Superphysics Superphysics
Part 120

Bayle's 19 philosophic maxims

by Leibniz
10 minutes  • 2004 words
  1. Let us now see the reverse of the medal in the altered M. Bayle. After having quoted in his Reply to the Questions of a Provincial (vol. III, ch. 155, p. 962) these words of M. Jacquelot, which are much to my liking: ‘To change the order of the universe is something of infinitely greater consequence than the prosperity of a good man,’ he adds: ‘This thought has something dazzling about it: Father Malebranche has placed it in the best possible light; and he has persuaded some of his readers that a system which is simple and very productive is more consistent with God’s wisdom than a system more composite and less productive in proportion, but more capable of averting irregularities. M. Bayle was one of those who believed that Father Malebranche in that way gave a wonderful solution.’ (It is M. Bayle himself speaking.) ‘But it is almost impossible to be satisfied with it after having read M. Arnauld’s books against this system, and after having contemplated the vast and boundless idea of the supremely [260]perfect Being. This idea shows us that nothing is easier for God than to follow a plan which is simple, productive, regular and opportune for all creatures simultaneously.’

  2. While I was in France I showed to M. Arnauld a dialogue I had composed in Latin on the cause of evil and the justice of God; it was not only before his disputes with Father Malebranche, but even before the book on The Search for Truth appeared. That principle which I uphold here, namely that sin had been permitted because it had been involved in the best plan for the universe, was already applied there; and M. Arnauld did not seem to be startled by it. But the slight contentions which he has since had with Father Malebranche have given him cause to examine this subject with closer attention, and to be more severe in his judgement thereof. Yet I am not altogether pleased with M. Bayle’s manner of expression here on this subject, and I am not of the opinion ’that a more composite and less productive plan might be more capable of averting irregularities’. Rules are the expression of general will: the more one observes rules, the more regularity there is; simplicity and productivity are the aim of rules. I shall be met with the objection that a uniform system will be free from irregularities. I answer that it would be an irregularity to be too uniform, that would offend against the rules of harmony. Et citharoedus Ridetur chorda qui semper oberrat eadem. I believe therefore that God can follow a simple, productive, regular plan; but I do not believe that the best and the most regular is always opportune for all creatures simultaneously; and I judge a posteriori, for the plan chosen by God is not so. I have, however, also shown this a priori in examples taken from mathematics, and I will presently give another here. An Origenist who maintains that all rational creatures become happy in the end will be still easier to satisfy. He will say, in imitation of St. Paul’s saying about the sufferings of this life, that those which are finite are not worthy to be compared with eternal bliss.

  3. What is deceptive in this subject, as I have already observed, is that one feels an inclination to believe that what is the best in the whole is also the best possible in each part. One reasons thus in geometry, when it is a question de maximis et minimis. If the road from A to B that one proposes to take is the shortest possible, and if this road passes by C, then the road from A to C, part of the first, must also be the shortest possible. But the inference from [261]quantity to quality is not always right, any more than that which is drawn from equals to similars. For equals are those whose quantity is the same, and similars are those not differing according to qualities. The late Herr Sturm, a famous mathematician in Altorf, while in Holland in his youth published there a small book under the title of Euclides Catholicus. Here he endeavoured to give exact and general rules in subjects not mathematical, being encouraged in the task by the late Herr Erhard Weigel, who had been his tutor. In this book he transfers to similars what Euclid had said of equals, and he formulates this axiom: Si similibus addas similia, tota sunt similia. But so many limitations were necessary to justify this new rule, that it would have been better, in my opinion, to enounce it at the outset with a reservation, by saying, Si similibus similia addas similiter, tota sunt similia. Moreover, geometricians often require non tantum similia, sed et similiter posita.

  4. This difference between quantity and quality appears also in our case. The part of the shortest way between two extreme points is also the shortest way between the extreme points of this part; but the part of the best Whole is not of necessity the best that one could have made of this part. For the part of a beautiful thing is not always beautiful, since it can be extracted from the whole, or marked out within the whole, in an irregular manner. If goodness and beauty always lay in something absolute and uniform, such as extension, matter, gold, water, and other bodies assumed to be homogeneous or similar, one must say that the part of the good and the beautiful would be beautiful and good like the whole, since it would always have resemblance to the whole: but this is not the case in things that have mutual relations. An example taken from geometry will be appropriate to explain my idea.

