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Royal Institute of Philosophy

Descartes and Leibniz in 1946: On Their 350th and 300th Birthdays


Author(s): Paul Schrecker
Source: Philosophy, Vol. 21, No. 80 (Nov., 1946), pp. 205-233
Published by: Cambridge University Press on behalf of Royal Institute of Philosophy
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DESCARTES

AND

LEIBNIZ

IN

1946

On Their 350th and 300th Birthdays


PROFESSOR PAUL

SCHRECKER

THE threehundredand fiftieth


birthdayof Rene Descartesand the
of G. W. Leibniz,both beingcommemorated
this
threehundredth
year,recallto mindan epoch which,in manyrespects,resembled
our ownmorethanany otherperiodofmodernhistory.The Thirty
Years' War duringwhichDescartesservedfouryearsin the armies
of which
of the Dukes of Nassau and Bavaria and the aftermath
of Leibniz's life and work,was
determinedmany circumstances
largelyan ideologicalwarleavingEuropein a stateoftension,which
the Peace ofWestphaliadid littleto allay. As a matterof fact,the
strifecontinuedin many changingformsup to the time of the
AmericanDeclarationof Independenceand the FrenchRevolution,
ifit can be said at all to have been terminated
by theseevents.
of theseventeenth
Morethanin anyotherepoch,thephilosophers
Like
those
of
Thomas Hobbes
were
protagonists.
political
century
and JohnLocke, the systemsof Descartesand Leibniz were not
incidentalto given texts of politicaland social events,but conand to shapingthem.Neitherofthemnorany
tributedto producing
otherofthegreatspiritsofthetimewas a university
professor;
they
taughtonlythroughthe mediaof theirwrittenworks.In so faras
wereconcerned,
the thinkers
whoseworkssurvived
the universities
wereoutsiders,if not outcasts.When,as in the case of Spinoza,a
a chairto one of them,he refusedit
offered
continental
university
his intellectual
freedom.
forthe sake ofpreserving
In whateverlightthe doctrinesof thesephilosophers
may appear
in theirtimetheyweregenuinely
to posterity,
revolutionary.
Only
because intellectualhistorylater emasculatedtheirnew methods
have someoftheirideas
and visionsbeforeadoptingthemofficially,
of
becomecommonplace
patterns thought,whiletheirveryessence
remainsa revolutionary
plea forliberty,reason,and justice,which
thanantiquarianinterest.
holds
more
far
still
to-day
more
illustratethe revolutionary
could
convincingly
Nothing
search
for
not onlywithinthe frame
Descartes'
of
truth,
tendency
ofhis owntimebut in itself,thanthe factthatwhen,a
ofreference
counter-revolution
set out in Germany
fewyearsago, a reactionary
205

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PHILOSOPHY
of the FrenchRevolution,its philoto suppressthe achievements
mercenaries
promptlyundertookto "refute"Cartesianism,
sophical
as Micheletaffirmed
that,
longago, the French
feelingveryclearly
RevolutionbeganwithDescartes.'
What is it, then,thatendowsthesimple,dispassionateand,in so
irrelevant
workofDescartes
faras politicsare concerned,
apparently
elan? To speak of revolutionsin scienceis
withits revolutionary
morethana meremetaphor.Justas theessenceofa politicalrevoluoflawfulness,
tionis theunlawful
changeofthegenerative
principles
in scienceis notmarkedbysensaso a revolution
calledconstitution,
and discoveries,
but by suchchangesofthegenerationalinventions
whicharenotauthorized
calledmethods,
ofknowledge,
tiveprinciples
valid
canons
of
The publicationof
the
methodology.2
actually
by
was oneofthemostimportant
SirIsaac Newton'sPrincipiacertainly
eventsin thehistoryofmoder science,and changedourknowledge
of the universemuchmoreradicallythanDescartes'Discoursde la
Methodeor Principesde Philosophie.Yet the Discourswas revolutionary,whichthe Principiahardlywere;the reasonforthisdifferencebeingthat,whereasNewton'swork,theworkofan authentical
genius,used and improvedexistingmethods,theDiscoursoverthrew
builtup by manycenthe wholeelaboratesystemof methodology
turiesof medievaltradition.We are to-dayso accustomedto conreasoningand experienceas the onlymethods
sideringindependent
thatwe cannoteasilyunderstand
of attainingscientific
knowledge,
thatpriorto Galileoand Descartesso manygenerations
considered
such methodsand testsof truthas nextto irrelevantand satisfied
theirdesireforknowledgewith theoriesand opinionslegitimated
only by the factthat theyhad been voiced by some consecrated
authorityor were deduciblefroma systemrecognizedon such
it may be fora modernmindto
grounds.Yet, howeverdifficult
withsomepassage
understand
it,whateveropinionwas incompatible
of Aristotle,
of the SacredScriptures,
Euclid,Hippocrates,Thomas
Aquinas,or someotherschoolmanof equal credit,was by thisvery
markedas false,nay as criminalnonconformity.
incompatibility
and
Mathematics,
just as philosophy
physics,medicine,and history,
the
absolute
of
were
the
Ancients.
paralysedby
theology,
authority
did notenjoya greaterfreedom.
One ofthe
Even physicalgeography
crimesforwhichMichelServetwasburnedat thestakewashishaving
Palestineto be an aridandbarrenregion,whereas,according
affirmed
it was theland wheremilkand honeyflowed.
to the Old Testament,
Even in 1678,afterthe Cartesianrevolutionof sciencehad already
1 Cf. P. Schrecker,La Rdpublique,fille de Descartes ("La Republique

Frangaise," Vol. I, No. 2, New York, I944).


2 Cf. P. Schrecker,Le problemede la rdvolutiondans la philosophiede
l'histoire("Renaissance," Vol. I, pp. 270-290, New York, I943).

