Commentary on Gottfried Leibniz’s Discourse On Metaphysics
Leibniz is important for our contemporary situation because he presents a definitive philosophical theology for dealing with the typically modern problems, in particular problems associated with nihilism, solipsism, political biomedicine, the mechanist-materialist worldview, and the pervasiveness of digital media.
In this short Discourse alone, Leibniz anticipates so many modern innovations as to rise considerably above the level of mere prescience or insightfulness. There are specific passages in the work that state fundamental claims of algorithmic information theory, neo-classical economics (utilitarian calculus), the relativity of motion, as well as anticipations of the typically modern variants of nihilism, solipsism, and atheism. Interpreters might tend to see Leibniz’s prescience of these modern ideas as endorsement, when, in reality, he is constantly denouncing these as errors and warning against the imprudence and danger of the modern innovators. Leibniz succeeds in offering an alternative to these modern philosophies through his philosophical theology. Leibniz was not a modern philosopher at all, but sought to correct the typically modern errors of his contemporaries, in order to preserve religious sanctity and tradition. He valued religious sanctity above all else, as the absolute highest importance for existence, individually and societally.
In other words, what is essential to my interpretation of Leibniz is that he was not a modern philosopher at all, but an ancient philosopher, in both the Greco-Roman and Christian sense, who was forced to swim in modern waters. This is puzzling since he indeed was a Cartesian in his younger years, and made significant contributions to the typically modern science. However, he describes how as he grew older, he recognized the errors of his contemporaries and the dangers of the scientific mentality, the main culprits being Descartes, Spinoza, and Newton. He recognizes the inevitable importance of the discoveries in geometry and physics, to which he contributes, but he also recognizes the significant harm that comes with imprudent application of these findings, and the improper understanding of their foundations in God and tradition. And therefore he always seeks to conserve traditional, ancient teachings of Christ’s Church over and against the typically modern errors, and to find harmony between the ancient and the scientific sensibility, for the greatest profit of both.
Against the innovators, Leibniz defended the teachings of the Scholastics and the Church Fathers, and raised Catholic teaching to the rigor of a geometric science. Leibniz worked within the same tradition as St. Thomas Aquinas, who he held in the highest regard, and who synthesized the reason of Aristotle with the Christian tradition of Revelation, to the greatest satisfaction of both logic and holiness. The contemporaries of Leibniz were largely repudiating the doctrines of Thomas and the Scholastics. In some regards, Leibniz felt this was appropriate, but in other regards, he felt it was excessive. In his Discourse, Leibniz follows Thomas in his general demonstration of the existence of a sacred science. “Dicendum sacram doctrinam esse scientiam.” He demonstrates this science in the most sublime and simple way, by precise and aesthetic analogy.
With regard to Leibniz’s relevance to our contemporary situation, there are today many digital innovators who claim Leibniz as the inspiration in their quest to build a “general intelligence” computational machine. This is, in my view, a fundamental misunderstanding of Leibniz, since he explicitly states that the organic perfection of God is causal and higher than mechanism and mathematics, without denying the significance or reality of mathematical phenomena as derivative effects.
The line of thinkers who see Leibniz primarily as a mechanist, rather than as primarily a theologian, grew out of the Leibniz interpreter and logical positivist Bertrand Russell, whose magnum opus, the Principia Mathematica, was decisively shown to be a fallacious project by a more able logician and finer interpreter of Leibniz, Kurt Gödel. Russell and Gödel represent the two poles of the understanding of Leibniz- as primarily a mathematician or primarily a theologian. Russell was an adamant atheist, Gödel was a believer in God. It so happens that Gödel’s interpretation of Leibniz prevailed in truth, if not yet in practice.
That Russell’s erroneous understanding of the foundations of mathematics continues to have sway and that his misunderstanding of Leibniz remains as yet unrefuted in practice, however, is testament to Leibniz’s authority as both the highest rank of mathematician and the highest rank of theologian. This latter aspect, the emphasis on Leibniz as philosopher-theologian in the tradition of the Church Fathers and Scholastics, is what I hope to contribute with this commentary. I am not as concerned with the details of the scientific disputes that Leibniz was involved in, or the academic jargon that claims to categorize his philosophical positions. I am concerned with this Discourse as a fundamental and complete summary of Leibniz’s whole system and worldview. That is, as the perfect synthesis of theology and mathematics, of Revelation and reason.
On the one side, Catholic theologians will hesitate to study Leibniz’s teaching because he didn’t formally convert to Catholicism, even though he defended traditional Catholic teachings on the most fundamental issues, he petitioned the Pope and Church leaders to re-unify the Churches, he sought the most harmonious, logical reconciliation of the pervasive doctrinal differences across sects of Catholics, Protestants and philosophers. It seems that rigid Catholics may be unwilling to acknowledge the depth of rigor that Leibniz brings to the traditional issues and doctrines of Christ’s teaching, simply because Leibniz holds to the existence of a truly Universal Church that reconciles all of Christ’s followers with one another. If this is not an orthodox Catholic position, in accordance with the later prophecies at Fatima, then it is to the detriment of orthodox Catholics.
On the other side, modern academics emphasize Leibniz as a secular rational philosopher or as a scientist, detailing his extensive correspondences, his relation to rationalism or idealism or Spinozism or Newtonianism, or specific scientific issues of the day. I have no problem with the secular academic interpreters and many of them are quite good, but they often have little to say on the nature of Leibniz’s true overall project. They have little sensitivity to Leibniz’s role as a diplomat, lawyer, statesman, theologian, advisor to royalty, his concern with the general spiritual health of the population, his concern for the greatest general good of all people in his own time and for posterity, his use of ancient grammar and rhetoric in applying himself to these concerns. I admit that I am far from an institutional academic trained in “expert” approaches to Leibniz scholarship and my approach is a naïve close reading commentary.
That the true significance of Leibniz’s project has never been adequately understood is immediately evidenced to me by the most basic views commonly held by almost any author writing about Leibniz- that he never wrote a magnum opus, that he never adequately systematized his thought, that he was inconsistent, that he never succeeded in discovering the universal mathematics he spent most of life thinking about. I hold that these claims demonstrate a superficial reading of Leibniz’s writings and of his life as a historical figure. These claims do not really hold up in light of a closer reading, and in light of the true nature of his teaching on God’s absolute perfection. Rather, the picture that emerges is that Leibniz’s philosophical theology (physical theology) is an implementation of itself. It is itself the direct example of what it talks about.
I hold that Leibniz must be understood as an orthodox philosopher-theologian, in the tradition of the Fathers and the ancients, and as a pious, holy man. The more modern interpretation of Leibniz as the highest rank of mathematician or logician is equally true, but overemphasized because of typically modern biases. I also hold that Leibniz is a foundational thinker, with the same significance for us in our own time, as someone like a Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle held for medieval and renaissance civilization. We still do not have full English translations of Leibniz’s writings on the analysis of situation, which are published in French in a volume by Echevarria. There are very fine interpretations of these writings by Vincenzo de Risi. But the modern mentality is so far removed from the true tradition of Christ’s Catholic teaching, that only very few would have the range of personal experience across mathematics and theology to be able to adequately translate or interpret Leibniz’s writings in their true sense. I have also read many authoritative scholars who attest that many writings in Leibniz’s archive that remain inaccessible, unread, unpublished, or untranslated for reasons common and obscure. I am far from claiming that the untranslated writings hold any kind of panacea, only that to properly understand Leibniz in his true light, even the writings that are currently available, requires a more ancient sensibility that is very rare, as opposed to the typically modern and profane sensibility.
Against his contemporaries, who were infatuated by increasingly specialized jargon, mathematical terminology, and materialism, Leibniz always shows how the highest level conceptual structures of reason are directly related in application to the most common sense and sensible realities, how they relate to God’s perfection and humanity’s service to God. He always places the most carefully crafted and beautiful analogies as specific examples of what he is talking about. He always considers the whole of the implications of all teachings, with respect to their theological, historical, political, aesthetic, poetic, philosophical, mathematical and scientific dimensions. He succeeds in harmonizing these aspects in his own thought to a very high degree. His teaching adequately brings together the best aspects of almost all the basic philosophical and theological schools and positions. And this makes him a truly foundational thinker, of critical importance to the foundations of civilization, especially in our current situation.
(A note on the methodology: this work is a close reading and meta-textual commentary; I closely paraphrase or even copy word for word certain passages from the original text and weave this together with analysis of these passages. To indicate the break between the paraphrase and the analysis, I use a simple phrase like “Leibniz is stating…” Thus, the commentary is not meant to be a substitute for reading the original, but to build upon the original by augmenting and reframing it. This methodology imposed itself on me as the best way to learn how to understand the text for myself, and also to demonstrate its meaning with my extrapolations, in full, mutual agreement. The work is divided into 37 short sections.)
1. Of divine perfection, and that God does everything in the most desirable manner
This section has three parts- why God is perfect, what God’s perfection consists of, how his perfection relates to us.
The most significant meaning of the word God is well stated in these terms, that God is an absolutely perfect being. The consequences of this are not fully understood. To penetrate further into this matter, there are in nature several wholly different perfections, God has them all together, and in the highest possible degree. Leibniz is stating the definition of God, an absolutely perfect being. Leibniz is stating this as the very first principle of his entire system, and intends to demonstrate the necessary consequences of this central truth.
It is necessary to know what a perfection is. Forms or natures that are not susceptible of a highest degree are not perfections. For example numbers or figures. There is no number of all numbers. There is no figure of all figures. These notions imply a contradiction. Leibniz is stating that numbers or geometric figures are not perfections because they are representational or derivative, they are not the thing itself. They are merely effects, and God is their cause. The greatest knowledge and omnipotence do not include any impossibility. These are direct and immediate notions, non-representational, they are the thing itself, the cause. Consequently, power and knowledge are perfections because, in so far as they belong to God, they have no boundaries.
It follows that God, who possesses supreme and infinite wisdom, acts in a perfect manner, in both a metaphysical and moral sense. In relation to ourselves, the more enlightened and informed we become about the works of God, the more disposed we are to find them excellent, and entirely satisfying in relation to everything that one could have desired. Leibniz makes a distinction between the metaphysical and the moral, this is the same distinction that carries through this whole work, between the metaphysical higher order, and the natural lower order, and the compatibility between them. He is stating the more that we learn about God, the happier we are, the more content and fulfilled we are with every event that occurs or could occur, and the better choices that we make in relation to those events. This entirely depends on a traditional, organic conception of God as a perfect living being. It cannot be assumed that Leibniz has anything in common with a crude pantheism or rationalism with respect to his theology. Rather, he is articulating a thoroughly traditional and ancient conception of the deity.
2. Against those who maintain that there is no goodness in the works of God, or that the rules of goodness and beauty are arbitrary.
In this section, Leibniz lays out the different arguments against the reasonableness of God and the reason for God.
He is against the opinion that there are no rules of goodness and perfection. He is against those who say that the works of God are only good because God made them. Leibniz states that goodness and perfection have a definite, scientific structure. They consist of natural laws. The works of God are not good only because he made them, they are good because they are reasonable. Leibniz is stating that Christianity is reasonable, that Christianity is the perfect synthesis of reason and Revelation. If the works of God were good only because God made them, God would not have contemplated his works and found them good, as is testified in Genesis 1:31. This anthropomorphizing of God is used to show that the excellence of the works is recognized when they are contemplated in themselves, even when we do not reflect on the completely bare external denomination (naming) that relates the works to their cause. In other words, for Leibniz, the excellence of God’s works are beyond name and denomination, and thus beyond profane science. The external denominations relate the works to their cause, but God’s works are excellent even when we are incapable of reflecting on how these names operate. Our ability to understand how names reflect their causes is limited because the causes are too great, but even so, God’s works are always excellent and perfect.
By considering God’s works, we discover God himself. His works bear his character. The opposite opinion, held by the latest innovators, is that the beauty of the universe and the goodness of God’s works are chimeras of men, who conceive God in their own manner, after themselves. This is a dangerous opinion. One must assume that Leibniz is referring to the opinions of Descartes, Spinoza and Newton, but his remarks equally anticipate the consequences of their atheism in later thinkers like Feuerbach, Freud or Dawkins, who all think that God is like a fantasy that we just conjure up in our imagination, rather than objective being in the human psyche and in existence itself. By contrast to the moderns, Leibniz is saying that God is an objective and actually alive being who is perfect in every respect.