  5. There is a kind of geometry which Herr Jung of Hamburg, one of the most admirable men of his time, called ’empiric’. It makes use of conclusive experiments and proves various propositions of Euclid, but especially those which concern the equality of two figures, by cutting the one in pieces, and putting the pieces together again to make the other. In this manner, by cutting carefully in parts the squares on the two sides of the right-angled triangle, and arranging these parts carefully, one makes from them the square on the hypotenuse; that is demonstrating empirically the 47th proposition of the first book of Euclid. Now supposing that some of these pieces taken from the two smaller [262]squares are lost, something will be lacking in the large square that is to be formed from them; and this defective combination, far from pleasing, will be disagreeably ugly. If then the pieces that remained, composing the faulty combination, were taken separately without any regard to the large square to whose formation they ought to contribute, one would group them together quite differently to make a tolerably good combination. But as soon as the lost pieces are retrieved and the gap in the faulty combination is filled, there will ensue a beautiful and regular thing, the complete large square: this perfect combination will be far more beautiful than the tolerably good combination which had been made from the pieces one had not mislaid alone. The perfect combination corresponds to the universe in its entirety, and the faulty combination that is a part of the perfect one corresponds to some part of the universe, where we find defects which the Author of things has allowed, because otherwise, if he had wished to re-shape this faulty part and make thereof a tolerably good combination, the whole would not then have been so beautiful. For the parts of the faulty combination, grouped better to make a tolerably good combination, could not have been used properly to form the whole and perfect combination. Thomas Aquinas had an inkling of these things when he said: ad prudentem gubernatorem pertinet, negligere aliquem defectum bonitatis in parte, ut faciat augmentum bonitatis in toto (Thom., Contra Gentiles, lib. 2, c. 71). Thomas Gatacre, in his Notes on the book of Marcus Aurelius (lib. 5, cap. 8, with M. Bayle), cites also passages from authors who say that the evil of the parts is often the good of the whole.

  6. Let us return to M. Bayle’s illustrations. He imagines a prince (p. 963) who is having a city built, and who, in bad taste, aims rather at airs of magnificence therein, and a bold and unusual style of architecture, than at the provision of conveniences of all kinds for the inhabitants. But if this prince has true magnanimity he will prefer the convenient to the magnificent architecture. That is M. Bayle’s judgement. I consider, however, that there are cases where one will justifiably prefer beauty of construction in a palace to the convenience of a few domestics. But I admit that the construction would be bad, however beautiful it might be, if it were a cause of diseases to the inhabitants; provided it was possible to make one that would be better, taking into account beauty, convenience and health all together. It may be, indeed, that one cannot [263]have all these advantages at once. Thus, supposing one wished to build on the northern and more bracing side of the mountain, if the castle were then bound to be of an unendurable construction, one would prefer to make it face southward.

  7. M. Bayle raises the further objection, that it is true that our legislators can never invent regulations such as are convenient for all individuals, ‘Nulla lex satis commoda omnibus est; id modo quaeritur, si majori parti et in summam prodest. (Cato apud Livium, L. 34, circa init.)’ But the reason is that the limited condition of their knowledge compels them to cling to laws which, when all is taken into account, are more advantageous than harmful. Nothing of all that can apply to God, who is as infinite in power and understanding as in goodness and true greatness. I answer that since God chooses the best possible, one cannot tax him with any limitation of his perfections; and in the universe not only does the good exceed the evil, but also the evil serves to augment the good.

  8. He observes also that the Stoics derived a blasphemy from this principle, saying that evils must be endured with patience, or that they were necessary, not only to the well-being and completeness of the universe, but also to the felicity, perfection and conservation of God, who directs it. The Emperor Marcus Aurelius gave expression to that in the eighth chapter of the fifth book of his Meditations. ‘Duplici ratione’, he says, ‘diligas oportet, quidquid evenerit tibi; altera quod tibi natum et tibi coordinatum et ad te quodammodo affectum est; altera quod universi gubernatori prosperitatis et consummationis atque adeo permansionis ipsius procurandae (της ευοδιας και της συντελειας και της συμμονης αυτης) ex parte causa est.’ This precept is not the most reasonable of those stated by that great emperor. A diligas oportet (στεργειν χρη) is of no avail; a thing does not become pleasing just because it is necessary, and because it is destined for or attached to someone: and what for me would be an evil would not cease to be such because it would be my master’s good, unless this good reflected back on me. One good thing among others in the universe is that the general good becomes in reality the individual good of those who love the Author of all good. But the principal error of this emperor and of the Stoics was their assumption that the good of the universe must please God himself, because they imagined God as the soul of the world. This error has nothing in [264]common with my dogma, according to which God is Intelligentia extramundana, as Martianus Capella calls him, or rather supramundana. Further, he acts to do good, and not to receive it. Melius est dare quam accipere; his bliss is ever perfect and can receive no increase, either from within or from without.

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