206

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DESCARTES

AND

LEIBNIZ

IN

I946
of
begun to bear rich fruit,Louis XIV forbadethe introduction
Cartesianphysicsat hisuniversities
and imposedon themtheteachAristotelianscience.The motivebehindthis autoing of petrified
craticinterdiction
the significance
of the Cartesianrevoilluminates
lution.For if disrespectforauthorityweretoleratedin the fieldof
knowledge,
nothingcould be expectedto preventthe spiritof subversionfromspreadingintothe entiredomainruledby somevested
authority.
Descarteseverrealizedthepotentialpolitical
It is doubtful
whether
In his workshe expresslylimitedthescope
ofhis revolution.
effects
ofhisnewmethodofcommonsenseandreasonand theindividualistic
startingpointof freeconsentto evidenceto the fieldof knowledge,
pointedlyexceptingeven religiousbelieffromits reach. But this
interest.It is, indeed,one of
questionis at bestofmerebiographical
of historythatcivilization,
the best-founded
experiences
despiteits
articulationby severalseemingly
fields,tendstoward
independent
in one of
organicunity,so that everyradicalupheavaloriginating
thefields,be it knowledge,
religion,
politics,or anyother,willin due
courseof timeinvolveall the others.Anyrevolutionof knowledge
is certaineventuallyto producea politicalrevolution,and any
religiousrevolutionwill finallysubvertthe politicalorderand the
basic methodsof knowledge.It was, therefore,
impossibleforthe
of
of
the
method
achieved
dethroning
authority
by Descartesin the
fieldof knowledgenot to weaken and finallyoverthrowsimilar
in thefieldofjustice,commonly
methodsofauthority
calledpolitics.
the
movement
towards
from
enough,
Characteristically
emancipation
in
which
France
was
spearheadedby science,
despoticauthority
emergedat about the same timein Englandundera religiousguise.
The Brownistdoctrineand the Separatisttrendwhichled towards
therefusalto accepttheguidanceoftheChurchin mattersconcerning an individual'spursuitof salvation,were, essentiallyif not
ofthestructure
a translation
oftheCartesianindividualhistorically,
isticrevolutionof scienceinto termsof Christianreligion.In both
cases the discardingof traditionalpatternsnecessitatedauxiliary
whichprovokedperplexing
dilemmasand calledforthe
hypotheses
ofanothergeneration
to overcomethem.
intellectual
efforts
The basic traitsof the Cartesiansystemare too well knownto
requiremorethan shortmention.Truthhavingbeen definedas a
knowledgeso clear and distinctthat its evidencecannotbe contaminatedby doubt,the main problembecamethat of justifying
of the merelysubjectivecriteriaof clarity,disthe dependability
and
Since no consciousness
evidence.
is able to transcend
tinctness,
in an individualmind,thetaskofprovingthefitness
its confinement
even of the mostclearand distinctknowledgeto the worldoutside
the individualconsciousness
of a deus ex
requiredthe intervention
207

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PHILOSOPHY
machinain the formof divineveracity,called upon to back the
feelingof evidenceand to guaranteethe objectivityand realityof
this
subjectivelyindubitableknowledge.However unsatisfactory
solutionmightappear,it was obviouslythe only means of overof knowledgeto each thinking
individual's
comingthe confinement
whichhad resultedfromtheindividualistic
startownconsciousness,
of
theconsequences
ingpointoftheCogito.Fromanotherviewpoint,
this theoryproved to be still more dangerous.Since Descartes
admittedno resemblancebetween the human and the Divine
Intellects,the truthaccessibleto humanreasonno longerfittedthe

traditionalscholastic definitionof an adaequatio res et intellectus.In

relationbetweenthe representation
so far as a one-by-one
of the
of the same
universeby human science and the representation
it was in no way conuniversein theDivineIntellectstillremained,
ceived of by Descartesas intrinsicor as a similarity.The act of
creation,accordingto his doctrine,has impressedupon the human
theworldin a certainway
soul certaininnateideas whichrepresent
it at all. Even necessary
withoutresembling
truthsofreason,suchas
orthesimplesttheorems
ofcontradiction
ofarithmetics,
theprinciple
werebelievedto owe theirvalue to a decreeof theDivineWill,but
werenot objectivelynecessary.'God mighthave createda worldin
wouldbe true.Thusthearbitrary
whichtheircontrary
and,as itwere,
character
of
the
whole
of
science
based on
anthropological
system
to
the
human
these essentiallycontingent
obstructed
propositions
mindall pathson whichto escape fromthe seclusionin individual
and finally
led philosophy
intotheimpasseofabsolute
consciousness,
idealismand solipsism.This consequence,althoughsystematically
was already
workedout onlyin theworkofBishopGeorgeBerkeley,
the
first
realized
of
and
theiroppoCartesians
generation
by
clearly
nents. Geraud de Cordemoy in his Discours Physique de la Parole

triedin vain, as earlyas I668, to invalidatethe solipsisticimplicationsofDescartes'system,at leastin so faras theexistenceofsouls


to the existotherthaneach one's ownwas concerned,
by referring
The
ence of language.2
JesuitFather Daniel took up the antiCartesian argumentin his Voyage du Monde de Descartes;3and the

Jesuit adversariesof Father Malebranche,in the anti-Cartesian

Journalde Trevoux,censuredthe author of the Recherchede la Verite

ofhisCartesianism.
on accountoftheallegedlyidealisticconsequences
I Oeuvresde Descartes,ed. Adam-Tannery,IV, p. 18; IX, p. 236, etc.
dans le systhmede Descartes
Cf. E. Br6hier,La creationdes vdritgsdternelles

("Revue Philosophique,"

1937, pp. 336 sq.).

