Superphysics Superphysics
Part 120

Diroys, theologian to Cardinal d'Estrées

by Leibniz
11 minutes  • 2186 words
  1. I met Diroys in Rome.

He is a theologian to Cardinal d’Estrées.

He wrote ‘Proofs and Assumptions in Favour of the Christian Religion’, published in Paris in 1683.

M. Bayle (Reply to the Questions of a Provincial, vol. III, ch. 165, p. 1058) recounts this objection brought up by M. Diroys: ‘There is one more difficulty’, he says, ‘which it is no less important to meet than those given earlier, since it causes more trouble to those who judge goods and evils by considerations founded on the purest and most lofty maxims. This is that God being the supreme wisdom and goodness, it seems to them that he ought to do all things as wise and virtuous persons would wish them to be done, following the rules of wisdom and of goodness which God has imprinted in them, and as they would be obliged themselves to do these things if they depended upon them. Thus, seeing that the affairs of the world do not go so well as, in their opinion, they might go, and as they would go if they interfered themselves, they conclude that God, who is infinitely better and wiser than they, or rather wisdom and goodness itself, does not concern himself with these affairs.’

  1. M. Diroys makes some apt remarks concerning this, which I will not repeat, since I have sufficiently answered the objection in more than one passage, and that has been the chief end of all my discourse. But he makes one assertion with which I cannot agree. He claims that the objection proves too much. One must again quote his own words with M. Bayle, p. 1059: ‘If it does not behove the supreme Wisdom and Goodness to fail to do what is best and most perfect, it follows that all Beings are eternally, immutably and essentially as perfect and as good as they can be, since nothing can change except by passing either from a state less good to a better, or from a better to a less good. Now that cannot happen if it does not behove God to fail to do that which is best and most perfect, when he can do it. It will therefore be necessary that all beings be eternally and essentially filled with a knowledge and a virtue as perfect as God can give them. Now all that which is eternally and essentially as perfect as God can make it proceeds essentially from him; in a word, is eternally and essentially good as he is, and consequently it is God, as he is. That is the bearing of this maxim, that it is repugnant to supreme justice and goodness not to make things as good and perfect as they can be. For it is essential to essential wisdom and goodness to banish all that is repugnant to it altogether. One must therefore assert as a primary truth concerning the conduct of God in relation to creatures that there is nothing repugnant to this goodness and this wisdom in [251]making things less perfect than they could be, or in permitting the goods that it has produced either completely to cease to be or to change and deteriorate. For it causes no offence to God that there should be other Beings than he, that is beings who can be not what they are, and do not what they do or do what they do not.’

  2. M. Bayle calls this answer paltry, but I find his counter-objection involved. M. Bayle will have those who are for the two principles to take their stand chiefly on the assumption of the supreme freedom of God: for if he were compelled to produce all that which he can, he would produce also sins and sorrows. Thus the Dualists could from the existence of evil conclude nothing contrary to the oneness of the principle, if this principle were as much inclined to evil as to good. There M. Bayle carries the notion of freedom too far: for even though God be supremely free, it does not follow that he maintains an indifference of equipoise: and even though he be inclined to act, it does not follow that he is compelled by this inclination to produce all that which he can. He will produce only that which he wills, for his inclination prompts him to good. I admit the supreme freedom of God, but I do not confuse it with indifference of equipoise, as if he could act without reason. M. Diroys therefore imagines that the Dualists, in their insistence that the single good principle produce no evil, ask too much; for by the same reason, according to M. Diroys, they ought also to ask that he should produce the greatest good, the less good being a kind of evil. I hold that the Dualists are wrong in respect of the first point, and that they would be right in respect of the second, where M. Diroys blames them without cause; or rather that one can reconcile the evil, or the less good, in some parts with the best in the whole. If the Dualists demanded that God should do the best, they would not be demanding too much. They are mistaken rather in claiming that the best in the whole should be free from evil in the parts, and that therefore what God has made is not the best.

  3. But M. Diroys maintains that if God always produces the best he will produce other Gods; otherwise each substance that he produced would not be the best nor the most perfect. But he is mistaken, through not taking into account the order and connexion of things. If each substance taken separately were perfect, all would be alike; which is neither fitting nor possible. If they [252]were Gods, it would not have been possible to produce them. The best system of things will therefore not contain Gods; it will always be a system of bodies (that is, things arranged according to time and place) and of souls which represent and are aware of bodies, and in accordance with which bodies are in great measure directed. So, as the design of a building may be the best of all in respect of its purpose, of expense and of circumstances; and as an arrangement of some figured representations of bodies which is given to you may be the best that one can find, it is easy to imagine likewise that a structure of the universe may be the best of all, without becoming a god. The connexion and order of things brings it about that the body of every animal and of every plant is composed of other animals and of other plants, or of other living and organic beings; consequently there is subordination, and one body, one substance serves the other: thus their perfection cannot be equal.