By saying that things are only good because of the will of God, and not because there is a definite rule or science of goodness, the moderns destroy the love of God and his glory. If God could have done the opposite of what he did, then why would we praise him? Namely, God could have created things as evil instead of good. And then why would we praise him for his goodness if we would also praise him for being evil? Where is the justice and wisdom of God if God is only a despotic power? This is what happens when the will takes the place of reason. And this is exactly what modern atheism and progressivism imagines about God, that he is a totalitarian despot who wants to take away the choice to indulge in wanton pleasures. Instead, Leibniz will argue that God is freedom itself. Not a superficial, transitory, hedonistic freedom to sin, but true freedom of virtue and sanctity.
According to the definition of tyrants, what pleases the most powerful is just by that very fact. But “Every will presupposes a reason for willing,” “Aliquam rationem volendi.” Reason is naturally prior to will. This is why it is not true that the eternal truths of geometry or metaphysics (and the rules of goodness, justice, and perfection) are only the effects of the will of God. Instead, they are effects of his understanding. His understanding does not depend on his will any more than his essence does. In other words, his understanding and essence are prior to his will, or at least co-equal with his will. The moderns, by contrast, make his will the primary thing. They say that things are only good because of the will of God, not because of God’s science of virtue. For the moderns, there is no science of God. They thus make everything deterministic, which leads to a fatalism. We can already see Leibniz anticipating the atheistic will to power and tyrannical consequences of the Nietzschean philosophy.
Leibniz states that geometry and even metaphysics are effects of God’s understanding, they are not effects of his will. They are not the causes of his understanding or will. The truths of geometry and metaphysics, and the rules of goodness, justice, and perfection, are not active qualities that are attained by human willpower, they are not products of human ingenuity or cleverness, they are received as gifts from God, by piety and holiness. And without this acknowledgement, these gifts are fruitless for mankind.
3. Against those who believe that God could have done better
Leibniz does not approve of the opinions of moderns who boldly maintain that what God does is not of the highest perfection. They say that God could have done better than he did. The consequences of this opinion are contrary to the Glory of God. He quotes in latin, “uti minus malum habet rationem boni, ita minus conum habet rationem mali.“ “Just as a lesser evil contains an element of good, so the lesser good contains an element of evil.” With this quote Leibniz seems to demonstrate that there a balance of lesser evils with greater goods and lesser goods with greater evils. But of the greatest possible good and the greatest possible evil, there is not a balance. The greatest good prevails as the true structure of existence. To act imperfectly is to act with les perfection than one could have acted. If we find fault with someone, think he could have done better, we think that he acted imperfectly, with less perfection than he could have. When attributed to God, this goes against Holy Scripture, which assures us of the goodness of the works of God. Since imperfections descend to infinity, in whatever way God made his work, it would always be good in comparison with the less perfect ones, if that were enough. But a thing is hardly praiseworthy when it is only perfect in comparison to the less perfect. Here Leibniz is saying that by diminishing the perfection of God, by making it only a relative perfection, the moderns degrade piety and sanctity, they diminish the religious feeling that is the special quality that allows society to function properly. The judgement of the moderns that God’s work is not perfect or could have been better is unknown to the whole of antiquity, while many passages of Scripture and the Holy Fathers support the position that creation is perfect. The opinion of the moderns is grounded in having too little knowledge of the general harmony of the universe and the hidden reasons for God’s works and ways. This makes the moderns judge rashly. The moderns insist on some subtleties that are not solid, such as that nothing is so perfect that there is not something more perfect. This is an error because then there would be no ground or foundation of existence. Leibniz is saying that existence necessarily originates in its perfection, otherwise there would be no criterion with which to perceive it, existence would not even be there to reflect on. They believe that because they think God could have done better, they provide for the freedom of God. But the highest freedom is to act perfectly, according to free reason, sovereign reason. To believe that God does something without having a reason for his will, seems like it cannot be, and is an opinion that does not conform to God’s glory.
Leibniz here is maintaining the objectivity of God, against the moderns. He is saying that God is not an invention in our own image, but we are in God’s image. We are more like him, than he is like us, just as animals are more like us than we are like them, and plants are more like animals than animals are like plants. There is an order or hierarchy of being. We did not invent God, he invented us.
If God chooses between A and B, and takes A without having any reason for preferring it to B, then this is not praiseworthy, for all praise must be grounded in some reason which by hypothesis is not found. In other words, there is a science or structure of God’s reason for creation. Leibniz maintains that “God does nothing for which he does not deserve to be glorified.” This double negative seems ambiguous, and detractors may interpret it as some kind of esoteric or crypto-atheism. Either he is saying God does nothing and does not deserve to be glorified. Or he is saying that God does nothing that does not deserve to be glorified. The term “for which,” seems to emphasize more the latter. In other words, everything that God does deserves to be glorified.
4. That the love of God requires a complete satisfaction and acquiescence regarding what he does without us having to be quietists because of that
In this section, Leibniz describes the harmonic balance between our personal will and the divine necessity. In the first paragraph, he explains the divine necessity and in the second paragraph he explains our free will or intentionality in relation to it.
The knowledge of the truth that we must be completely satisfied and accepting of what is beyond our control is the very ground of the love that we owe to God above all created things. In other words, our complete peace and good feeling that accepts all that exists is the ground of love that we owe to him who created us and to his creation. When we love, we seek fulfillment in the greatest perfection of what we love, the object of our love. “Idem velle et idem nolle vera amicitia est,“ “To will the same and to dislike the same is true friendship.” This quote is similar to one from Sallust. It is difficult to love God well, but especially when one is not disposed to love what he loves and will what he wills, even if one had the power to change it. Those who are not satisfied with what God does are like rebels, they rebel against creation itself, wishing that creation did not exist.
According to these principles, we must not wait for God to act or stand to the side. We must accept our past, everything about it, entirely. With respect to the future, we must not wait for what God will do, but we must act according to what we presume to be the will of God. If we were to wait with arms folded for God to act and not act courageously and forthrightly, this would be what the ancients regarded as the sophism of logon aergon, the lazy reason. Leibniz speaks about this in other works as well. We have to act with what we presume to be the will of God, so far as we can judge it. We must with all our power contribute to the general good. Particularly, we must be concerned with the adornment or perfection of what is near to us, in our immediate environment, our immediate relations. We must not try to escape our environment because that would be trying to escape the consequences of our past actions, we must try to accept all of our past actions and accept what God has given us. But we must also act absolutely according to what we presume the will of God is, our best estimation and our best judgement of it, without knowing fully. We must be forthright and courageous and willing to change our environment when necessary, in order to contribute to the general good. When the outcome may perhaps show that God did not want our good will to have its intended effect in this particular case, it does not follow that he did not want us to do what we did. Since he is the best of all masters, he only requires the right intention, and he knows the proper time and place to actualize all of the energy of our good intentions in the best way possible. He brings all of the good designs to success.
5. In what the rules of perfection of divine conduct consist and that the simplicity of ways is in balance with the richness of effects
This section again has three paragraphs. In the first, Leibniz states the sufficiency of believing in God’s perfection, the principle of sufficient reason. In the second, he states the conduct of providence. In the third, he shows that the simple means of conduct are in balance with its rich and diverse ends.
It is sufficient to have confidence in God, that he acts in the best way and that we as well act in the best way. Nothing can harm those who love God, says Leibniz, after the words of Socrates. But to know the particular reasons why he chose this particular order of the universe, why he allows evil and sin, why he dispenses grace in a certain manner, is beyond the comprehension of a finite mind. That is, why did God put us in the particular situation that he has put us in? Why has he allowed us to sin? Why has he given us hardship and suffering that he has? It is beyond finite human reason to speculate why these things are, when it has not yet attained the vision of God. When one has attained the vision of God, then one gets a sense of why God has allowed for some suffering or evil to occur, because this suffering or evil was transitory and in no way permanent, but served to bring about a higher harmony. There is sufficient reason to believe in the goodness and perfection of existence, it is in accordance with human reason, and it is beyond human reason to understand why God has allowed sin and evil. It is not beyond God’s reason to allow these things or permit people to go against him.
Leibniz next talks about the conduct of providence in the general governance of things. He makes several analogies that demonstrate what it means to act perfectly. One who acts perfectly is like a geometer, like an architect, like a head of family, like a skilled machinist, like a knowledgeable author. All of these analogies are centered around the principle of fitting the most goodness into the simplest form. That is, to save the most amount of time and to be the most concise, economical, and efficient in one’s dispensation of love and goodness. To compress and aggregate the greatest goodness of energy into the most concise expression, at all times. The geometer finds the best constructions for the problem. The architect makes use of location and funds in the most advantageous manner without allowing anything disagreeable or lacking in beauty. The good head of family uses his property such that nothing is wasted. The skilled machinist produces his work in the least difficult way. The knowledgeable author includes the most realities in the smallest volume. He goes on to state that the most perfect of beings, meaning those who interfere with one another the least, are the minds, whose perfections are virtues. The happiness of minds is the principal aim of God and he achieves it as the general harmony allows. In other words, Leibniz means that the minds tend towards their perfection by nature. The minds naturally tend towards virtue, which is their happiness. And insofar as they allow themselves to tend towards virtue, the general harmony facilitates their happiness to a greater and greater extent.
In the final paragraph of the section, Leibniz speaks of the simplicity of the ways of God. The simplicity of his ways holds with regard to the means of conduct, meaning that we should act in the simplest way that is capable of bringing together the most things into harmony. The richness, variety, and abundance of God holds with regard to the ends or effects of conduct. The one must be in balance or in harmony with the other. The cost of a building must be in balance with the size and beauty demanded of it. Nothing costs God anything, for God is perfectly free and sovereign. For the philosopher, it costs him a great deal to construct his hypotheses. Whereas God only speaks and the real world is born. In matters of wisdom, the speech or decree or hypotheses are like costs or expenditures. Reason wishes to avoid multiplying hypotheses or principles unnecessarily, and so its seeks only to form the most perfect statements that contain the most love, goodness, and perfection.
This section, which is essential to Leibniz’s whole conception of efficiency and optimization, anticipates the basic framework of algorithmic information theory, a branch of mathematics which is used in computer science. This connection was already articulated by Gregory Chaitin. But furthermore, it is important to note that Leibniz’s conception of efficiency or optimization is not constrained, which makes it different from a profane mathematical conceptions. Leibniz’s optimization is an unbounded optimization because it is grounded in the true cause, which is without constraints.
6. God does nothing out of order and it is not even possible to feign events that are not regular
This section is again composed of three paragraphs. In the first, Leibniz states the universal order. In the second, he states how this order may seem disorderly. And in the third, he states how the order is established.
The wills or actions of God are either ordinary or extraordinary. God’s extraordinary acts, miracles, are so only with regard to creatures. The universal order encompasses everything. There is nothing out of order, and it is not even possible to feign something that is not already in God’s perfect order. It is literally not possible to feign that something is disorderly. He gives the example of a number of random points on a paper, and claims it is possible to find a geometric line that passes through all the points.
There are even more complex lines which are now straight, now circular, which would equally be able to be described by a rule or equation. But when a rule is very complex, then it seems irregular or disordered, even though it is not in reality.
Thus, God could only have created the world with a certain general order. And he has chosen that which is most perfect, which means simplest in hypotheses and richest in phenomena. These comparisons are only a resemblance of the divine wisdom.
This section is most important because it lays out the very basic principle of Leibniz’s whole system of balance and harmony. The simplicity of means is balanced by the richness of ends. The simplicity of experience is balanced by the richness of its reasons. The most simple principle that organizes all phenomena is the principle of identity, A=A. This can also be stated as “what can only be represented as itself,” or what is “incompressible,” “irreducible.” This is the general principle of Leibniz’s whole system- that the irreducible can in some way be articulated or circumscribed. And the whole purpose of communication is to approximate or converge towards this irreducible substrate. To converge towards this irreducible substrate is to draw out the general harmony of all things.
This section follows closely the teaching of Parmenides and the law of non-contradiction.
7. That miracles conform to the general order, although they are contrary to the subordinate maxims. Of what God wills or permits, and of general or particular will
In the first paragraph, Leibniz states the general order. In the second, he shows how it operates from the general through particular wills. In the third, he shows how God wills good, but only permits evil and does not will it.
Miracles are in the general order. The natural operations, or the normal behavior of matter conforms to subordinate maxims or rules of nature. The natural operations are only a habit of God, which he can break in order to do miracles. He can use a miracle if he has a reason stronger than what moved him to use the subordinate maxims of natural operations.
God does everything according to his most general will, which is the most perfect order that he has chosen. He also has more particular wills that are exceptions to the subordinate maxims. The most general order of God’s laws reflects the whole universe in sequence, without error or exception.