2 The workwas firstpublishedin Paris, I668; second edition,1677.


3 Voyagedu Monde de Descartes,Amsterdam,I696, 2 vols. Vol. 2, p. 49:
"Chaque Cartesien,en particulier,pour parlerconsequemment,doit direaussi
serieusementdes autres hommes,qui sont au monde avec lui, que ce sont des
Automates,qu'il le dit des betes."
208

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DESCARTES

AND

LEIBNIZ

IN

I946
The structuralparallelismbetweenthe Cartesianand Brownist
doctrinesbecomesevidentwhenit is recalledthat the latterwas
throwninto a similarparadox.The "Se-Baptism"of JohnSmyth,
firstpastor of the communitywhose memberssome years later
embarkedon the Mayflower,
was, indeed,nothingbut anticipated
into
of religion. Sinceno authoritywas
terms
translated
solipsism
believedsusceptibleof beingentrustedwiththe functionof legitioftheScriptures
as trueand genuine,only
matinganyinterpretation
immediateand individualinspirationby the Holy Spirit could
individualfaith.And sincethe validityofbaptismwas
authenticate
to
it,
thought dependupon the truefaithof himwho administered
JohnSmythcame to the conclusionthat nobodycould be validly
baptizedexceptby himself.
Thus emancipation
fromauthority,
in the fieldsof knowledgeas
wellas ofreligion,
had to be paid forby theisolationoftheindividual
and the surrender
of the certaintyof truthor salvationwhichhad
been warrantedby authority.The same rationalismwhich endeavouredto renderthesystemofknowledge
autonomousand independentof any traditionalor conventional
pattern,therebysevered
the entiresystemfromits directcommunion
withrealityand was
eventuallyforcedto securethe reliabilityof humanknowledgeon
the transcendent
groundof divineveracity;therebyagain weakenitsclaimedautonomyand sovereignty.
ing,ifnottotallyobliterating,
Yet, this congenitaldefectby no means preventedthe spiritof
freedomand independence
fromspreadingfromthe fieldsof knowledgeand religionto thefieldofpoliticalideologyand organization.
If nothingoughtto be acceptedas truewhichis notso evidentto the
individualthathe cannotrefuseit his consent,whyshouldanything
be acceptedas just and honestto whichtheindividualhas notfreely
consentedbecausehe realizesits justiceand equity?If authorityis
unableto guaranteetruth,whyshouldit exercisemorepowerin the
fieldofhumanactionsand be entrusted
withdecidingwhatis good
and just? This question,thoughhardlyeverraisedso outspokenly,
dominatedpoliticalphilosophyduringthe periodwhichseparated
the British,the American,and the FrenchRevolutionsfromthe
Discoursdela Methode.
Spinoza,JohnLocke,Rousseau,Montesquieu,
Voltairewere the protagonists
of politicalthoughtwho, different
from
thoughtheiroutlooksmayhavebeen,derivedtheirinspirations
the Cartesianrevolution
in
knowthe
field
of
againstauthority
pure
ledge and drewthe consequencesin orderto founda new society.
The epistemological
paradox,however,intowhichtheindividualistic
and
of
conception knowledgehad becomeentangled,was forgotten
2 Cf. The Worksof John Smyth,Tercentenaryedition,ed. W. T. Whitley,
Cambridge,I915, 2 vols.; in particularI, pp. xc sq., II, pp. 563 sq. H. M.
Dexter, The True StoryofJohnSmyth,theSe-Baptist,Boston, I88I, pp. 27 sq.
0

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209

PHILOSOPHY
solved,so that it
neglectedby themratherthan beingeffectively
was to obtrudeagain muchlaterundera new guise.The onlyreal
attemptto overcomeit was made, a generationafterDescartes'
death,by Leibniz;but thetragicfateofthelatter'sworkprevented
hisideas fromeverachievinganydeeperinfluence
on history.
II
It is, indeed,one of the tragediesof the historyofideas thatthe
and theneglectwithwhichthroughout
veryformofLeibniz'swritings
centurieshis own nationhas treatedthe task incumbent
upon it of
his
the
of
collection
publishing practicallycomplete
manuscripts,
nevergrantedto morethana fewspecialiststheprivilegeof gaining
editions
fullaccess to his ideas. All the moreor less comprehensive
whichhave been attemptedwere eitherthwartedby incompetent
editorsor interrupted
by politicaleventssuch as the Prussianinvasion of Hanoverin I8661 or the SecondWorldWar. It does not
even seem certainat this writingwhetherLeibniz's manuscripts,
in Hanover,and the ediwhichwerekept at the Landesbibliothek
of manydecadesby the
the
course
built
torialapparatus
up during
survived
the bombingsof
Sciences
have
Prussian Academy of
committed
that
the
sins
it
be
Hanoverand Berlin.Thus maywell
by
for
everof the
the
world
his nationagainsthis spirithave deprived
possibilityof takingfulladvantageof the giganticand heroicwork
by one of the wisestand noblestfiguresof the philoaccomplished
sophicpantheon.
There is anothermore essentialfactorwhichhas preventeda
renascenceof Leibnizianismfromever declaringitself,while the
of
historyof ideas has witnessedsuch frequentreincarnations
Platonism,Thomism,Kantianism-let alone the apparentlyinextirpable crowd of neo-Sophists,and neo-Cynics.The very
of Leibniz'sthoughtseemsto have barredan evermore
universality
specializingposterityfromthe only practicableapproach to his
into mathematical,
ideas. By cuttingup his globusintellectualis
and
historical,
theological,
logical,
philosophical,
physical,juridical,
what not slices,his editors,commentators,
critics,and interpreters
have mutilatedits deepestmeaning; what remainsare his disthe congeriesof whichpresentsonlya distortedand
jecta membra,
of his originalstature.Yet, unlessand untilthe
image
fragmentary
hisworkwillremainoneofthemany
unityofhisthoughtis restored,
of history,and thoughtimeand
the
roads
scattered
along
corpses
again its decomposedparts may have servedand will continueto
1 Onno Klopp's comprehensiveeditionhad to be givenup afterthe eleventh
volumebecause the Prussian Governmentdebarredthe Catholicand Guelphic
editorfromthe Libraryof Hanover.
210