  4. M. Bayle thinks (p. 1063) that M. Diroys has confused two different propositions. According to the one, God must do all things as wise and virtuous persons would wish that they should be done, by the rules of wisdom and of goodness that God has imprinted in them, and as they would be obliged themselves to do them if those things depended upon them. The other is that it is not consistent with supreme wisdom and goodness to fail to do what is best and most perfect. M. Diroys (in M. Bayle’s opinion) sets up the first proposition as an objection for himself, and replies to the second. But therein he is justified, as it seems to me. For these two propositions are connected, the second is a result of the first: to do less good than one could is to be lacking in wisdom or in goodness. To be the best, and to be desired by those who are most virtuous and wise, comes to the same thing. And it may be said that, if we could understand the structure and the economy of the universe, we should find that it is made and directed as the wisest and most virtuous could wish it, since God cannot fail to do thus. This necessity nevertheless is only of a moral nature: and I admit that if God were forced by a metaphysical necessity to produce that which he makes, he would produce all the possibles, or nothing; and in this sense M. Bayle’s conclusion would be fully correct. But as all the possibles are not compatible together in one and the same world-sequence, for that very reason all the possibles cannot be produced, and it must be said that God is not [253]forced, metaphysically speaking, into the creation of this world. One may say that as soon as God has decreed to create something there is a struggle between all the possibles, all of them laying claim to existence, and that those which, being united, produce most reality, most perfection, most significance carry the day. It is true that all this struggle can only be ideal, that is to say, it can only be a conflict of reasons in the most perfect understanding, which cannot fail to act in the most perfect way, and consequently to choose the best. Yet God is bound by a moral necessity, to make things in such a manner that there can be nothing better: otherwise not only would others have cause to criticize what he makes, but, more than that, he would not himself be satisfied with his work, he would blame himself for its imperfection; and that conflicts with the supreme felicity of the divine nature. This perpetual sense of his own fault or imperfection would be to him an inevitable source of grief, as M. Bayle says on another occasion (p.953).

  5. M. Diroys’ argument contains a false assumption, in his statement that nothing can change except by passing from a state less good to a better or from a better to a less good; and that thus, if God makes the best, what he has produced cannot be changed: it would be an eternal substance, a god. But I do not see why a thing cannot change its kind in relation to good or evil, without changing its degree. In the transition from enjoyment of music to enjoyment of painting, or vice versa from the pleasure of the eyes to that of the ears, the degree of enjoyment may remain the same, the latter gaining no advantage over the former save that of novelty. If the quadrature of the circle should come to pass or (what is the same thing) the circulature of the square, that is, if the circle were changed into a square of the same size, or the square into a circle, it would be difficult to say, on the whole, without having regard to some special use, whether one would have gained or lost. Thus the best may be changed into another which neither yields to it nor surpasses it: but there will always be an order among them, and that the best order possible. Taking the whole sequence of things, the best has no equal; but one part of the sequence may be equalled by another part of the same sequence. Besides it might be said that the whole sequence of things to infinity may be the best possible, although what exists all through the universe in each portion of time be not the best. It [254]might be therefore that the universe became even better and better, if the nature of things were such that it was not permitted to attain to the best all at once. But these are problems of which it is hard for us to judge.

  6. M. Bayle says (p. 1064) that the question whether God could have made things more perfect than he made them is also very difficult, and that the reasons for and against are very strong. But it is, so it seems to me, as if one were to question whether God’s actions are consistent with the most perfect wisdom and the greatest goodness. It is a very strange thing, that by changing the terms a little one throws doubt upon what is, if properly understood, as clear as anything can be. The reasons to the contrary have no force, being founded only on the semblance of defects; and M. Bayle’s objection, which tends to prove that the law of the best would impose upon God a true metaphysical necessity, is only an illusion that springs from the misuse of terms. M. Bayle formerly held a different opinion, when he commended that of Father Malebranche, which was akin to mine on this subject. But M. Arnauld having written in opposition to Father Malebranche, M. Bayle altered his opinion; and I suppose that his tendency towards doubt, which increased in him with the years, was conducive to that result. M. Arnauld was doubtless a great man, and his authority has great weight: he made sundry good observations in his writings against Father Malebranche, but he was not justified in contesting those of his statements that were akin to mine on the rule of the best.

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