It can be said that God wills everything that is in his particular wills, but concerning his general will we must make a distinction. For creatures that are rational, if the action is good in itself, God wills it and sometimes commands it. But if it is evil in itself, and becomes good only by accident, then God only permits it and does not will it. In the sequence of things, the evil done is punished and repaired, and thereby repaid with interest, so that in the end, there is more perfection than if the evil had not happened. He knows how to draw greater good from these evils.
This section is important because it establishes definitively the laws of the economy of salvation. There is an overall substrate, the general will of God, and it contains many more particular wills. And insofar as those wills approach or approximate the general will, then they are endowed with more perfection, and insofar as they violate the general will, then God has to do more work to correct those evils to bring about a greater perfection. Some people will see this as a variant of typically modern progressivism- that the world is always getting better and humans are always improving their state. If we sin, then it makes no difference because it will inevitably be brought to greater perfection by God. This is not the case at all, this is not what Leibniz is saying at all. His notion of the gradual perfection of the universe is so different from any progressive notion. He is instead saying that the general will of God is an equilibrium, a harmony of motion, that is always approximating and converging towards greater perfection. If a person does evil against this equilibrium, then it may be brought to perfection in another place or person, in another way. Whoever violates against the most general order must be punished and make reparation, metaphysically if not physically. But the worse his violation, the more the fruits of his reparation are enjoyed by those more worthy. In other words, there is a fractal quality to evil, in that it gets worse and worse the worse and worse it gets. The deeper the violation, the harder it is to dig oneself out. On the other hand, this applies to good as well. But the good and the evil are not in equilibrium, because the equilibrium converges towards perfection. Those who do not will what God wills, the general order, the general harmony, get lost in fractal evil, where the fruits of their reparations are given over mostly to those who do will the general harmony. There is also a danger of interpreting Leibniz’s general harmony as a kind of collectivism, that we must simply go along with the crowd and do what the general order of society demands. This is far from the case, as will be made clear in the next sections, when he articulates what an individual substance is and how they are each unique and compatible in their uniqueness. This section really demonstrates how Leibniz has a Dantean cosmology. There is a higher metaphysical order that intervenes on subordinate maxims that govern the natural order, and these two orders are not in contradiction with one another.
8. To distinguish the actions of God and the creatures it is explained what the notion of an individual substance consists in
It is difficult to distinguish between the actions of God and those of His creatures. There are those who believe that God does everything. There are those who believe that he only conserves the force that he has given to creatures. What follows will show to what extent the one or the other can be said. Actions and passions belong to individual substances, so we must explain what a substance is.
When several predicates are attributed to the same subject and this subject is not attributed to any other, it is an individual substance. This is only a nominal explanation. What is it to be attributed truly to a certain subject?
All true predication has a ground in the nature of things. When a proposition is not identical, when the predicate is not contained in the subject, it still must be contained in it virtually. The term of the subject must always include that of the predicate. This is important for Kant’s later analytic-synthetic distinction. The analytic, Kant will claim, is when the predicate is contained in the subject, and the synthetic is when it is not. Leibniz is claiming that there are no synthetic propositions in a substance, all propositions are analytic, and if they seem synthetic, they are actually analytic. Interestingly, this is the position that the logical positivists will return to, in quite a confused manner, completely divorced from Leibniz’s original grounding of all subjects in God’s perfection. The subject must contain all its predicates, implicitly, folded up inside of it. This is an individual substance.
The notion of an individual substance is a complete being. So complete that it would allow deduction of all its predicates. An accident is a being whose notion does not include everything that can be attributed to the subject. The quality of King belongs to Alexander but does not determine the whole individual, it does not include the other qualities of the same subject. God sees the individual notion of Alexander, and sees at the same time the ground and reason of all predicates that can be said of him, all the various events of his life, objectively. In the soul of Alexander, there are vestiges of everything that happened to him and marks of what will happen to him, and even traces of everything that will happen in the universe. Only God can recognize them all.
This section is important because it updates the Scholastic notion of the substance and accident by using the grammar of subject and predicate. The substance is a subject, and insofar as it contains all of its predicates, it is a true individual substance. But insofar as its predicates are not altogether contained in it, it is accidental. Only God comprehends the entirety of individual substance. In this way, the notion of substance serves as the medium of the equilibrium that Leibniz has been building throughout the Discourse. We can see that the simplicity of means is substantial, while the richness of ends is accidental. We see here how Leibniz has to defend the traditional Scholastic science against the innovations of the Cartesians and deists. But in so defending, he must update that science. And in this update, he must anticipate the later innovations of Kant, who would make the interior and the subjective the center around which the world turns. Leibniz does not go this far. He is still on the side of Scholastics against the moderns. He still maintains the objectivity of God, outside and above the person. Kant will turn the objectivity of God into the person, into the ideal of pure reason. This will in turn become German idealism, Goethe, Schilller, Fichte, Schelling, Hegel, which will then branch off into Nietzsche and Marx, which give us the whole modern problem of pervasive subjectivity and opinion and conflict. Leibniz is the historical equilibrium in every way, between the Scholastics and Kant, between Catholicism and secularism. He maintains that there is a general equilibrium, a general order, a general harmony, a general economy, which is the will of God. There is a rational science of Beauty. There is a generalized interrelation of all phenomena, and they are all related by individual substances that offset and compensate one another in their actions and intentions, converging towards greater perfection, with falls and ascents, maintaining an equilibrium around convergent perfection, between simplicity and richness, between goodness and evil, between substance and accident.
9. That each singular substance expresses the whole universe in its own manner, and that in its notion all its events are contained with all their circumstances and the whole sequence of external things
It is not true that substances are exactly like one another or that they differ in number only. What St. Thomas affirms about angels, “quod ibi omne individuum species infima,” which means “that with them every individual is a lowest species,” also applies to the individual substances. The specific difference between substances is analogous to how geometers regard their figures, no substance can begin except by creation or perish other than by annihilation. A substance is not divided into two, nor can one be made out of two. The number of substances neither increases nor decreases naturally, although they are transformed.
Every substance is like an entire infinity, a mirror of God, an entire universe expressed in its own way. It is like the same city contemplated from different positions. Every substance bears the character of God’s infinite wisdom and imitates him as much as it is capable. Each substance expresses, although imperfectly, everything that happens in the universe, past, present, or future. All substances express this one and accommodate themselves to it. In other words, there is one substance that all the other substances imitate and approximate and accommodate themselves to.
In other words, the Creator mediates all motion through space, He mediates all thought and action and choice, through the perfect substance. This perfect substance is perfect meaning. It is the boundary condition of all motion, the law of all motion. By approximating this perfect meaning, all things become simultaneously both more unique and more integrated into one another and compatible with one another. The individual is precisely a boundary or a limit condition. The individual, as substance, is the expression of the one unique law of the universe. And all of these laws are completely analogized to one another by motion in space. Motion is compatible harmony.
10. That the belief in substantial forms has something sound to it, if bodies are substances, but that these forms do not change anything in the phenomena and must not be used to explain particular effects
The ancients, as well as so many other people used to profound meditations, who have taught theology and philosophy long ago, and some who have commendable sanctity, have some knowledge of the aforesaid. And this is what made them introduce and maintain the substantial forms that are so decried today. But they are not far from the truth, nor as ridiculous as the common run of new philosophers imagines.
Leibniz admits that substantial forms have no use in the detail of physics and must not be used to explain phenomena in particular, and it is in this way that the scholastics fail and the physicians who followed them. They believed to account for the properties of bodies by mentioning forms and qualities, without examining the manner of operation. It is like saying that a clock has the quality of clockness without considering what it consists in. He upholds that substantial form is necessary to know first principles and to elevate the mind to God.
Even if one chooses not to believe in substantial form, the general harmony is operative anyway. The general harmony is the structure of the unconscious coordination of all motion. It doesn’t matter if the geometer is troubled about the composition of the continuum, or if the moral philosopher, jurist, or statesman, is concerned about reconciling free will with the providence of God, since in practice, one can complete all their demonstrations without worrying about these discussions. They concern only those who are interested in philosophy and theology. In this way, Leibniz upholds that the philosopher-theologian is the true king, who understands the true structure by which all motion is already unconsciously coordinated into the perfect harmony. Everyone else simply operates within this structure unknowingly. It is in fact dangerous for practical people like physicists or statesman to concern themselves with these questions because they trouble their mind with fatalism, and turn away from good resolutions because of that. The philosopher-theologian alone is above all of these concerns because he comprehends the whole structure of God’s providence and absolutely perfect beauty. He is in a way, an approximation of the conductor of the whole symphony of motion in space, who is God.
11. That the meditations of the theologians and the philosophers who are called scholastics are not to be despised
Leibniz admits that he puts forward a paradox in rehabilitating the substantial form of the scholastics. He does this by hypothesis, in so far as it can be said that bodies are substances. Perhaps he will not be quickly condemned because he has meditated sufficiently on the modern philosophy, and spent time on physical experiments and geometric demonstrations. He was ultimately convinced of the futility of the moderns, and that they do not do sufficient justice to St. Thomas and other great men of that time. The scholastic philosophy has much soundness used appropriately. He is further convinced that the scholastic method could be clarified in a geometric form and demonstrated indisputably, which would be a great treasure.
Here Leibniz states the true purpose of his entire project- to give geometric rigor to the scholastic method. Leibniz seeks nothing less than the perfect divine science of space.
12. That the notions that consist in extension include something imaginary and cannot constitute the substance of the body
Either bodies are not substances in metaphysical strictness (opinion of the Platonists), or the body is not only extension (contra Cartesians). One must recognize something in bodies related to souls, that is commonly called substantial form. It does not change anything in phenomena. The notion of size, figure, and motion is not so distinct as is imagined, it includes something imaginary and relative to our perceptions. Also color, heat and other qualities.. it can be doubted whether they are found in the nature of things outside of us.
We see here that Leibniz is defending the Scholastic notion of the soul against the Cartesians. What is unfortunate is that he has to do so in a way that makes him seem to anticipate Kant. Leibniz would not have agreed with the extreme to which Kant took these notions. With Leibniz there is perfect equilibrium between internal and external space, between man and God. With the Scholastics the weight is tipped toward emphasis on external God, with Kant the weight is tipped toward emphasis on the internal God. The Cartesians, in a distorted way, follow the scholastics by keeping the emphasis on the external, yet they transform the external from God to the external as matter. Leibniz is defending the scholastic notion of the soul and trying to preserve God as the external space. The Cartesians turn external space, extension, from God into dead matter and mechanism. They deify mechanism and matter and kill God. Leibniz is trying to defend God against the Cartesians, but this causes him to anticipate Kant who would commit the error in the opposite direction and effectively deify the internal. This would lead to our dilemma of modern nihilism, which is pervasive subjectivism and solipsism. This is all because Kant took Leibniz to extremes that he would never have intended. Again, Leibniz is the historical pivot, the perfect balance between Catholicism and secularism.
To emphasize this point, he states this is why these kinds of qualities (size, figure, motion, color, heat) cannot constitute substances. This is proof that Leibniz is no Kantian. If there is no principle of identity in bodies, the body will never subsist for even a moment.
Next follows a quite mysterious and cryptic final paragraph, in which Leibniz differentiates between substantial forms of other bodies and those of intelligent souls. The intelligent souls alone know their actions, do not perish naturally, and conserve always the knowledge of what they are. The intelligent souls alone are susceptible of punishment and reward, and this makes them citizens of the republic of the universe, of which God is King. In this passage, he seems to be differentiating the intelligent souls, who carry on the great chain of being from the ancients and the scholastics, from the crude moderns, the Cartesians and Spinozists and Newtonians, who see everything as extension and separate from themselves. They thus degrade life and are not truly intelligent souls at all.
13. Since the individual notion of each person includes once and for all what will ever happen to him, one sees in it the proofs a priori or reasons of the truth of each event, or why one has happened rather than the other; but these truths although certain, are nevertheless contingent, being grounded in the free will of God or of the creatures, whose choice has always its reasons that incline without necessitating
Leibniz resolves a difficulty which arises from the above considerations. Since the individual substance includes everything that can ever happen to it, there is problem of distinguishing between contingent and necessary truths. There will be no place for human freedom and a fatalism will reign over actions and over world events. To answer this, Leibniz makes a distinction between what is certain and what is necessary. Future contingents are certain since God foresees them, but they are not thereby necessary. The one is absolutely necessary, where the opposite implies a contradiction, the other is necessary only ex hypothesi, by accident, the contrary does not imply a contradiction. This is Leibniz’s classic distinction between the principle of non-contradiction and the principle of sufficient reason. Leibniz uses the example of Caesar and his life’s actions. If some man were capable of completing the whole demonstration, he would prove the connection between the subject who is Caesar and the predicate which is his successful undertaking. He would show that Caesar’s dictatorship is grounded in his nature. His nature has a reason why he decided to cross the Rubicon, why he won at Pharsala, that it was reasonable and certain that this would happen, but not necessary in itself, its opposite does not imply a contradiction. In almost the same way as it is reasonable and certain that God will always do the best, although what is less perfect does not imply a contradiction.