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DESCARTES

AND

LEIBNIZ

IN

I946
serveas fertilizers
forfuture
thereallyoriginalandprofound
harvests,
essenceofhisworkwillneverattainhistoricreality.
Leibniz'sactivitystartedwith an acute criticismof Descartes'
system,aimingpreciselyat that elementwhichisolatedthe human
individualand renderedits seemingly
mostcertainknowledgeconand
of
in re. If not only
devoid
immanent
foundation
tingent
any
lawsofnature,but eventruthsofreasonreposeon an unaccountable
decreeof God's inscrutable
will,all knowledgebecomes,indeed,at
best a pragmaticimplementand loses its dignityas an adequate,
oftheobjectiveuniverse.The whole
thoughimperfect,
representation
voluntaristic
basis of Descartes'epistemology
to be
had, therefore,
inorderto restoreto sciencetheexaltedroleithad played
surrendered
in ancientGreece.Descartes' God was, indeed,still an absolute
monarchwhosewill stood forreasonand who did not owe to his
subjectsany otheraccountforwhathe has decreedbeyondthe car
telestmonplaisir.He was legibussolutusliketheprincesofDescartes'
time,and themotiveshe mayhave had forenactinghis decreesdid
not have to be justifiable
beforeReason. Althoughopenlyopposing
Aristotlein everypossiblerespect,Descarteshad yet acceptedas
axiom the doctrineof the Peripateticsaccordingto whichthere
is no ratiobetweenthe finiteand the infinite.
Since humanunderas conceivedbyhuman
standingis finiteand theDivineinfinite,truth
notpossiblybearanylikenessto perfect
truth
sciencecan,therefore,
as comprehended
the
This
is
an
Intellect.
Divine
assumption
by
was radicallyrejectedby
which,alreadyshakenby Malebranche,
Leibniz.God,thoughstillconceivedof as thesovereigngovernorof
the universe,now becamea constitutional
monarch,boundby the
in
laws He has Himselfenacted.And even thoughwhat is infinite
never
Godis onlyfinite
in man,and humanknowledge
can,therefore,
reachperfection,
it is nevertheless
adequately
capableofparticipating
in theidea oftheuniverseas conceivedby theDivineIntellect.For
Reasonis one.The samereasonwhichpresidedin shapingthearchepresidesoverman'sstrife
typeoftheuniversein theDivineIntellect,
are
forknowledge.
The eternaltruthsor truthsofreason,specifically,
the same forGod as forman. He couldnot have createda universe
wouldbothbe trueor both
in whichtwocontradictory
propositions
whichis constituted
false.The systemoftruthsofreason,therefore,
and
someotherfundathe
of
and
contradiction
principles identity
by
derivetherefrom,
mentalprincipleswhichimmediately
adequately
describestheobjectiveorderofanypossibleworldwhichGod might
also oftheonein whichwe areliving.
havecreatedand consequently
as represented
Truthsoffact,on thecontrary,
by thelaws and constantsof nature,are contingent:theymightbe entirelydifferent
fromwhat experiencediscoversthemto be, withouttheircontrary
in the senseof
But theyare not contingent
contradiction.
implying
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PHILOSOPHY
depending upon an arbitrarydecree of the Divine Will. Whereas
eternal truths are logically necessary, truths of fact are morally
necessary,i.e. their dependence upon the Divine Will rendersthem
contingentupon a power whichis determinedby the normsof goodness and justice; just as the intelligence,which inspires this power,
is determinedby the principlesof identityand contradiction.Here
the naturallimitationof the human intellecthelps to explain why the
laws of nature are seemingly contingent. Man's understanding,
indeed, is able to embrace only an infinitesimalsector of the reality
which spreads infinitelyin time and space. If it were ever able to
embrace the whole, the metaphysicaland moral necessityof every
detail would become as evident as the necessityof any mathematical
theorem is to the mathematicianwho realizes its derivation from
necessaryaxioms. Leibniz oftenavailed himselfof a very suggestive
metaphorin orderto show that what, consideredisolatedly,appears
contingent,is understood as necessary within the context of the
whole. If out of a symphonya listenerheard onlyone bar whichmight
happen to include a dissonance or even a cacophony, he would
consider it as contingent,arbitrary,and senseless; if, however, he
listened to the whole, he would realize the aestheticnecessityof the
detail. So also the laws and constantsof naturemay appear arbitrary
and contingent to our limited understanding,while their moral
necessitywould become evident if we knew the whole plan of the
universe,which in itselfis not contingenteither,but the necessary
product of Divine Reason and Divine Justiceoperatingconjointly.
Evidently this conceptionof knowledgenot only provides science
with a foundationin re, but at the same time extricatesthe human
individual fromhis isolation and integrateshim into the orderof one
humanity and one universe. Since reason is one and since every
human being participates in it to a certain variable degree, the
potential communityof mankind is guaranteed, in so far as knowledge is concerned,by this common participation in reason. This
assumptionalso formsthe basis of the irenicattemptswhich Leibniz
pursued throughouthis lifetime.Every system of knowledgebeing
constitutedas such by the acceptance of firstprinciplesof reason,
none can be without any value and no two can be entirelyincommensurable.All the various scientificand philosophical systemsare
as many aspects of the universeseen fromdifferent
viewpoints,and
of
all
of
them
would
overcome
the partiality
the
integration
only
and onesidedness which is the necessary consequence of human
limitation,and would approach the universalityof a complete and
perfectrepresentationof the world. Sectarianism,the dogmatismof
the schools along with their ensuing intolerance,and quarrels like
that of the Ancients and the Moderns appear, therefore,as an
apostasy fromthe universalityof reason and as subservienceto the
212

