Superphysics Superphysics
Part 1

The Truths of Reason

by Leibniz
13 minutes  • 2764 words
  1. Having so settled the rights of faith and of reason as rather to place reason at the service of faith than in opposition to it, we shall see how they exercise these rights to support and harmonize what the light of nature and the light of revelation teach us of God and of man in relation to evil.

The difficulties are distinguishable into two classes. The one kind springs from man’s freedom, which appears incompatible with the divine nature; and nevertheless freedom is deemed necessary, in order that man may be deemed guilty and open to punishment.

The other kind concerns the conduct of God, and seems to make him participate too much in the existence of evil, even though man be free and participate also therein.

This conduct appears contrary to the goodness, the holiness and the justice of God, since God co-operates in evil as well physical as moral, and co-operates in each of them both morally and physically; and since it seems that these evils are manifested in the order of nature as well as in that of grace, and in the future and eternal life as well as, nay, more than, in this transitory life.

  1. To present these difficulties in brief, it must be observed that freedom is opposed, to all appearance, by determination or certainty of any kind whatever.

Nevertheless the common dogma of our philosophers states that the truth of contingent futurities is [124]determined. The foreknowledge of God renders all the future certain and determined, but his providence and his foreordinance, whereon foreknowledge itself appears founded, do much more: for God is not as a man, able to look upon events with unconcern and to suspend his judgement, since nothing exists save as a result of the decrees of his will and through the action of his power.

Even though one leave out of account the co-operation of God, all is perfectly connected in the order of things, since nothing can come to pass unless there be a cause so disposed as to produce the effect, this taking place no less in voluntary than in all other actions.

According to which it appears that man is compelled to do the good and evil that he does, and in consequence that he deserves therefor neither recompense nor chastisement: thus is the morality of actions destroyed and all justice, divine and human, shaken.

  1. But even though one should grant to man this freedom wherewith he arrays himself to his own hurt, the conduct of God could not but provide matter for a criticism supported by the presumptuous ignorance of men, who would wish to exculpate themselves wholly or in part at the expense of God.

It is objected that all the reality and what is termed the substance of the act in sin itself is a production of God, since all creatures and all their actions derive from him that reality they have. Whence one could infer not only that he is the physical cause of sin, but also that he is its moral cause, since he acts with perfect freedom and does nothing without a complete knowledge of the thing and the consequences that it may have.

Nor is it enough to say that God has made for himself a law to co-operate with the wills or resolutions of man, whether we express ourselves in terms of the common opinion or in terms of the system of occasional causes. Not only will it be found strange that he should have made such a law for himself, of whose results he was not ignorant, but the principal difficulty is that it seems the evil will itself cannot exist without co-operation, and even without some predetermination, on his part, which contributes towards begetting this will in man or in some other rational creature.

For an action is not, for being evil, the less dependent on God. Whence one will come at last to the conclusion that God does all, the good and the evil, indifferently; unless one pretend with the Manichaeans that there are two principles, the one good and the other evil.

Moreover, according to the general opinion of theologians and philosophers, conservation being a perpetual creation, it will be said that man is perpetually created corrupt and erring.

There are, furthermore, modern Cartesians who claim that God is the sole agent, of whom created beings are only the purely passive organs; and M. Bayle builds not a little upon that idea.

  1. But even granting that God should co-operate in actions only with a general co-operation, or even not at all, at least in those that are bad, it suffices, so it is said, to inculpate him and to render him the moral cause that nothing comes to pass without his permission.

To say nothing of the fall of the angels, he knows all that which will come to pass, if, having created man, he places him in such and such circumstances.

He places him there notwithstanding. Man is exposed to a temptation to which it is known that he will succumb, thereby causing an infinitude of frightful evils, by which the whole human race will be infected and brought as it were into a necessity of sinning, a state which is named ‘original sin’.