This demonstration of this predicate of Caesar is not as absolute of those of numbers of geometry, but it presupposes the sequence of things that God has freely chosen, and is grounded in the first decree of God. Though God always chooses what is best, this does prevent what is less perfect from remaining possible. It is not the impossibility, but the imperfection, which makes God reject it. Nothing is necessary of which the opposite is possible.
In this way, Leibniz most perfectly reconciles necessity and freedom. With God, there is no contradiction possible, and everything is most perfect, whereas with everything else what is less perfect does not imply a contradiction. Thus, there are two energies, one of absolute necessity, which is God’s absolute perfection, and one of inclination, where God wills what is most perfect, but what is less perfect is still possible. And thus, in our natural reality, which is creaturely, and far less perfect than God’s reality, the less perfect does not imply a contradiction. This means than in natural reality, the principle of sufficient reason applies. We must incline towards perfect reconciliation of freedom and necessity, we must incline towards the perfect will of God, but what is less perfect is still always possible. Thus, there appears to be contradictions and paradoxes in our natural reality, even though these are merely transitional and in no way subsistent or foundational. Only the perfect will of God is subsistent and foundational, and all creatures incline towards that without necessitating it.
We see that Leibniz’s doctrine of inclination without necessity is the perfect reconciliation of freedom and necessity, towards the generalized harmony of all things. All things incline towards this most perfect equilibrium which is the composition of motion and space. And sometimes rational creatures exceed this equilibrium in which case they do an act that is extra good and provident, and sometimes they fall short and do evil acts that go against God’s perfect freedom, but in either case they still incline towards the perfect equilibrium of harmony, as an overall pattern, because each motion or act in space in some way compensates all the others which may fall short or over exceed in that moment. And these good or bad acts are not like numerical or like figures, because they are more intangible tendencies that converge towards a boundary that is never fully attained, but always allows for more fulfillment.
This difficulty is as great for Leibniz as it was for all of the ancients who confronted the same problem. All contingent propositions have reasons for being thus and not otherwise. They are no absolutely necessary. If certain propositions have sufficient reason why they are thus and not otherwise, this is the same as them having a priori proofs of their truth that render them certain. This would include all of mathematics and physics. They are a priori true because there are sufficient reasons, but they are not absolutely necessary where their opposite would imply a contradiction. In this way, Leibniz anticipates the dogmatic 20th century atomists and hedonists who hold society hostage with a totalitarian materialism, arresting the medical system and the scientific establishment by erasing any possibility of God, who alone is based in the principle of non-contradiction. These 20th century physicists and their disciples rather hold doctrines of materialist, mechanistic theology, which is exactly what Leibniz foresaw and hoped to avoid with these very arguments against the dangers of Cartesianism. Only necessary truths are grounded in the possibility or impossibility of essences themselves.
14. God produces diverse substances according to the different views that he has of the universe. And through the mediation of God, the proper nature of each substance carries with it that what happens to one corresponds to what happens to all the others, without their acting immediately upon one another
In this section, Leibniz proceeds to explain the dependence that the substances (souls) have on one another in the general system of harmony. First of all, it is evident that created substances depend on God, who conserves them and produces them continuously by emanation, as we produce thoughts. God considers all sides and in all ways the general system of phenomena that he finds appropriate to produce to manifest his glory. He contemplates all the faces in all possible manners, there is no relation that he does not consider. The result of each view of the universe, as contemplated by a particular soul, in a certain place, is a substance that expresses the universe to conform with this view, if God finds it appropriate to bestow such a thought upon that soul. Since God’s view is true, our perceptions are true as well, but our judgements are of ourselves and deceive us because they are finite and limited, whereas God’s judgements are not.
Each substance is like a separate world, independent of every other thing except God. Thus all phenomena are consequences of our being and keep an order conforming to our nature. The world that is in us allows us to make observations that regulate our behavior, justified by success. We can judge about the future on the basis of the past without mistakes. This is sufficient to say that the phenomena are true, without worrying whether they are outside of us and whether others perceive them. The perceptions or expressions of all souls (substances) mutually correspond so that each one, carefully following certain reasons or laws that he has observed, coincides with the other, who has done the same. This is like when several people have planned to meet at a given place on a certain day. All of our external perceptions mutually correspond as harmoniously as if they were all meeting together at a certain place and time. This doesn’t mean that expressions are perfectly similar, but they are proportional. Each of several spectators believe that they see the same thing and understand one another, although each speaks with the measure of his own perspective.
God is the only one who sees not only as each of them sees, but also differently from them, as He is the cause of the correspondence of phenomena. He makes what is particular to one, public to all, otherwise there would be no connection. Here Leibniz perfectly prophesies our modern condition. Since we have altogether abandoned God, communication is no longer possible. God is the only cause that makes what is particular to one soul correspond to each of the other souls. It is only when we speak and express and communicate and act in relation to a certain perfection that these acts have any meaning. Because modern people no longer aspire to perfection or virtue, their acts have no substance, no meaning. And therefore they cannot communicate at all! To quote Leibniz directly: “It could therefore be said.. that a particular substance never acts upon another particular substance, nor is acted upon by it, if one considers that what happens to each one is only a consequence of its idea alone, since this idea already includes all the predicates or events, and expresses the whole universe.” He goes on to say nothing can happen to us but our future thoughts and perceptions as contingent consequences or previous thoughts and perceptions, and everything that would happen will still happen if nothing else existed except for God and myself. But since we attribute causes acting upon us, we must consider the ground of this judgement.
Here Leibniz is most explicitly and prophetically anticipating the absolute state of modern nihilism. He is saying that everything that will happen to you will happen to you no matter what, and it is only because we attribute causes to things outside of us that we consider the ground of this attribution. In other words, because we perceive causality as something external affecting us, this attribution of causality is itself the providence or necessity of God, speaking through things. Without us believing in this causality, we are subject to a blind fatalism, the lazy reason. In other words, Leibniz is anticipating the affirming the whole of modern nihilism and solipsism and definitively overcoming it in one simple move. He is saying that the entire universe is indeed projected from your mind as a conduit of God, and there is nothing but blind determinism.. all of this is completely true… except that we attribute causality to other things. We inevitably and inescapably believe that something besides ourselves affects us, no matter how much of an insufferable boaster we are. Since there is the slightest hint at something outside of ourselves, we are forced to consider its ground, and in this consideration we find God. Thus all our actions are contingent and only God is necessary to mediate and facilitate all motion and speech.
15. The action of one finite substance upon the other consists only in the increase of the degree of its expression together with the diminution of that of the other, in so far as God obliges them to accommodate to each other
Leibniz here reconciles metaphysical language with practice and demonstrates directly how God orchestrates the general harmony of things. The phenomena which we express more perfectly, we attribute to ourselves. We attribute to other substances what each expresses best. A substance of infinite extension, in so far as it expresses everything becomes limited by the more or less perfect manner of its expression. Leibniz with this most simple statement solves definitively the entire modern problem of solipsism, nihilism, subjectivism, the fragmentation of discourse, and the breakdown of civilization. Let us quote “Thus a substance of infinite extension, in so far as it expresses everything, becomes limited by the more perfect or less perfect manner of its expression. It is thus, therefore, that one can conceive that substances impede or limit one another, and consequently it can be said in this sense that they act upon one another, and they are obliged, so to speak, to accommodate to one another.” Remember, each individual substance (soul) is in fact an infinity. The more perfect or less perfect manner of its expression limits it, places a boundary on it. This is the boundary condition, the general equilibrium that he has been talking about the whole time. It is the perfect boundary between all complements or opposites. In so far as the substance (living thing) moves at all, it delimits its own pure infinity into a more or less perfect thing. And in this way, completely offsets and compensates every other existing motion in general equilibrium or harmony of more and less perfect expressions. Any change augments the expression of one and diminishes the expression of another. The virtue of each particular substance is to express well the glory of God, and it is because of this that it is limited. We can only approximately converge to the glory of God, not express it in totality in this lifetime. When a change happens and several substances are affected, because every change touches them all, one which passes to a greater perfection or more perfect expression acts, and that one which passes to a lesser degree is acted upon. There is then a general economy of perfection. There is one perfect substance that is approximated by expression with the greater perfection circulating and subduing others, which in turn are raised to their greater perfection and subdue the first. Leibniz here already achieves the Kantian “Copernican revolution in thought” without the secular excesses of Kant. He expresses much more perfectly than the Kant, and much more concisely, the relation between internal and external space in the general economy of qualities that compose space and motion. Kant is a mere child compared to Leibniz’s level of genius. The most excellent physicist or mathematician of the 20th century cannot compare to the perfection that is here elucidated by Leibniz. He maintains that every action of a substance involves pleasure and every passion involves pain. There is thus a general economy of pleasure and pain. And in this he anticipates William Stanley Jevons and the utilitarian calculus and its consequent equilibrium theory in neo-classical economics, but again Leibniz is over and above any mere utilitarian calculus, he expresses the much more sublime general system in which the utilitarian calculus and neo-classical economy is embedded. All of modern capitalism is merely a special case of what Leibniz states in one simple paragraph. In other words, his general system of harmony already exists unconsciously. It is all already set up and we are always already participating in it, we just haven’t realized it yet. The last sentence makes it clear that he is not talking about a merely utilitarian economy, but a theological salvation economy, the true foundation of civilization, when he states that one can sin in acting or exerting one’s power and in finding pleasure. The will of God is the general system of harmony itself, it is the system of unbounded optimization.
16. God’s extraordinary concourse is contained in what our essence expresses, for this expression extends to everything, but it surpasses the forces of our nature or our distinct expression, which is finite and follows certain subordinate maxims
Leibniz then moves to the question of how God does miracles in nature, when it seems that nothing extraordinary can happen. Miracles always conform to the general order although they are above the subordinate laws. We must recall how Leibniz has already laid out a perfectly coherent and detailed cosmology of natural laws, that accords with Dante. The more general laws approximate God’s most general will, which contain within them more subordinate laws which are closer in approximation to our everyday habitual reality and its special, particular cases. The laws are embedded inside one another as it were, the more particular contained within the more general, and the more general being closer to God and more unified, and also more necessary and providential over the general system of harmony of all motion. Every person or soul is like a small world that expresses the big world. The extraordinary action of God on each substance cannot fail to be miraculous, it is expressed in the individual substance or soul of each person. If we contain in our nature everything it expresses, then nothing is supernatural, for it extends to everything, because the effect always expresses its cause, and God is the true cause of substances. What our nature expresses more perfectly belongs to it in a particular manner, and it is therefore limited and this is what its power consists of. This goes back to Leibniz’s first principle that animates this entire work, of the simplest possible expression of the greatest volume of meaning and substance. The particularity and limitation and concision is what expresses the most potency. Because we express the most power and potency only by our specific and limited particularity, there are many things that surpass the forces of our limited nature. God’s miracles and extraordinary concourses have this peculiarity, that they cannot be foreseen by the reasoning of any created mind, however enlightened. The distinct understanding of the general order surpasses all except God. Everything that is natural depends on the less general rules or laws. In order for the miraculous to be evident, the words would have to be as certain as their sense, to link certain manners of speaking with certain thoughts. That which contains everything we could possibly express is our essence, which expresses our union with God himself, and it has no limits and nothing surpasses it.
In this short few sentences, Leibniz links indissolubly his own expressions with divine expression. What is limited in us is our power or nature, and what surpasses the nature of all substances is supernatural.