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DESCARTES

LEIBNIZ

AND

IN

I946
of the irrationalelementof humannature.If Aristoparticularism
telianismand Cartesianism,Platonismand Epicureanismare all
called philosophicalor scientific
systems,theymust,indeed,have
in
it
oftheobjectwhichthey
be
but
the
common,
something
identity
from
various
represent
viewpoints.Accordingto Leibniz,thereare,
ifreason
no twodoctrineswhichwouldnotbe reconcilable
therefore,
wereacceptedas the arbiter.
III
The overcoming
or ratherthereconciliaofDescartes'voluntarism
tionofvoluntarism
and intellectualism
achievedby Leibnizappeared
in still anotherpoint of doctrine.Accordingto Descartesand his
followers,
Malebranche,
including
judgmentwas notto be considered
as an operationoftheintellect,
butas a decisionofthewillconsenting
to the data preparedforit by theunderstanding.Error,therefore,
wasconceivedas a shortcoming
ofthewillacquiescing
to insufficiently
elaboratedideas. Hence the gradualelimination
of errorappeared
notas a taskincumbent
oftheunderstanding,
upona formaltraining
but,as it were,on a moraltrainingofhumanwillpower.The Stoic
and Baconian suspensionof judgmentrecommendedanew by
Descarteswheneverthe intellecthas not exhaustively
investigated
the object,or has foundit to exceed the reach of humanunderthe
standing,this suspensionwas, indeed,a means of disciplining
willratherthana patternofmethod.
The voluntaristic
hypothesis
explainstheuttercontemptin which
formallogicwas heldby Descartesandhisfollowers.'
A characteristic
of
both
criterium
the
of
truth
and the deconsequence
subjective
motionof logicappearedin a treatiseimbuedwithCartesianspirit,
the famousLogiquede Port-Royal,
by Arnauldand Nicole,which
a
of
a
textbook
theuselesspresents paradoxicalexample
maintaining
nessofthedisciplineit is designedto teach.As a matteroffact,the
authorsof the Logique did not discoverthis consequence,but
A knowledge
oflogic,theydeclared,2
adoptedit fromSt. Augustine.
is just as uselessto rightthinkingas a knowledgeof the laws of
dynamicsis to walking.If you triedconsciouslyto walk according
to the laws of dynamics,you would mostlikelystumbleat every
step.And similarly
knowledgeof thelaws of logicwillimpedeyour
"natural"senseoftruthguidedby theoriginalfeelingofevidence.
On both groundsLeibniz rigorouslyopposed the Cartesians.
Thoughhe did not expresslydeal with the seeminglyconvincing
1 Cf. P. Schrecker,La mdthodecartgsienneet la logique ("Revue Philoso-

phique," 1937, Pp. 336-367). The relevant passages are indicated in this
article, the most revealing being the tenth of the Regulae ad directionem
ingenii.
2 Logique de Port-Royal,Partie III, chapitre17.
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PHILOSOPHY
it is clearwhat he
analogyproposedby the Logiquede Port-Royal,
we do
wouldhave repliedto it. Ofcourse,he wouldhave contended,
to walksafely.But ifwe
ofthelawsofdynamics
notneedknowledge
wishto advancemorequickly,or moresafely,or moreeconomically
we mustneedsinthanwe areable towithourownnaturalresources,
vestigatethe laws of dynamicsand,thusequipped,devisemachines
whichwillhelpus to makeheadwayfarbeyondournaturalcapacities.
This metaphormay well representthe role Leibniz assigned
to logic and the means he envisaged to avoid error.' Clarity
as well as evidence,are, indeed,but subjective
and distinctness,
criteriaoftruth.Whatis evidentto one individualmaybe doubtful
to another.In fact,all scientific
divisionsand
and controvertible
discussionsarisefromthe factthatwhatappearsclearand distinct
to one intelligence
appearsas obscureand confusedto others.We
have, however,but to imitatethe procedurefollowedby the one
in
sciencewhichis theleastsubjectto debate,namelymathematics,
thesubjectiveand unreliable
orderto inventa meansofeliminating
criteriaof truth. Mathematicalerrors can, indeed, hardly be
of the will whichhas consentedto
accountedforby shortcomings
data.
investigated
Theymostlyoriginatein simplemisinsufficiently
in
insufficient
attentionbeingpaid to the estabi.e.
calculations,
or in some falseapplicationof the forms
lishedformsof operation,
ofreasoningwhichare validperse but do notfitthegivenproblem.
Will and consentcannotbe blamedforsuch errorsunlesslack of
is considered
a shortcoming
ofthewill.Whereas,however,
attention
the rightapplicationof the rightformof reasoningguaranteesthe
truthof the result,even the utmostamountof attentionand the
the same service,if
mostscrupulouswillare incapableof rendering
not
been
forms
have
established
beforehand.
theright
in Leibniz'ssystemof knowfunction
By assuminga pre-eminent
had
its
changed traditionalcharacter.It was
ledge,logic
completely
dialecticswhich
with
the
canon of Aristotelian
no longeridentical
two
millenniums
the
course
of
almost
had but slightly
changedduring
no
It
was
and whichDescarteshad foughtso insistently.
longerthe
derivedfromdescriptivebiology.In
of classification
instrument
Leibniz'sthoughtit was modelledon the patternof mathematical
deductionand designedto coverall reasoningoperatingby virtue
shift
offormalone.2Obviously,thisapproachinvolveda momentous
I Cf. in particularLeibniz's Nouveaux Essais, livre IV, chap. XVII, and
ed. Gerhardt,VII, pp. 512 sq.
PhilosophischeSchriften,
2 Cf. the NouveauxEssais, ibid: "By arguments
in form,I mean not merely
this scholastic argumentused in colleges,but all reasoningwhich concludes
analysis,
by the forceof the form .... Algebraiccalculation,and infinitesimal
will be forme almost argumentsin form,because theirformof reasoninghas
been predemonstrated,so that we are certain not to be deceived thereby"
(Langley's translation,p. 559).

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of the fulcrumof knowledge.Whereasaccordingto the Cartesian