Thus the world will be brought into a strange confusion, by this means death and diseases being introduced, with a thousand other misfortunes and miseries that in general afflict the good and the bad; wickedness will even hold sway and virtue will be oppressed on earth, so that it will scarce appear that a providence governs affairs.

But it is much worse when one considers the life to come, since but a small number of men will be saved and since all the rest will perish eternally.

These men destined for salvation will have been withdrawn from the corrupt mass through an unreasoning election, whether it be said that God in choosing them has had regard to their future actions, to their faith or to their works, or one claim that he has been pleased to give them these good qualities and these actions because he has predestined them to salvation.

Though it be said in the most lenient system that God wished to save all men, and though in the other systems commonly accepted it be granted, that he has made his Son take human nature upon him to expiate their sins, so that all they who shall believe in him with a lively and final faith shall be saved, it still remains true that this lively faith is a gift of God; that we are dead to all good works; that even our will itself must be aroused by a prevenient grace, and that God gives us the power to will and to do.

Whether that be done through a grace efficacious of itself, that is to say, through a divine inward motion [126]which wholly determines our will to the good that it does; or whether there be only a sufficient grace, but such as does not fail to attain its end, and to become efficacious in the inward and outward circumstances wherein the man is and has been placed by God:

One must return to the same conclusion that God is the final reason of salvation, of grace, of faith and of election in Jesus Christ. And be the election the cause or the result of God’s design to give faith, it still remains true that he gives faith or salvation to whom he pleases, without any discernible reason for his choice, which falls upon but few men.

  1. So it is a terrible judgement that God, giving his only Son for the whole human race and being the sole author and master of the salvation of men, yet saves so few of them and abandons all others to the devil his enemy, who torments them eternally and makes them curse their Creator, though they have all been created to diffuse and show forth his goodness, his justice and his other perfections.

This outcome inspires all the more horror, as the sole cause why all these men are wretched to all eternity is God’s having exposed their parents to a temptation that he knew they would not resist; as this sin is inherent and imputed to men before their will has participated in it; as this hereditary vice impels their will to commit actual sins; and as countless men, in childhood or maturity, that have never heard or have not heard enough of Jesus Christ, Saviour of the human race, die before receiving the necessary succour for their withdrawal from this abyss of sin.

These men too are condemned to be for ever rebellious against God and plunged in the most horrible miseries, with the wickedest of all creatures, though in essence they have not been more wicked than others, and several among them have perchance been less guilty than some of that little number of elect, who were saved by a grace without reason, and who thereby enjoy an eternal felicity which they had not deserved. Such in brief are the difficulties touched upon by sundry persons; but M. Bayle was one who insisted on them the most, as will appear subsequently when we examine his passages.

I think that now I have recorded the main essence of these difficulties: but I have deemed it fitting to refrain from some expressions and exaggerations which might have caused offence, while not rendering the objections any stronger.

  1. Let us now turn the medal and let us also point out what can be said in answer to those objections; and here a course of explanation through fuller dissertation will be necessary: for many difficulties can be opened up in few words, but for their discussion one must dilate upon them.

Our end is to banish from men the false ideas that represent God to them as an absolute prince employing a despotic power, unfitted to be loved and unworthy of being loved.

These notions are the more evil in relation to God inasmuch as the essence of piety is not only to fear him but also to love him above all things: and that cannot come about unless there be knowledge of his perfections capable of arousing the love which he deserves, and which makes the felicity of those that love him.

Feeling ourselves animated by a zeal such as cannot fail to please him, we have cause to hope that he will enlighten us, and that he will himself aid us in the execution of a project undertaken for his glory and for the good of men.

A cause so good gives confidence: if there are plausible appearances against us there are proofs on our side, and I would dare to say to an adversary:

Aspice, quam mage sit nostrum penetrabile telum.