17. Example of a subordinate maxim or law of nature. Where it is shown that God always conserves the same force, but not the same quantity of motion, against the Cartesians and several others
Leibniz talks about the subordinate maxims which are the laws of natural reality of experience. The “new philosophers” say that God conserves the same quantity of motion in the world. Leibniz believed this as well for some time, but has since realized that it contains an error. Descartes and other skillful mathematicians believe that quantity of motion (speed multiplied by the size of the moving body) coincides exactly with the moving force. They think that forces are in a compound ration of speeds and bodies. It is reasonable that the same force is always conserved in the universe. There is no perpetual motion machine. If perpetual motion took place, the force of a machine would restore itself, but instead it is always diminished a little by friction. If it were perpetual, it would augment itself without any new impulse from the outside. The force of a body is diminished only to the extent that it gives it to some contiguous bodies or to its own parts in so far as they have separate motion. Thus, they think that force is the same as motion. Leibniz now proves that force is different from quantity of motion. He assumes that a body falling from a certain height acquires force to rise to that height again. He also assumes that as much force is needed to elevate a body A of one pound to the height of four fathoms as to elevate body B of four pounds to the height of one fathom. Both of these are agreed by the new philosophers. It is therefore true that body A (1lb.) falling from 4 fathoms as body B (4 lbs.) which fell from 1 fathom. As much force is required to lift body A (1 lb.) to four fathoms, as to lift body B (4 lbs.) to one fathom. The force of the two bodies is equal. He now considers whether the quantity of motion is also the same in both of them. It has been demonstrated by Galileo that the speed acquired by the fall from four fathoms is double the speed acquired by the fall from one fathom, although the height is quadruple. The quantity of motion of the body A is half the quantity of motion of the body B, yet their forces are equal. So if multiple body A, which is 1, by its speed which is 2 (by Galileo’s law), we get a product of 2. And if we multiply body B, which is 4, by its speed, which is 1, the product or quantity of motion will be 4. Therefore the quantity of motion of body A is half the quantity of motion of body B, yet their forces are equal. There is really a difference between quantity of motion and force.
Force, as opposed to motion, must be measured by the quantity of effect that it can produce, for example by the height to which a heavy body of a certain size and kind can be elevated. To give double the speed, more than double the force is needed. Descartes fell into this error because he trusted his thoughts too much.
18. The distinction between force and quantity of motion is important, among others, to judge that one must have recourse to metaphysical considerations, distinct from extension, in order to explain the phenomena of bodies
If one only considers in motion precisely and formally, as change of place, it is not an entirely real thing, when several bodies change situation among them, it is not possible to determine, by consideration of these changes alone, to which among them motion or rest must be attributed. This is a direct anticipation of the theory of relativity, which Leibniz implicitly already denies. He states that although relativity of motion is possible, it is not the truth, because force is causal ground.
The force or proximate cause is something more real, and there is enough ground to attribute it to one body more than another. It is only by this that one can know to which one motion principally belongs. This force is different from size, figure, and motion. Not everything that is conceived in bodies consists uniquely in extension, as the moderns persuade themselves. Leibniz is trying to re-establish the forms which the moderns have banished. Although all particular phenomena of nature can be explained mathematically or mechanically by those who understand them, the general principles of corporeal nature and of mechanics itself are metaphysical rather than geometrical, and belong to indivisible forms or natures which are the cause of appearances rather than to mass or extension. This reflection is capable of reconciling the mechanical philosophy of the moderns with the circumspection of intelligence persons who fear that we are moving too far away from immaterial beings, to the detriment of piety.
Here Leibniz again emphasizes the difference between the particular laws and the general, metaphysical order. This is characteristic of Leibniz’s whole Dantean cosmology and what he sees as necessary for the preservation of moral order. The mechanical, mathematical laws do explain all particular phenomena of nature for those who understand them, the general principles are above and are metaphysical. And the particular principles are grounded in the general. The general principles are the cause of appearances. Mass or extension is not causal, but an effect. Leibniz again emphasizes that his principle concern is piety and sanctity of the individual and the society.
19. Utility of final causes in Physics
Leibniz does not like to judge people wrongly and so he does not accuse the new philosophers, but he is obliged to acknowledge that the consequences of removing final causes from Physics, as if God intended no end or good in acting, or as if the good were not the object of his will. The principle of all existences and laws of nature must be sought in the fact that God always intends the best and most perfect.
We are quite subject to deception when we want to determine God’s ends or resolutions, but this is only when we want to circumscribe them to some particular design, believing that he has had in sight one thing alone, whereas he considers all of them at the same time. It is a great mistake to believe that God has made the world only for us, and that there is nothing in the universe which does not touch us and which does not accommodate itself to the consideration that he has for us. Thus, when we see a good effect or perfection that happens or follows from God’s works, we can certainly say that God intended it. God does nothing by chance. And he is not like us, who sometimes fail to do good. So far from possible making a mistake in this, as do politicians who imagine too much subtlety in the designs of princes or commentators who seek too much erudition in their author, one cannot attribute too much reflection to this infinite wisdom. There is no matter in which there is less error to fear while one only affirms and provided here one avoids negative propositions that limit God’s designs.
Leibniz is here saying that the infinite wisdom and freedom of God is not strictly rational or logical, it is not strictly reflective, but it is intuited and discerned by immediate situations. We must not use too much scrutiny in trying to discern God’s logic, but must act in an altogether natural way that is in harmony with the concourse of things.
All those who see the structure of animals recognize the wisdom of the author of things. Those who have some feeling of piety must get away from the sayings of would-be free thinkers who say that one sees only because one happens to have eyes, rather than that the eyes were made to see. When one seriously maintains opinions that attribute everything to the necessity of matter or to a certain chance, it is difficult to recognize an intelligence author of nature. The effect corresponds to cause. The effect is best known by knowledge of the cause. It is unreasonable to introduce a sovereign intelligence, orderer of things, and then instead of employing its wisdom, use only the properties of matter to explain phenomena. It as if to explain a great conquest of a Prince, a historian tried to say that it is because of the corpuscles of the gunpowder, being released at the touch of a spark, etc. Instead of showing how the foresight of the conqueror made him choose the suitable time and means, and how his power overcame all obstacles. This last passage reminds one of the comical thesis of certain Guns, Germs and Steel.
20. Remarkable passage of Socrates in Plato against the philosophers who are too materialistic
Leibniz quotes at length a passage from the Phaedo. It is evident from this passage that Leibniz is intending to show that his philosophical theology is no way an innovation, but is in accord with ancient beliefs. Socrates, speaking of Anaxagoras, states:
“…that an intelligence being was the cause of all things, and that he had arranged and adorned them. That pleased me extremely, because I believed that if the world were the effect of an intelligence, everything would be done in the most perfect possible manner… anyone who wished to account for why things are generated, or perish, or subsist, should search for what would be suitable to the perfection of each thing. Thus the man would have to consider in himself or in anything else only what would be the best and most perfect. For anyone who knew the most perfect would thereby easily judge what was imperfect, because there is only one and the same knowledge of the one and the other.”
Here we see the continuity between Socrates and Leibniz, that Leibniz is the true successor of Socrates, even the true peer of Socrates. That is, Leibniz is a philosopher-theologian of the highest possible rank. We see from this that Leibniz’s Socratic doctrine of the perfection of things is no Platonic theory of forms or Aristotelian empiricism, as they are popularly interpreted. Rather Leibniz is trying to show that the perfect is the true standard of perception. The perfect inheres in perception and experience itself, and mediates all interaction with the external environment. All things, insofar as they are seen or heard or felt, are so through the intermediation of the perfect, which is not abstract at all, but is like a filter, or a substance as the Scholastics call it. This perfection interprets all things through each of us. And it interprets each particular thing in its particularity, and relates each particular thing to its generality or universality in the proper proportion, insofar as it is appropriate to do so. And this whole operation is one interdependent fabric of experience that relates all apparently disparate situations to one another in a general harmony of action. It is a self-regulating compensation and displacement of force across each particular situation, as they mutually affect one another across space and time. Leibniz’s philosophy is not materialistic, but involves a transcendent function that causally interprets and forms the material, prior to matter.
Socrates goes on to condemn materialism and those who say that causes are to be found in material things.
“In this, he did as someone who, having said that Socrates does things with intelligence and, after that, going on to explain in particular the causes of his actions, said that he is seated here because he has a body composed of bones, flesh, and nerves… Or, if wishing to account for the present discourse, he were to have recourse to the air, the organs of voice and hearing, and similar things, forgetting, however, the true causes, namely that the Athenians have believed that it would be better to condemn me rather than absolve me, and that I myself have believed to be better to remain seated here than to escape. For, you have my word, without this, these bones and nerves would long be with the Boeotians and Megarians, if I had not found that it is more just and virtuous of me to suffer the sentence that the motherland wants to impose on me than to live abroad vagabond and exiled. This is why it is unreasonable to call these bones and these nerves and their movements causes.”
This profound passage illustrates the true nature of causality, as conceived in the eternal tradition of philosophy and theology. The Athenians believe it would be better to condemn Socrates rather than absolve him, and Socrates believes it is better to bear this punishment than to escape. This is the whole essence of the Greek and Christian worldview. That existence is a kind of suffering, and that it is worth it to bear this suffering for the sake of something greater. And this is why Socrates and Leibniz believe that there is a perfect quality in things. That the world accuses us and rather than try to escape, we accept this accusation for the sake of justice. We transform injustice into justice.
All of this comes down to whether causality itself is internal or external. And this is the true essence of the difficulty. What causes things to be good and perfect? What is it that perfects things in experience? Does it come from some external cause, such as matter or God? Or does it come from an internal cause, such as the soul? On the one hand, we must agree that God is external to us in some sense, that he is altogether outside of creation, and that he created creation with perfect design and that we are his creatures, made in his image, the effects of his reason and will. But the Cartesians make the error of transferring the external nature of God to the external nature of matter. It is true that causality is external in some sense, because God is external to creation. But it is not altogether true that external matter can be a primary cause. On the other hand, we must agree that causality is in some sense internal, in the soul. And it is in this respect that we are made in the image of God, that we have freedom and virtue and piety that approaches the wisdom of God. Thus causality is internal in the soul and it is external in God, but it is not external in immediate matter. The causality of matter is a lower, posterior form of causality. Though material conditions do limit our actions, they are not the cause of our actions. God shows himself through material conditions, and our internal soul meets his way of showing himself. The materialists or moderns would have it that neither the internal soul nor the external God has any causality, but only that the external matter has causality. In this passage by Socrates, we see that the cause of the whole discourse is that Athens has condemned him and he has chosen not to escape. This is the very crux of the whole matter. Existence is a kind of condemnation that we accept and do not try to escape, and by doing so, we completely transform that condemnation into pure freedom of God. If we fully accept the entirety of the condemnation of the universe, then we absolutely transform into the highest freedom of material harmony. The mistake is to react against the material condemnation, to make it the essence of things, which is to say that matter is causal, that we are victims without agency or control over anything. This is to do as the materialists and remove all internal causality of the soul and external causality of God, in favor of the sole causality of matter. This makes matter into a prison, as the gnostics believe. And indeed the modern doctrine is gnostic, as opposed to Catholic. The orthodox position of Socrates and Leibniz is that the condemnation and the freedom are not symmetric, evil and good are not equals, but the good prevails in general. Acceptance of condemnation is transformed, by an act of freedom, into freedom itself, and into the prevalence of general harmony and perfection in things.
21. If the mechanical rules depended on geometry alone, without metaphysics, the phenomena would be completely different
The wisdom of God has always been recognized in the detail of the mechanical structure of particular bodies. But it must also be shown in the general economy of the world and constitution of the laws of nature. One observes the resolutions of this wisdom in the laws of motion in general. If there were in bodies only extended mass and in motion only change of place, and everything had to be and could be deduced from these definitions alone with geometric necessity, it would follows that a smaller body would give to the greater one which was at rest, the same speed it has, without losing any of its own.
In other words, Leibniz is saying if that strict geometrical necessity were the true description of reality, then there would be a perpetual motion machine. The smaller could influence the greater. But we find that in reality, friction diminishes force. There is a ground to things. Motion is not perpetual, but is grounded in the unmoved. Because there is this unmoved ground of motion, it follows that there must be a kind of freedom intrinsic to things. While superficially, it would appear that the unmoved is what diminishes force, and is thereby a negative, and that perpetual motion is desirable, in reality, perpetual motion is motion without ground, it is a pure chaos. The unmoved is not just what diminishes force, but also what conserves force and harmonizes the interplay of forces, it is not only a diminishment but a contrapuntal increase of force, repaying it with interest. Through the deeper understanding of this unmoved ground, there is a kind of freedom intrinsic to things. And this freedom is what perfects and harmonizes motion, brings it to its best possible concourse.
Several effects of nature can be demonstrated doubly, by considering both the efficient cause and, separately, the final cause. For example, God’s decree always produces his effect by the easiest and most determined ways.
22. Reconciliation of the two ways, by the final causes and by the efficient causes, in order to satisfy both those who explain nature mechanically and those who have recourse to incorporeal natures
Leibniz now reconciles those who explain mechanically the formation of the first tissue of an animal and of the whole machine of parts, with those who account for this same structure by final causes. Both are good and both can be useful, for admiring the great worker, and also for discovering something useful in physics and medicine. The authors who follow these different routes should not maltreat one another.