school individualfeelingof evidenceand consecutiveconsenthad
authenticatedknowledge,now compliancewitha trans-subjective,
and objectivelycontrollable
patternhad to provide
unpsychological,
and the vehicleforthe advancementof science.
the legitimation
Since,accordingto Leibniz,reasonis commonto all menwhilewill
of the latter
is the factorwhichindividuatesthem,the elimination
meansa weakeningoftheindividualistic
fromall cognitivefunction
of the unifying
function
of rationalism.
motiveand a strengthening
of
these
cannotbe
The epistemological
consequences
divergencies
One
of
Leibniz's
followed
here.
formalistic
up
sociallyimportant
aspect
approachshould,however,receiveshortconsideration.
The idealinstanceofreasoningby virtueofformonlyis presented
algorisms.Theyfacilitateoperationswhich,ifperby mathematical
in viewof the contentsinsteadof in compliance
formedintuitively,
withformalrules,wouldgo farbeyondthereachofthehumanthinkalgorismspossibleis
ing capacity.What makesthesemathematical
of
a
the use of a characteristic
languagemarkedby a
language,
and
relation
between
ideas,so thatthe
symbols signified
one-by-one
and
resultofformaloperationsperformed
on,
expressedin,symbols,
intoideas wheneverthisprovesdesirable.The
maybe re-translated
ofideas by symbolsand ofrelationsof ideas by operareplacement
these
tionson symbolsis so completethat a machinemay perform
and
more
than
most
more
the
accurately
economically
operations
This
is
the
on
idea
whichreposesLeibniz's
perfectmathematician.I
inventionof the calculatingmachine,as well as his attemptsat inafterthe model of
language,constructed
ventinga characteristic
whichwas to opento reasoning
mathematical
algorisms,
by virtueof
formmany a fieldin whichreasoningby virtueof contenthad
beentheuniquemethodofinventionand discovery.
heretofore
This project of devising a characteristicuniversallanguage
designedto facilitatereasoningby virtueof formin practicallyall
foralmosttwo centuries;
had been forgotten
fieldsof knowledge,
and, althoughrevivedby modernsymboliclogic,its reincarnation
in thelatterschoolhas completely
changeditscharacter.Two essential rootsofthisidea have,indeed,beenseveredby theprevailingly
logic.
approachto theproblemadoptedby contemporary
positivistic
The one is the metaphysicalconceptionupon whichthe idea of a
universallanguageis directlydependentin Leibniz's
characteristic
other
is theBaconianidea accordingto whichusefulness
the
project;
With
and truthare but two aspectsof one and the same structure.
regardto the firstfactor,the idea of discoveringtruththrough
reasoningby virtueof formrestedon the metaphysical
assumption
1 This is why Leibniz called those symbols Machinae spirituales (Philoed. Prussian Academy,I, p. 229).
sophischerBriefwechsel,
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PHILOSOPHY
that the order of the universe as conceived by the Divine Intellect
is a rational one. What is immediatelyaccessible to our experience
is a cryptogramtranslatingthe original order and meaning of the
universe into ciphers. If we were to discover the key determining
the ciphering,we would be able to decipher the cryptogramand to
discover the originalmeaningof the book of nature. In so far as the
truthsof reason are concerned,that is, the order this world has in
commonwith all possible worlds God mighthave created,the key is
provided by the principleof contradictionand its derivations,along
with the entiresystemof mathematics.As to the truthsof fact,that
which singleout the existing
is, the invariantlaws of transformation
world fromamong the merelypossible worlds,experienceis required
to discoverthe key. This experience,however,is not always identical
withwhat is commonlycalled induction.Leibniz believed that essential relationsin the order of the existingworld mightbe discovered
by exploring, not the result of the divine selection from among
the possible worlds, but the principleswhich guided His selection.
Thus, the principlesof knowledgecalled architectonicIby Leibniz in
contrastto the mechanicalprinciples,are not discoveredby induction
from experiences and experiments,but through the application of
rational principleswhich are not logicallynecessaryaccordingto the
principleof contradiction,but whose contrarywould imply an imperfectionof the Divine Intellect and Will which were guided by
them in selecting the world to be created. The principles of continuity,of conservation,of the identity of indiscernibles,and the
principle of least action are such architectonicprinciplesand keys
which allow us to read the text of nature. If, to referto but one
example, we take forgrantedthat it would be an imperfectionof the
Divine Will to attain effectsby more than the necessaryexpenditure,
we are authorized to state that all natural effectsare reached by a
minimumexpenditure.Using this principlewhich Malebranche had
called the "Economy of Nature,"2 and which later became the principle of least action, Leibniz demonstratedin 1682 that the fundamental laws of optics, catoptrics, and dioptrics may be rationally
deduced from the principle that light always travels along the
shortest,or easiest, or most definitepath.3
It is clear that whereversuch principlesare available, the method
whichprovides mathematicswith algorismsmay be usefullyapplied.

De rerum originationeradicali (Philos. Schriften,ed. Gerhardt, VII,


Pp. 302 sq.).
de la Verite,vol. 3, 1678, dernierEclaircissement.This Eclair3 Recherche
cissementwas suppressedin later editionsand thereforeescaped the attention
of the historiansof the principleof least action.
3 Unicumopticae,catoptricaeetdioptricaeprincipium,firstpublishedin Acta
Eruditorum, 1682, pp. I85-I90,

reprinted in Opera, ed. Dutens, III, pp. 145 sq-

Cf. the Nouveaux Essais, livre IV, chap. 7, 15.