  1. God is the first reason of things: for such things as are bounded, as all that which we see and experience, are contingent and have nothing in them to render their existence necessary, it being plain that time, space and matter, united and uniform in themselves and indifferent to everything, might have received entirely other motions and shapes, and in another order. Therefore one must seek the reason for the existence of the world, which is the whole assemblage of contingent things, and seek it in the substance which carries with it the reason for its existence, and which in consequence is necessary and eternal.

Moreover, this cause must be intelligent: for this existing world being contingent and an infinity of other worlds being equally possible, and holding, so to say, equal claim to existence with it, the cause of the world must needs have had regard or reference to all these possible worlds in order to fix upon one of them. This regard or relation of an existent substance to simple possibilities can be nothing other than the understanding which has the ideas of them, while to fix upon one of them can be nothing other than the act of the will which chooses.

It is the power of this substance that renders its will efficacious. Power relates to being, wisdom or understanding to truth, and will to good.

And this intelligent cause ought to be infinite in all ways, and absolutely perfect in power, in wisdom and in goodness, since it relates to all that which is possible. Furthermore, since all is connected together, there is no ground for admitting more than one.

Its understanding is the source of essences, and its will is the origin of existences. There in few words is the proof of one only God with his perfections, and through him of the origin of things.

  1. Now this supreme wisdom, united to a goodness that is no less infinite, cannot but have chosen the best. For as a lesser evil is a kind of good, even so a lesser good is a kind of evil if it stands in the way of a greater good; and there would be something to correct in the actions of God if it were possible to do better.

As in mathematics, when there is no maximum nor minimum, in short nothing distinguished, everything is done equally, or when that is not possible nothing at all is done: so it may be said likewise in respect of perfect wisdom, which is no less orderly than mathematics, that if there were not the best (optimum) among all possible worlds, God would not have produced any.

I call ‘World’ the whole succession and the whole agglomeration of all existent things, lest it be said that several worlds could have existed in different times and different places. For they must needs be reckoned all together as one world or, if you will, as one Universe.

Even though one should fill all times and all places, it still remains true that one might have filled them in innumerable ways, and that there is an infinitude of possible worlds among which God must needs have chosen the best, since he does nothing without acting in accordance with supreme reason.

  1. Some adversary not being able to answer this argument will perchance answer the conclusion by a counter-argument, saying that the world could have been without sin and without sufferings; but I deny that then it would have been better.

For it must be known that all things are connected in each one of the possible worlds: the universe, whatever it may be, is all of one piece, like an ocean: the least movement extends its effect there to any distance whatsoever, even though this effect become less perceptible in proportion to the distance.

Therein God has ordered all things beforehand once for all, having foreseen prayers, good and bad actions, and all the rest; and each thing as an idea has contributed, before its existence, to the resolution that has been made upon the existence of all things; so that nothing can be changed in the universe (any more than in a number) save its essence or, if you will, save its numerical individuality.

Thus, if the smallest evil that comes to pass in the world were missing in it, it would no longer be this world; which, with nothing omitted and all allowance made, was found the best by the Creator who chose it.

  1. One may imagine possible worlds without sin and without unhappiness, and one could make some like Utopian or Sevarambian romances: but these same worlds again would be very inferior to ours in goodness. I cannot show you this in detail.

For can I know and can I present infinities to you and compare them together? But you must judge with me ab effectu, since God has chosen this world as it is.

Often, an evil brings forth a good whereto one would not have attained without that evil. Often indeed two evils have made one great good:

Et si fata volunt, bina venena juvant.

Even so two liquids sometimes produce a solid, witness the spirit of wine and spirit of urine mixed by Van Helmont; or so do two cold and dark bodies produce a great fire, witness an acid solution and an aromatic oil combined by Herr Hoffmann. A general makes sometimes a fortunate mistake which brings about the winning of a great battle; and do they not sing on the eve of Easter, in the churches of the Roman rite:

O certe necessarium Adae peccatum, quod Christi morte deletum est!

O felix culpa, quae talem ac tantum meruit habere Redemptorem!

Any Comments? Post them below!