Those who explain the beauty of divine anatomy mock those who see a fortuitous movement that makes a variety of limbs. And these call the former simple and superstitious. This is similar to the ancients who took the physicists to be impious when they said it is not Jupiter who thunders, but matter in the clouds. The best course would be to join both considerations. Leibniz recognizes and exalts the skill of a worker not only in showing the designs of his machine, but also the instruments used to make each part. God is a skillful enough artisan to produce a machine even a thousand times more ingenious than that of our body, while using only simple fluids. Only the ordinary laws of nature are required to sort them out properly in order to produce an admirable effect, but this would not happen if God were not the author of nature.
The way of efficient causes is more profound and some way more immediate and a priori, is on the other hand, quite difficult when it comes to details. But the way of final causes is easier and it is often helpful to discover important and useful truths that would take a long time to try to find by the physical route.
Snell discovered the rules of refraction. He would have waited a long time before finding them if he had tried to investigate first how light is formed. But he has followed the method of the ancients and used catoptrics, which is by final causes. For trying to find the easiest way to conduct a ray from a given point to another given point by the reflection on a given plane, supposing that this is nature’s design, they found that the equality of the angles of incidence and of reflection. This is also what is found in a treatise by Heliodorus of Larissa and elsewhere. This is what Mr. Snell and Mr. Fermat have applied more ingeniously to refraction. When the rays observe in the same media the same proportion of sines, which is also that of the resistances of the media, it is found to be the easiest way, or at least the most determinate one, for passing from a given point in one medium to a given point in another. The same demonstration of this theorem that Mr. Descartes tried to give by way of efficient causes is not nearly as good. There is room for suspicion that he would never have found it in that way if he had not learnt anything of Snell’s discovery.
23. To return to immaterial substances, it is explained how God acts on the understanding of minds and whether one always has the idea of that about which one thinks
Leibniz has to insist upon consideration of final cause and intelligent cause in relation to bodies so that it is clear that they are useful in physics and mathematics. And also he wants to purge mechanical philosophy from its profanity. And he wants to elevate the mind of the philosophers from material consideration to nobler meditations. Now he will say something about minds, and how God uses them to enlighten them and act upon them. It must not be doubted that there are certain laws of nature. He will now touch on ideas, and whether we see all things in God, and how God is our light.
The misuse of ideas occasions several errors. When one reasons about something, one imagines oneself to have an idea of that thing, and this is the ground on which some ancient and new philosophers have built certain demonstration of God that is very imperfect. Leibniz now speaks about St. Anselm’s ontological proof. He explains the ontological proof as: it must be that I have an idea of God or a perfect being, since I think about him, and one cannot think without an idea. Since this being includes all perfections and existence is one of them, consequently he exists. But Leibniz rejects this reasoning because we often think about impossible chimeras, for example about the highest degree of speed, or the greatest number.
Instead, Leibniz says, there are true and false ideas depending on whether the thing in question is possible or not. And it is when one is assured of its possibility that one can then boast of having an idea of the thing. Thus the argument above proves at least that God exists necessarily if he is possible. This is an excellent privilege of the divine nature, to need only its possibility to exist actually. This is precisely what is called ens a se, “being by itself.”
Leibniz is clearly getting this from St. Thomas. In the Summa, St. Thomas rather uses the a posteriori proof for the existence of God, derived from Aristotle. Although St. Thomas here argues against St. Anselm, his philosophy is actually very compatible with both St. Anselm’s ontological proof and St. Thomas’s cosmological proof.
It is clear from this passage that Leibniz believes that the existence of God is possible. Meaning that rather than just an abstract being it is possible for God to be incarnated.
24. What is clear or obscure, distinct or confused, adequate and intuitive or suppositive knowledge. Nominal, real, causal, essential definition
Here Leibniz lays out his doctrine of ideas, which in a way follows Plato’s doctrine of ideas and in a way follows Aristotle’s hylomorphism, and does so in an altogether orthodox Christian and Scholastic manner.
Leibniz now defines all of the above terms. When one recognizes a thing among others without being able to say its differences or properties, it is confused. When we have no doubt in any way about whether a poem or painting is well made or badly made, we have clear knowledge, there is a certain quality, I don’t know what. And when the quality can be explained, the knowledge is distinct. Such is the knowledge of the assayer who distinguishes true gold from false by means of certain tests that define gold.
Distinct knowledge has degrees, for the notions that enter into the definition would themselves need definition and are known only confusedly. But when everything that enters into a definition or distinct knowledge is known distinctly down to the most primitive notions, this is adequate knowledge. And when the mind understands at once and distinctly all of the primitive ingredients of a notion, it has intuitive knowledge, which is very rare. The greater part of human knowledge is only confused or suppositive.
It is also appropriate to distinguish nominal and real definitions. A nominal definition is when it can still be doubted whether the defined notion is possible. For example, if I say that an endless helix is a solid line whose parts are congruent or can coincide with each other, anyone who does not know from another source what an endless helix is could doubt whether such a line is possible. It is indeed a reciprocal property of the endless helix, the other lines who parts are congruent (only the circumference of the circle and the right line) are planar, they can be drawn on a plane. This shows that every reciprocal property can serve for a nominal definition. But when the property makes known the possibility of the thing, it makes the definition real. And while one has only a nominal definition, one cannot be sure of the consequences that are drawn from it. It can conceal contradiction or impossibility and therefore one could draw the opposite conclusion. That is why truths do not depend on names and are not arbitrary.
There is even a difference in real definitions. When a possibility is proved only by experience, the definition is real and nothing more. But when the proof of possibility is made a priori, the definition is also causal. In this case, it contains the possible generation of the thing. And when it pushes the analysis to the end, to the most primitive notions, without supposing anything which needs an a priori proof of its possibility, the definition is perfect or essential.
In this section, Leibniz is brilliantly laying out the entire system of knowledge of any possible thing, in both the metaphysical order and in the natural order. The theory of knowledge corresponds to the metaphysical order, while the theory of definition corresponds to the natural order. This again reflects his holistic integrated cosmology of the general harmony. In the metaphysical order, with the theory of knowledge, our ideas ascend from confused -> clear -> distinct -> adequate -> intuitive. Intuitive ideas are extremely rare and the greater part of knowledge is confused or suppositive, meaning that we suppose things rather than attain the intuitive certainty of the divine vision. In this hierarchy of the metaphysical order, each step represents an ascent towards the divine vision of God. This leads to the direct experience of God’s presence in our lives, in which we are able to articulate the meaning and the reason of God. The real significance of what Leibniz is doing here is that he is not only laying out a theory of knowledge, but directly demonstrating the very validity and authority and of that theory, beyond any abstract speculation. Confused knowledge has no differentiation. Clear knowledge has differentiation without specific properties. Distinct knowledge articulates those properties by criterion. Distinction has degrees, and when it is itself distinct, this is adequate. And then when the adequate is all simultaneous and distinct in its most very primitive ingredients, this alone is intuitive. Thus, in the final culmination of intuition, the most unique and special knowledge is the direct intuitive knowledge of the whole, that is, direct experience of the whole. Leibniz demonstrates the very authority of this theory at the same time as he articulates it. This is profoundly different from any other philosopher. As we ascend the degrees of knowledge, the very coherence of meaningful experience becomes more fully simultaneous and integrated with everything else in immediate and more distant proximity in perfect concentric degrees, as it gets increasingly unique.
He then covers the natural order with his theory of definition. He moves from nominal -> real -> causal -> essential. Again, this is not an kind of abstract or speculative theory of definition or the natural order, it is a direct demonstration of its own merits as a theory. In other words, it is not only a philosophical theory, but it is a theory of authority and validity itself. The nominal definition can still be doubted, and thus it is reciprocal. The real definition makes known the possibility of the thing. The nominal definition can still have contradictions or impossibilities, but the real definition demonstrates its possibility. And this is why he says that truths do not depend on names, because a real definition contains something unnamable. When the possibility is proved by experience, the definition is only real and nothing else. But when the proof of possibility is made a priori, then definition is causal. This means that the definition contains within itself its own causal proof of itself. It guarantees its own fulfillment in time. And finally, when the analysis is absolutely final and complete to the most primitive notions, not even needing anything a priori at all, but absolutely articulating everything in actuality, this is the essential definition. Thus, Leibniz’s theory of definitions perfectly mirrors his theory of knowledge, the natural order reflects the supernatural order. The nominal definition is confused knowledge, the real definition is clear knowledge, the causal definition is distinct knowledge, and the essential definition is adequate knowledge, and the intuitive knowledge as it were encompasses the whole thing and is irreducible. And this is related to, yet by no means the same as, suppositive knowledge. The highest is like the lowest and the lowest like the highest.
25. In what case our knowledge is joined to the contemplation of the idea
We have no idea of a notion when it is impossible. And when the knowledge is only suppositive, the notion is known only in the same manner as hiddenly impossible notions. It is not by this manner of knowing that one learns of its possibility. For example, when I think of a thousand or a chiliagon, I often do it without contemplating the idea of it. I suppose to know it. Thus it often happens that I am deceived with respect to a notion that I suppose or believe to understand, although in truth it is impossible, or incompatible with others to which I join it. Whether I am deceived or not deceived, this suppositive manner of conceiving remains the same. It is only when knowledge is clear in confused notions or intuitive in distinct ones that we see the entire idea of them.
Leibniz is here stating the “irreducibility” of things, that existence is irreducible and always remains in a suppositive state, but that nevertheless we can converge towards clear and intuitive knowledge by a certain approximation to the divine vision.
26. We have in us all ideas; and of Plato’s reminiscence
In order to conceive what an idea is, an equivocation must be prevented. Several take the idea as the form or difference of our thoughts. Others take the idea for an immediate object of thought or permanent thought that remains when we do not contemplate it. Our soul has always in it the quality of representing to itself any nature or form whatever, when the occasion to think of it arises. This quality of our soul in so far as it expresses some nature, form, or essence, is properly the idea of the thing, which is in us, and which is always in us, whether we think of it or not. For our soul expresses God and the universe, and all essences as well as all existences.
Nothing enters naturally into our mind from outside. We have in mind all these forms, and even from all times, because the mind always expresses all its future thoughts, and already thinks confusedly of everything that it will ever think of distinctly. Nothing can be taught to us which we do not have already in the mind the idea, the matter from which the thought is formed.
This is Plato’s reminiscence, which has solidity if taken correctly, that is, purged of the error of pre-existence. It is not imagined that the soul must have already known and thought distinctly in the past what it learns and thinks now. Leibniz now mentions Plato’s Meno, in which Socrates teaches the boy difficult truths about geometry simply by asking questions. This shows that our soul knows all this virtually, and needs only attention to know the truths. It at least has the ideas on which these truths depend. It can even be said that it already possesses these truths, if they are taken as relations of ideas.
27. How our souls can be compared to empty tablets, and how our notions come from the senses
Leibniz now moves from Plato to Aristotle. Aristotle compares our soul to tablets that are still empty and that nothing is in our understanding that does not come from the senses. This agrees with more popular notions, whereas Plato goes deeper. The doxologies and practicologies pass in ordinary usage, much as the followers of Copernicus do not stop saying that the sun rises and sets. They often can be given a good sense and there is nothing false in them. In the same way that particular substances act upon one another, it can also be said that we receive knowledge from outside through the mediation of the senses, because external things contain or express more particularly the reasons which determine our souls to certain thoughts. When it comes to the exactitude of metaphysical truths, we must recognize the independence of our soul.
Those expressions which are in our soul are ideas, but those which are conceived or formed can be called notions, concepts. It is not true that all of our notions come from the senses, which are called external.
28. God alone is the immediate object of our perceptions which exists outside us, and he alone is our light
In the rigor of metaphysical truth, there is no external cause which acts upon us, except God alone. He alone communicates with us immediately in virtue of our continuous dependence. There is no other external object which touches our soul and immediately excites our perception. We have ideas of things in our soul only in virtue of God’s continuous action upon us. Every effect expresses its cause, and thus the essence of our soul is a certain expression, imitation, or image of the divine essence. We see all things because of God. For God is “the light that lights every man who comes into this world.” (John 1:9). This opinion is held not just today by the Holy Scripture and Church Fathers, who have always favored Plato rather than Aristotle. God is the light of the soul and intellectus agens animae rationalis, “the active intellect of the rational soul.”
We again see with these sections 26–29, Leibniz is reconciling Plato and Aristotle, reconciling the ancient/Scholastic view and the modern rationalist view. He is saying that God is the primary, most primitive geometric axiom. And that if we hold this true faith within us, then we are able to interpret every situation with the highest light and goodness, towards the best ends of the general system of things.