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Whereverwe succeed in discoveringthe invariantelementsof
themintoa one-by-one
relationwithappropriate
change,in bringing
symbolsand in deducingoperationalrulesto be appliedto these
the
symbols,we mayestablishformalreasoningcapableofcarrying
humanintellectfarbeyondthelimitsofits naturalscope.If,in this
thetermcontinues
case,we stillspeakofreasoning
by virtueofform,
to be used thoughgenuinereasoningis no longeractuallytaking
place. It is, indeed,the veryfunctionof algorismsthat,once they
and as faras theirreachgoes,theymakereasoning
are established,
Operationson symbolswhichare so strictlyruledby
superfluous.
themmorereliablyand more
thata machinemayperform
algorisms
than any humanmind,can in truthhardlybe called
economically
reasoningproper.And the ultimateaim of Leibniz'scharacteristic
universallanguagewas, indeed,to producea symbolismand an
whichwouldrelievethehuman
operationalcode,in short,algorisms,
intellectof all procedureswhereinreasoningcan be replacedby
runningmachines.I
oftheuniversewhichfacilitates
The rationality
reasoning
byvirtue
truthsof factwithoutinof formand the methodof discovering
ductionhad stillanotherbearingon Leibniz'conceptionof science.
Lord FrancisBacon had inauguratedan idea of truthwhichwas
opposedto the scholastictradition."Fruitsand works,"he wrote,2
"are as it weresponsorsand suretiesforthe truthof philosophies."
And in termswhichat firstsound as thoughvoicedby a modern
he claimedthat "truthand utilityare the verysame
pragmatist,
and
works
themselves
are ofgreatervalueas pledgesoftruth
things;
to the comforts
oflife."3This interpretation
of
thanas contributing
and
the relationbetweenscientific
technological
application
theory
in a moreor less aphoristicstate
remainedin the NovumOrganum
because it still lacked the metaphysicalbackgroundnecessaryto
endow it with epistemologicalsignificance.
Leibniz's idea of the
oftheuniverseimpliesas a necessaryconsequence
rationalarchetype
thateverytruthdevelopedby formalreasoningrepresents
actually
existingrelations."The value and even the markof truescience,"
he wroteto Malebranchein JuneI679, "consistsin my opinionin
whichcan be derivedfromit." This is by no
theusefulinventions
means a pragmatistor utilitarianconceptionof truth.Whereasa
wouldclaimthattruthis an epiphenomenon
utilitarian
ofusefulness,
it wouldbe morecorrect,in Leibniz'ssense,to affirm
thatusefulness
I Leibniz expectedthat, due to the inventionofthe characteristic
language,
"raisonneret calculerserala mgmechose"(Opuscules,ed. Couturat,pp. 27-28).
Cf.Philos. Schr.,ed. Gerhardt,VII, p. 25: "reduiretousles raisonnements
d une
especede calcul."
2 NovumOrganum,Aphorismlxxiii.
3 Ibid., Aphorismcxxiv.
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PHILOSOPHY
is a necessaryepiphenomenon
of truth.Because his conceptionof
arithmetic
was true,Leibnizwas enabledby it to construct
a calculating machine.The technologicalapplicationof the theoryhad
a merelyconfirmative
and by no meansa constitutive
function.
Thereis a closerelationbetweentheinvention
ofalgorisms
which
was theaimofLeibniz'sendeavoursin logicandtheusefulinventions
referredto in the letterto Malebranche.Disregardingthe metabackgroundand envisagingonly the
physicaland epistemological
functionof algorismsin humanhistory,we may understandthe
paramountimportanceLeibnizattributedto thisinvention.Useful
ofbeingtransformed
consists,
indeed,oftruthssusceptible
knowledge
of
into efficient
which
conduct,
patterns
may be compliedwith,
withoutany actual reasoningtakingplace. The operatorof a slide
or a calculatingmachine,is not requiredto
rule,or a spectroscope,
do any reasoning.Yet the algorismsembodiedin the machinehe is
handlingenable him to producethe knowledgeneeded for some
definitepurpose.He wouldbe unable to obtainthis knowledgeif
dependentsolelyupon his own reasoning,or it would take him a
lifetime.
ofalgorismsor ofsimilarexpedientsdesignedto
The construction
the
enlarge
capacityof the humanmindwas the leadingidea in
Leibniz'sessaystowardsa characteristic
language.This social perof
was
of
research
one
the markswhichdistinscientific
spective
his
from
that
of
Descartes.
Not onlywas reason
guished philosophy
conceivedof by him as the unifying
powerwhichbinds mankind
butit was also considered
conduciveto theimprovement
of
together,
humanwork,so thattheachievements
ofmankindunitedunderthe
realmof reasonmightby farexceedthe sumtotal of the capacities
of humanindividualstakenisolatedly.Justas historiclanguageby
and preservationof
facilitatingthe expression,communication,
thought,and oftenby supersedingactual thought,increasesthe
ofhumanworkin theseveralprovincesofcivilization
and
efficiency
permitsthe accumulationof past knowledgeand its spreading
universallanguage
throughtime and space; so the characteristic
farbeyondanylevel
wouldunifymankindand increaseits efficiency
reasoningby virtueof contentscouldeverhopeto attain.
oftheroleoflogicin Leibniz'ssystemas indicaAnyconsideration
tive of a pan-logistic
doctrinein whichreasoningby virtueof form
couldsupersedereasoning
by virtueofcontent,or creativethinking,
as it mightbe called,would,however,amountto a seriousmisunderof algorismsactuallyappearedas
standing.For if the construction
the aim of scientific
was not in itselfconwork,theirconstruction
ceivedofas beingachievedthrough
reasoning
by virtueofform,but
as presupposing
"intuitive"thinking,
reasoningin termsof things.
Even if,as he believed,an algorismcouldbe inventedwhichwould
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DESCARTES

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producealgorisms-amachinewhichwouldinventothermachinesthe operationalmechanismwould,he realized,at some pointor at
somelevelofthoughtcease to be ofanyavail, and creativethinking
universallanguage
wouldagain be required.Had the characteristic
act
have
been
this
creative
invented,
might
provedto be of
actually
suchimmensepowerthat,withinits reach,the actual use ofreason
mightindeedhave beensupersededby machines.Recentresearchin
the fieldof formallogicitselfseems,however,to have excludedthis
reasonas thesovereign
and therebyto have rehabilitated
possibility
it
should
be
of
thattheeverinstrument knowledge.
Yet,
recognized
intellectual
life
at
of
reposes, bottom,on
increasingmechanization
numberand swayof availablealgorisms.It is a
the ever-increasing
strangeparadox of the modernmind that its greatestand most
serveto cut offitsownthreadoflife-a direct
admirableinstruments
anchoragewhich,
consequenceofitshavingseveredthetranscendent
in Leibniz'sthought,stillsupportedtheveryuse ofalgorisms.

IV
Yet, reasonalone,even if conceivedof in its widestsense,is not
whichcan drawtheindividualout ofhisisolationand
an instrument
of mankind.It can, at best, achieve an
organizethe community
of the formalorderof the
adequate and commonrepresentation
worldand thereby,as FrancisBacon stated,'"establishand extend
thepowerand dominionofthehumanraceitselfovertheuniverse."
But it cannotby itselfalone establishthe ultimateaims forwhich
thispowerand dominionoughtto be exerted.
Alreadythe selectionof the actual worldforcreationout of the
numberofpossibleworldshad engageda faculty
infinite
distinguished
fromGod's intellect,namely,the Divine Will. Justas the Divine
Intellectwas understoodas determined
ofidentity
by theprinciples
the Divine Will was understoodby Leibinz as
and contradiction,
of justice.The closecorrelation
determined
between
by theprinciple
in
the
Leibnizian
and
ethics
was
on
founded
the
correlalogic
system
As a matteroffact,thisdualismis the
tionoftwodivineperfections.
resultof a merelyconceptionaldistinction.Infiniteintellectand
infinite
justiceare in truthonlytwo aspectsof one and the same
indivisibleDivine Substance,consideredin its two functionsof
the worldand of governing
it. It is, therefore,
underrepresenting
standablethat Leibnizemphasizedthe transcendent
foundation
in
thefieldofactionjustas inthefieldofknowledge.
WhereasDescartes,
in so faras he had triedat all to completehissystemby includinga
had arrivedat a moreorlesschristianized
moralphilosophy,
Stoicism,
into whichthe originalStoa had morally
the
isolation
overcoming
NovumOrganum,Aphorismcxxix.

