wisdom has shown him how he should go about that, and which plan he should choose. There is some opposition between physical and moral goodness. It was necessary to have consideration for both of them, and more for an infinity of moral goodness. And wishing to produce the most that is possible of both, he achieved this by allowing some moral evil and some physical evil. It is as one achieves greater consonance in the tempered diatonic system by allowing some dissonances than if one did not allow them at all.3 +
     p. 899. Mr Arnaud objects to Father Malebranche that in putting forward such things one overturns the first article of the creed, by which we profess belief in almighty God. + This objection does not work; God was able to choose all systems, but his wisdom inclined him to choose the best. + [Gr p493] He objects: because I am prevented by fate, my wisdom does not allow it. + But these are frivolous objections. Does he therefore want God to act against wisdom? But all concepts that do not imply contradiction are possible. I concede that God could act in another way. But it was certain that he would not do so; it is precisely for this reason that he is free, because there is more than one possible system.4 +
     p. 901. He gives a syllogism: God cannot will the salvation of all men. + Yes, by the consequent will, and supposing that he acts according to wisdom. +


[ML p394]

     Ch. 152. Father Malebranche (as said on p. 903) considers the wisdom of God as manifested through an admirable fecundity of great effects which emanate from a small number of general, simple, [ML p395] uniform laws. Instead of which the theologians convinced of predestination make it shine in the confusion of sin, as if without that the scene would have been too united, a perpetual spring...5
     Ch. 155. Father Malebranche (as said on p. 962), commended by Mr Jacquelot, p. 207-208, has persuaded some of his readers that a simple and very fecund system is more fitting to the wisdom of God than any other system, but more capable of preventing irregularities.6 Mr Bayle was one of those who believed that with this Father Malebranche came up with a wonderful solution. But it is almost impossible to be satisfied with it, after having read Mr Arnaud's books against this system (see also the Dialogues on some matters of theology, printed in Amsterdam, 1685, p. 277), and after having considered the vast and boundless idea of the sovereignly perfect being. This idea shows us that there is nothing easier for God than to follow a simple, regular plan, which is at the same time convenient for all creatures...7
     p. 994 St. Augustine says in hundred places, according to Father Malebranche, that the judgements of God are impenetrable, but he by no means says that these judgements are not in accordance with reason and with the wisdom which all men consult when they silence their senses and passions. Mr Arnaud, who has a wholly analytical mind, answers that this can have two meanings: one, that the judgements of God are in accordance with sovereign wisdom, the other, that men can recognize the reason in them when they consult the wisdom of God. The first meaning is indubitable, but the second is misleading. St. Augustine, book 2 de pecc. et merit,8 ch. 18, says that it is a secret which God has kept to himself.
     (+ I answer, in favour of Father Malebranche, that there is a third meaning, which says only that the judgements of God are in accordance with what we know of sovereign reason. And I believe that this is true. There is no contradiction at all. +)
     Father Malebranche has said it quite well, in my opinion, that we could only know their detail. Mr Arnaud, p. 136, claims that it is not necessary to restrict ourselves to the detail, that it is an absolute fact that they are impenetrable. But we must realize that it is precisely because of the infinite detail that they are impenetrable.


1. Cf. Theodicy §§204-208, 211.
2. Cf. Theodicy §§206-208, 241, 337.
3. Cf. Theodicy §§211-215.
4. Cf. Theodicy §§223-228
5. Cf. Bayle, Historical and Critical Dictionary, art. 'Paulicians' note E.
6. Bayle's actual words are: 'Father Malebranche...persuaded some of his readers that a simple and very fecund system is more fitting to the wisdom of God than a system more composed and less fertile in proportion, but more capable of preventing irregularities.'
7. Cf. Theodicy §210.
8. Augustine, De peccatorum meritis et remissione [On the merit and forgiveness of sins].

© Lloyd Strickland 2004