29. However, we think immediately by means of our own ideas, and not by means of those of God
Leibniz here speaks against Spinoza, who maintains that our very ideas are in God, and not at all in us. They have no considered the extent and independence of our soul. The soul includes everything that happens to it, and expresses God and all the possible and actual beings as an effect expresses its cause. Thus, we do not think aby means of the ideas of others. The soul must also actually be affected in a certain manner, when it thinks about something. There must be in it in advance not only the passive power of being able to be affected, but an active power, in virtue of which it has had always in its nature marks of the future production of this thought and dispositions to produce it at its time. All this already involves the idea contained in this thought.
Thus, Leibniz is saying that we do not directly perceive God. Our soul contains everything that will happen to it, but in an approximate way. Only God has the true knowledge of our total determinate life. But we have the freedom to converge towards or away from God’s notion. Thus it is not altogether determinate, but it is like musicians who are improvising well in relation to one another.
30. How God inclines our soul without necessitating it; that there is no right to complain; that it must not be asked why Judas sins, since this free action is contained in his notion, but only why Judas the sinner is admitted into existence in preference to some other possible persons. Of the original imperfection before sin, and of the degrees of grace
God concurs with our actions. He ordinarily follows the laws which he has established. He conserves and produces continuously our being in such a way that thoughts happen to us spontaneously or freely in the order that the notion of our individual substance bears. The will always tends towards the apparent good, in expressing or imitating God’s will in certain particular respects. This apparent good always has some truth in it. He determines ours to choose what seems the best, without necessitating it. For speaking absolutely, our will is indifference, in so far as it is opposed to necessity, it has the power to do otherwise or even suspend its action completely. The one and the other alternative being and remaining possible.
It therefore depends on the soul to take precautions against the surprises of appearances by means of a firm will to reflect, and only to act or judge on certain occasions after having deliberated carefully. But it is true, and certain from all eternity, that a certain soul will not make use of this power on one such occasion. Whose fault is it? Can it complain about anything except itself? All these complaints after the fact are unjust, if they would have been unjust before the fact. Would the soul, a little before sinning, complain in good faith about God, as if he determined it to sin? The determinations of God in these matters cannot be foreseen. Whence does it know that it is determined to sin, if not when it already actually sins? It is only a matter of not willing, and God could not propose an easier and more just condition. Thus, all judges, without seeking the reasons which have disposed a man to have a bad will, stop only to consider how bad this will is. But perhaps it is certain from all eternity that I shall sin? Answer that yourself: perhaps not. Without thinking about what you cannot know, and which can give you no light, act according to your duty, which you know.
God sees from all time that there will be a certain Judas, who notion or idea, which God has, contains this future free action. It only remains, why such a Judas, the traitor, who is only possible in God’s idea, exists actually. To this question there is no answer to be expected here below, except that in general it must be said, that since God has found it good that he should exist, despite the sin he foresaw, this evil must be repaid with interest in the universe, that God will draw a greater good from it. It will be found that on the whole this sequence of things in which the existence of the sinner is contained, is the most perfect among all the other possible ways. To explain always the admirable economy of this choice is something that cannot be done while we are travelers of this world. It is enough to know it without understanding it. It is here that we must reocngize the altitudinem divitiarum, “depth of riches” (Romans 11:33), the depth and abyss of divine wisdom, without seeking a detail that involves infinite considerations.
God is not the cause of evil. For not only did original sin take possession of the soul after the loss of innocence of men, but even before this there was an original imperfection or limitation connatural to all creatures, which renders them liable to sin or capable of failing. The opinion of St. Augustine that the root of evil is nothingness, the privation or limitation of creatures, which God graciously remedies by the degrees of perfection that he is pleased to give. This grace of God, whether ordinary or extraordinary, has its degrees and its measures, it is always efficacious in itself to produce a certain proportionate effect. And it is always sufficient not only to preserve us from sin, but even to produce salvation, supposing that man joins to it by his will, but it is not always sufficient to overcome man’s inclinations, for otherwise he would no longer cling to anything. This is reserved for the absolutely efficacious grace alone which is always victorious.
Here Leibniz defends the Catholic view of evil. He defends the view that evil has not substance in itself, it is merely a privation of the good.
31. Of the motives of election, of faith foreseen, of middle knowledge, of the absolute decree. And that everything reduces to the reason why God has chosen for existence such a possible person, whose notion includes such a sequence of graces and free actions, which make the difficulties cease at once
God’s graces are wholly pure, upon which creatures have no claim. Even though absolute or conditional foresight of men’s future actions does not suffice to account for the choice God makes in dispensation, one must not also imagine absolute decrees that have no reasonable motive. God has elected only those whose faith and charity he foresaw, but why does God give to some rather than others the grace of faith or good works? With respect to this knowledge of God, which is the foresight not of faith and good acts, but of their matter and predisposition or of what a man would contribute to them on his side. Although man needs to be stimulated to the good, he must also act towards it. God, seeing what man would do without the grace or extraordinary assistance, could resolve to give grace to those whose natural dispositions were the best or least imperfect. But even if that were the case, these natural dispositions are still the effect of grace, God having favored some more than others. Since he knows well that these natural advantages will serve as motive for grace, is it not true that in the end everything reduces entirely to his mercy?
The most exact and surest thing to say, since we do not know how much or how God has regard to natural dispositions in the dispensation of grace, is that there must be among the possible beings the person of Peter or John, whose notion contains this whole sequence of graces and all the rest of his events with their circumstances. It pleased God to choose him for actual existence from among an infinity of other equally possible persons, after which it seems that there is nothing more to ask and that all difficulties vanish.
With respect to this unique and great question, why it pleased God to choose him from among so many other possible persons, one must be content with the general reasons given, whose detail is beyond. Instead of having recourse to an absolute decree, or to reasons which do not solve the difficulty completely and still need other reasons, the best would be to say in conformity with St. Paul, that there are certain great reasons of wisdom or congruity which God has observed, which are unknown to mortals and are grounded in the general order, whose aim is the greatest perfection of the universe. It is to this that are reduced the motives of God’s glory and the manifestation of his justice, as well as of his mercy, and in the end, that immense depth of riches by which the soul of St. Paul himself was ravaged.
Leibniz is stating the question of why the world appears unjust. Why does God appear to favor some and not others? And his answer is that it comes down to the mercy of God. That man must in the end appeal to the mercy of God, and the immense depth of riches. But this in no way means that God’s motives are unreasonable. The general order of the universe is always aimed at the greatest perfection of existence.
Leibniz clearly sees that there are some who are favored by God and some who are less so. And so for matters of religion and faith and governance, it is appropriate that God reigns in all things, belief in God and in his intention to perfect the universe. This gives all mankind a universal hope and optimism that things be brought to great wisdom. It is best for those who are less favored by God to know that the deepest things are beyond understanding even for those who are most blessed and therefore they can willingly serve and work, and it is best for those who are most favored by God to be filled with gratitude and to pour out their overflowing graces onto the less fortunate. This is the general economy of graces at work in the social organism.
32. Utility of these principles in matters of piety and religion
The principles of perfection of God’s operations, and the notion of the substance that includes all its events and their circumstances, serve to confirm religion, dispel difficulties, to inflame souls with a divine love, and to elevate minds to the knowledge of incorporeal substances much more than other hypotheses that have been seen until now. One sees clearly that all other substances depend on God as thoughts emanate from our substance, that God is all in all. He is intimately united to all creatures, although in proportion to their perfection, and he alone determines them by his influence. If to act is to determine immediately, God alone operates upon me, and alone can do good or bad to me, the other substances contributing only to the reason of these determinations, because God, having regard to all, shares his blessings and obliges them to accommodate to one another. God alone establishes the connection or communication of substances and it is by him that any ones meet and agree with those of others. It is only by God that there is reality in our perceptions. But in practice action is attributed to particular reasons in the sense that I have explained above. It is not necessary to always mention the universal cause in the particular cases.
Every substance has a perfect spontaneity, which becomes freedom in intelligent substances. Everything that happens to it is a consequence of its idea or its being, nothing determines it except God alone. A person whose mind was very elevated and whose sanctity is revered used to say that the soul must often think as if there were nothing except God and itself in the world. Leibniz is speaking about St. Teresa of Avila.
Nothing makes immortality more firmly understood than this independence and extension of the soul, which shelters it absolutely from all external things, since it alone makes up its whole world and only needs God. It is impossible that it perishes without annihilation as it is impossible that the world destroys itself. Thus neither is it possible that the changes of this extended mass of our body do anything to the soul, nor that the dissolution of this body destroys what is indivisible.
The significance of this passage is that Leibniz explicitly states that communication, agreement, coordination, shared plans, are impossible without God. It is only through God that people are capable of speaking with one another or sharing in any kind of community. That is, it is only through an explicit faith in higher graces and higher love beyond reason. And this higher reason is always approached and approximated through our concourse of action. Each soul is a completely unique expression of the whole of the universe. And thus, there is no natural interrelation between these souls, there is only a supernatural relation. That is, souls are only capable of interrelating in so far as they are converging towards the higher laws and structures. This is the only way that the intentionality is shared and communicated adequately. God is the perfect medium of all action and motion and communication.
33. Explanation of the union of the soul and the body, which has passed for inexplicable or for miraculous and of the origin of confused perceptions
Leibniz now explains the union of the soul and body. The actions and passion of the one are accompanied by the actions and passions, or else suitable phenomena, of the other. There is no means of conceiving that one has influence upon the other, it is not reasonable to simply have recourse to the extraordinary operation of the universal cause in an ordinary and particular thing. But here is the true reason of the union: everything that happens to the soul, to each substance is a consequence of its notion, the idea itself or essence of the soul carries with it that all its appearances or perceptions must be born spontaneously from its own nature, precisely so that they correspond by themselves to what happens in the whole universe, more particularly and more perfectly to what happens in the body which is assigned to it, because it is in some way and for some time that, according to the relation of other bodies to its own, the soul expresses the state of the universe. This explains how our body belongs to us without, nevertheless, being attached to our essence. Those who know how to meditate will judge favourably our principles for this reason, they will be able to see easily in what consists the union of the soul and body, which is inexplicable in any other way.
In this way, Leibniz perfectly reconciles the knowable and unknowable, the sensible and the divine, the body and the soul, the particular and the universal. Each soul perfectly expresses its whole notion, which is a composite reflection of the entirety of the universe. And therefore the particular body, in its particular situation, can only understand and perceive the entirety in an aspect or a surface. But each thing that happens to it, is a direct reflection of its entire notion. This is the meaning of the principle of sufficient reason, that everything that happens has a reason why it is thus and not otherwise. Because everything is completely saturated and rich with contextual meaning that is heightened to such a dizzying degree that it reflects the entirety of the universe. And thus all bodies are in mutual harmony in space, they interrelate in a perfect harmony of motion already, intrinsically, whether they consciously realize it or not.
The perceptions of our sense, even when they are clear, must contain some confused sensation, because all bodies of the universe are in sympathy, ours receives the impression of all the others, and since our senses relate to everything, it is no possible that our soul can attend to everything in particular. Our confused sensations are the result of a variety of perceptions, which is completely infinite. This is like the confused murmur heard by those who approach the shore of the sea, the collection of repercussions of innumerable waves. If of several perceptions, which do not conform to each other to make one, there is none which excels above the others, and if they make impressions which are almost equally strong, or equally capable to determine the attention of the soul, it can perceive them only confusedly.
Our senses are a composite infinity of all other situations of bodies. The senses directly reflect the particular situation of each other body in space. But since there are so many other particular body situations, we cannot comprehend all of them at once and clearly. It is like an ocean of waves. If there is none that excels above the others, they can be perceived only confusedly. This is why Leibniz is directly demonstrating his capacity to be the clear voice in this ocean of perceptions. He is directly demonstrating his capacity to be the orchestrator or the conductor of the symphony of perceptions. If one directly understands his theory of the union of the body and soul, then one has immediately experienced within oneself the harmony of the limited and unlimited, and how all motion and communication is perfectly mediated by God. In this way, sensation is not opposed to intellect nor intellect to sensation. Sensation is an approximation of clarity and direct intuition of the whole intrinsic harmony. That is, each particular event of sensation in some way reflects an aggregate structure of motion that is continuously convergent. By a clear series of articulation, the modality of this approximation is made intuitive and habitual so that it becomes a nature, a natural way of being. It is a way that mediates between explicit and implicit explanation, between immediate and intuitive understanding. It is both habit and structure.
34. Of the difference between minds and other substances, souls, or substantial forms, and that the immortality that is craved involves memory
Leibniz does not undertake to determine whether bodies are substances, or whether they are only true phenomena, like the rainbow. Nor does he undertake to determine whether there are substances, souls, or substantial forms that are not intelligent. In other words, he is not trying to determine whether bodies are external, extended in space, or whether they are internal to God’s mind. Supposing that bodies are substances with substantial forms, one is obliged to admit that these souls cannot perish entirely, although they can become completely different. He compares them to the atoms of the atomists. The substances express the whole universe, but more imperfectly than minds do. Leibniz here raises a distinction between substances and minds, which he will expand in the next section. The substances do not know what they are, nor what they do, and consequently, not being able to reflect, they cannot discover truths. It is also for lack of reflection on themselves that they have no moral quality. Passing through a thousand transformations, much as a caterpillar into a butterfly. For morality and practice, it is the same as if they were said to perish. And this is so for bodies, which perish by corruption. But the intelligent soul, knowing what it is and being able to say “I,” does not only remain and subsist metaphysically, but remains the same morally and constitute the same personage. It is memory, or knowledge of this I, which renders it capable of punishment and reward. The immortality craved in morality and religion does not consist in this perpetual subsistence alone which is proper to all substances. Without memory of what one has been, there would be nothing desirable about it. If someone were to become King of China, on condition of forgetting what he has been, as if he had just been born anew, would that not be the same as if he were to be annihilated and a King of China were to be created at the same instant in his place. This is something the individual has no reason to desire.
Leibniz is here stating the doctrine of salvation. He is stating the immortality and eternity of the soul, as articulated in Plato and the Church Fathers. The substances alone do not know what they are or who they are, they are incapable of reflection or knowledge, they only have suppositive knowledge. It is the intelligent soul, which is capable of saying “I” which contains memories. It is the source of our unique memory, and this memory is what makes us capable of punishment and reward. The substance alone has no memory, but the intelligent soul within it. Here Leibniz is building up, or elevating the soul into the supernatural hierarchy, the higher order of being. By subtly changing the frame of his rhetorical definitions, from substances to minds, he is seeking to initiate a change in the psychology of the reader, elevating the reader’s soul towards the beatific vision of the angels and the heavenly order.
35. Excellence of the minds, and that God considers them preferentially to other creatures. That minds express God rather than the world, but that the other substances express the world rather than God
In order that it be judged by natural reasons that God will always conserve not only our substance but also our person, that is, our knowledge and memory of what we are, morality must be joined to metaphysics. God is not only the principle and cause of all substances and beings, but is the head of all persons, he is the absolute monarch of the most perfect city. This perfect city is the universe composed of all minds together, with he himself being the most accomplished of all minds, the greatest of all beings. Minds are either the only substances found in the world (if bodies are only true phenomena) or they are at least the most perfect ones. The whole nature, end, virtue, and function of substances is only to express God and the universe. There is no room to doubt that the substances which express him with knowledge of what they do, and which are capable of knowing great truths, express him incomparably better than those natures which are brute or incapable of knowing truths, or destitute of sensation and knowledge. The difference is as great as between a mirror and someone who sees.
Here Leibniz builds on his distinction between minds and substances. Minds are in a way the perfection of substsances. The minds are like angels or angelic intelligences, they are, among the most metaphysical or supernatural of the substances. God himself is a mind, and is the most perfect mind, and he is the perfect King of the perfect city. Leibniz says that minds are either the only substances or they are the most perfect of substances. This means that either the angelic intelligences, as conduits of God, govern and orchestrate and harmonize the whole body of worldly substances and they are actually the only intelligences that exist, or that these angelic minds are at least the most perfect of all substances and so govern from above in the order of being. The whole nature, end, virtue, and function of substances is to express God. That is, the entire purpose of beings is to express God in the most perfect way. That is the whole purpose of all of our lives. Here Leibniz definitively answers the question of why we exist, he provides the total meaning for all lives anywhere, in any historical context, in any situation. The purpose of substances is to express in whatever proportion they are able to, the glory of God, who is both within and independent of them. And in this way, they are drawn closer to God and draw others closer to him, and they complete the purpose of all creation well. There is definitely an order or a hierarchy of creation, in which those substances that express God with an awareness of what they do, express him in a much higher measure than those who are ignorant. He compares the difference between a mirror and someone who sees. In other words, the brute substances see only themselves in the mirror universe, yet they are unaware that they see only themselves and so delude themselves into thinking that they see something truly external. Whereas, the worthy are capable of truly seeing, they see what is truly external, which is God. That is, they see everything as a mirror but they do so at such an intuitive level, that they see through the mirror itself to see what is truly external, to see God speaking to them through external phenomena in the most perfect way.
Since God is the greatest and wisest of minds, the beings which he converses with and communicates his opinions and his volitions in a particular manner, in such a way that they know and love their benefactor, concern him infinitely more than the rest of things. The rest of things are the instruments of minds. All wise persons value a man more than any other thing however precious it may be. The greatest satisfaction that a soul, which is otherwise content, can have is to see itself loved by others. Although with God, there is the difference that his glory and our worship cannot add anything to his satisfaction. The knowledge of creatures is only a consequence of his sovereign and perfect happiness, far from being in part the cause of it. What is good and reasonable in finite minds is found eminently in him. Since we would praise a king who preferred to conserve the life of a man rather than that of the most precious and rarest of his animals, we must not doubt that the most enlightened and most just of all monarchs is of the same opinion.
God, who is the greatest and most absolute perfection of all possibilities and actualities, loves infinitely those who love him. The rest of the things are instruments of love, carrying out the will of love to different degrees of perfection. All wise persons value a friend, a fellow man, more than anything else however precious the thing is. Nothing is worth more than life. The greatest satisfaction is to love and be loved. With God, nothing that we can do can possible add even the smallest amount to his perfection. His knowledge of creatures is only a consequence of his perfection, not the cause of it. His knowledge of creatures is not the cause of his perfection, but the effect. The things that we find admirable, great, heroic, saintly in human beings, are found to the utmost in him, in their absolute highest degree. God preserves and keeps those who love him, in the most perfect degree and measure.
36. God is the monarch of the most perfect republic composed of all the minds, and the happiness of this city of God is his principal design
Minds are the most perfectible substances and their perfections hinder one another the least, or at least aid one another. Only the most virtuous can be most perfect friends. It follows that God always aims at the greatest perfection in general. He will always care for the minds and give them, not only in general, but to each one in particular, the maximum of perfection that the universal harmony will allow.
What Leibniz is saying in this paragraph is that the best minds are in the most perfect of harmonies with one another. Each being is created perfect by God, in just measure to the proportion of his good will and his intention to grow into universal harmony, the system of all existence.
God in so far as he is a mind, is the origin of existences. Otherwise, if he lacked the will to choose the best, there would be no reason for a possible thing to exist in preference to others. The quality God has of being a mind takes precedence over all the other considerations he may have with regard to creatures. Minds alone are made in his image. They are almost of his race, or like children of the house, since they alone can serve him freely and act with knowledge in imitation of the divine nature. One single mind is worth a whole world, since it does not only express the whole world, but also knows it, and governs itself in it in the way of God. Thus, although every substance expresses the whole universe, other substances express the world rather than God, while minds express God rather than the world. And this is the noble nature of minds, which approximates them to the divinity as much as is possible for simple creatures. And this makes God draw from them infinitely more glory than the rest of the beings. The other beings provide only the matter for the minds to glorify him.
The minds are the most perfectible of substances, they are like angelic intelligences. And the minds express all of infinity in the most economical and concise way, to educate and bestow upon all creatures the true knowledge of the universe. But the other substances, such as the animals, can only express the world and not God. That is, the animals can only express the finitude and limitation of survival. And for this reason, the minds must watch over them and care for them, in due measure, as God watches over his children with due justice. The noble nature of minds approximates the divinity as much as is possible for creatures who are not yet God himself. God draws from these creatures infinitely more glory, and the other beings are the matter or the effect of how the minds glorify God. That is, the other substances receive God’s glory as an overflowing or an excess of superabundant love. God treats each of the minds with the utmost care and measure and justice, just as the minds treat the other substances with such due measure of appropriateness.
The moral quality of God render him the lord or monarch of minds, personally, in a wholly singular manner. It is in this that he humanizes himself. He is willing to tolerate anthropomorphisms. He enters into society with us as a prince with his subjects. This consideration is so dear to him that the happy flourishing state of his empire, the greatest possible happiness of the inhabitants, becomes his supreme law. Happiness is to persons what perfection is to beings. The first principle of the existence of the physical world is the decree to give it the maximum of perfection that is possible, the first design of the moral world, the city of God, which is the noblest part of the universe, is to spread in it the maximum of happiness that will be possible.
This is how God becomes man, how God became a particular man, Jesus Christ, how he incarnates in the mind of man and becomes a true reality in the world. The consideration that God becomes man is so dear to him that the happiness of all the minds and souls becomes his supreme law. Happiness is to persons what perfection is to beings. In other words, the happiness of the minds, the people, is the supreme law of God, it is what all being tend towards, what they always unconsciously live within, whether they realize it or not. The perfection of the beings is the perfect ecology of the other substances, the perfect harmony of the web of life and the chain of energy in nature.
It must not be doubted that God has ordered everything in such a way that minds not only can live forever, but also that they conserve always their moral quality. His city does not lose any person, as the world does not lose any substance. Consequently, they will always know what they are. Otherwise, they would be susceptible neither of reward nor of punishment, which is the essence of a republic, but especially of the most perfect one, where nothing can be neglected.
The beings who are in the heavenly city always know who they are, they always conserve their moral quality. His city never loses any person, any more than the world can lose substance. Since they always know who they are, since their soul is eternal, they are always subject to reward and punishment, since there is a perfect standard, there is a perfect criterion of what is right and wrong, what is just and unjust, and all action and motion and communication is weighed in relation to this most perfect standard, which is similar to the eternal memory that regulates everything.
God, who is the most just and the most good-natured of monarchs, and demands only a good will, provided that it is sincere and serious, his subjects cannot wish for a better condition. To make them perfectly happy he only wants them to love him.
That is, God is the source and the reason. If all one’s energy is devoted to him, in its entirety, there is no possibility of failure, there is absolutely nothing upon nothing to fear, because God’s perfect love absorbs all energy directed towards it with the best possible proportion and measure of justice, and in the best possible way, for the greatest fulfillment of all.
37. Jesus Christ has revealed to men the mystery and admirable laws of the kingdom of heaven and the greatness of the supreme happiness that God prepares for those who love him
The ancient philosophers had very little knowledge of Jesus Christ, who alone has expressed himself divinely well. He expresses himself in so clear and so familiar a manner that the coarsest minds conceive his mystery and laws of the kingdom. The Gospel has entirely changed the face of human affairs, it has changed the human condition. He has made us know the kingdom of heaven. He has made us know the perfect republic of minds, the city of God. He has revealed these admirable laws to us. He alone has shown how much God loves us and with what exactitude he provides for everything that concerns us. Having cared for the sparrows, he will not neglect the rational creatures. All the hairs on our head are numbered. Heaven and earth will perish rather than the word of God. What belongs to the economy of our salvation be changed. God has more regard for the least of the intelligent souls than for the whole machine of the world. That we must not fear those who can destroy bodies but cannot harm souls. God alone can render them happy or unhappy. Those of the just are in his hand safe from all the revolutions of the universe. Nothing being able to act upon them except God alone. None of our actions is forgotten, everything is taken into account, even idle words and even a spoonful of water well used. Everything must work out for the greatest good of those who are good. The just will be like suns. That neither our senses nor our mind has ever tasted anything approaching the happiness that God prepares for those who love.
Here Leibniz goes through in a most perfect way, some from among the most beautiful and poetic verses of Scripture systematically, in a musical progression, in order to prove definitively, beyond any possible doubt, that God is the most perfect of beings, that all he has created is in absolute harmony, with the most perfect of designs, that God’s creation is the perfect essence of mathematics, science, philosophy, theology, poetry, music, art, and politics, that all of these are in actuality one divine activity that is accessible to the reasonable person, that God synthesizes all of these concerns into one perfect and divine activity which is the reason and purpose of his heavenly city, and this one divine activity orders and reigns over all created things and governs all motion eternally, and that it is the birthright and the natural condition of the conscious rational beings to participate in this one divine activity for all of eternity, because God loves the lowest of creatures and yearns for their redemption and indeed facilitates their salvation in the best way possible. God bestows his graces on even the meanest of creatures and the worst of sinners, if they should only choose to accept him, if they should only choose to confess their fault, and commit to living in love. All of creation is governed by one perfect system of harmony, maintained by the angels, who are as real as persons, all is governed by perfect interchange of energy, regulated in a divine economy, where every particular and every act and every situation is perfectly accounted for and taken into due consideration, weighed and measured in the most just way, to bring about the best ultimate outcome, so that every possible energy is spoken for and compensated and brought to the highest glory.