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PH ILOSOPHY
theindividualbymeansofa secularized
idea oftheChristian
confined
Leibnizavoided thisisolationby his verychoiceof a
community,
startingpoint. And just as Descartes,in orderto overcomethe
individualistic
consequenceof his epistemological
principle,had to
whichstartswith
resortto divineveracity,so anymoralphilosophy
theisolatedindividualmustremainunableto providea solidfoundaof mankind,unlessit submitstheintion forthe moralcommunity
to
dividual,
rightafterhavingliberatedhimfromall humanauthority,
as a despoticmorallegislator.
DivineWillintervening
an inscrutable
Leibnizavoidedthis alternativeby not choosinghis startingpoint
wasconcerned,
inso faras knowledge
norin
in theindividualintellect
of actionwerebeingsought.
theindividualwillin so faras principles
Justas theeternaltruthsofreasondid not dependupon a divine
of justicedid not derivetheirvalidity
decree,so also the principles
like the
froma decisionof the Divine Will,but, on the contrary,
of the
eternaltruths,presidedover the creationand government
world.No principleis trueor just becauseGod decreedit to be so;
but God compliedwithcertainprinciplesrealizingthat theywere
fromHis Will. The principlesof justice
trueor just independently
are not,therefore,
ofknowledge
rootedin the
likethefirstprinciples
decreeof some tyrannical
unfathomable
but,
power,
independently
fromany powerwhichmay,or maynot,followthem,in theidea of
justiceitself.
We maywonderhowa manlikeLeibniz,so thoroughly
experienced
butalso in worldhistory,
notonlyin theoretical
research,
diplomacy,
ofjusticeto which
was able to adopta conception
and jurisprudence,
he had gatheredin thesefieldsmustconstantly
theveryexperiences
and the progressof theohave runcounter.Whilethe universality
reticalsciencemight,to a certainextent,have justifiedhis idea
of theoreticalreason,no such
the realityand reliability
concerning
be
could
some preactual progress
apparently affirmed-without
human
actions
far
as
were
so
concerned.
bias-in
conceived
Yet,
of
enough,it was preciselyin his Prefaceto a compilation
strangely
that
Leibniz
documents
his
historicaland diplomatic
expressed
and solemnly.
conceptionofjusticemostemphatically
Were some similarepitomeof ancientworks on geometryto
be possible,by analysingthem,to findsome
exist,it wouldcertainly
oflogicand methodwithwhichall ofthemcomcommonprinciples
plied. Even thoughthe analysedworksmightno longerbe fully
acceptableto us, we wouldbe able to statethata numberoffundaare stillvalid in our
mentalnormswhichtheydiverselyspecified,
it
would
that
someconstitutive
Thus,
appear
geometry.
present-day
ofcontradiction,
is commonto all systems
say,theprinciple
principle,
whichfigureas eventsin that historyof geometry.Now, to what
ofhumanrelations
? Whereis the
in thehistory
analogycouldwerefer
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that
would
in
the
social
field
to
thefirst
and
startingpoint
correspond
whichsecuredtheprogress
ofourknowledge
?
unquestionable
principles
A superficial
and
surveywoulddetectonlyone principlegenerally
whichis a denialofjusticeratherthan
universally
obeyed,a principle
its affirmation,
namely,that mightbreaksright.A morethorough
analysis,however,led Leibniztowardsrejectingsuch scepticaland
to maintainthe analogybetween
cynicalobjectionsand forcefully
reasonand justice.In the instanceof the historyof geometry,
the
also
are formalratherthanmaterial;similarly
permanent
principles
intheever-changing
fieldofsocialrelationsLeibnizdiscovered
formal
principlesof justice,the specificcontentof whichmay vary,and
indeedvariedconstantly
duringthe courseof history,which,moreover,wereviolatedtimeand againby positivelaw as wellas by the
actualconductand conditionofman,butwhich,nevertheless,
remain
humansocietyand directing
theonlyprinciples
capableoffounding
it towardsthe generalgood. And just as the shortcomings
of geometricalsystemsof the past maybe reducedto neglector to false
offundamental
validperse,so, in general,the
applications
principles
ofmankindmaybe reducedto neglectorto false
evilsandmisfortunes
ofjustice.
applicationsofvalidfirstprinciples
Whichare the allegedprinciplesof justicecalled upon to unify
humansociety,analogousto the principlesof reasonto whichthe
ofourknowledge
is due? Leibnizfirst
a
gradualunification
proclaimed
universalprinciple,
must
that
be
directed
towards
namely, everything
the generalgood. This supremenormis specified
and articulatedby
threemoreparticularprinciples
derivedfromclassicalRomanjurisprudenceand whichcorrespondto the threetraditionaldegreesof
justice: Strictlaw commands:Neminemlaedere-to harmno one.
Equitycommands:Suumcuiquetribuere-tograntto everyonewhat
is his. Universaljustice,called pietyby Leibnizand moralsin our
modernterminology,
commands:Honestevivere-tolive honestly.1
These principles,evidently,are merelyformal,not material.Like
truthsof reason whichonly grasp the orderof things,not their
ofjusticeonlyruletheorderofactions,not
substance,theprinciples
their contents.This formalismseems to involve a fundamental
weakness.For, if the commonaim of theseprinciplesis to direct
humanactionstowardsthe generalgood,theyfailto teachus what
is thegeneralgood.Even Leibniz'sattemptto elucidatethisbasisby
defining
justiceas the conductof a vir bonus,2is scarcelyof any
avail sinceeveryage and civilizationhas produceda different
ideal
the virbonus.
typifying
1 Codicis Juris GentiumPraefatio (Werke,ed. O. Klopp, VI, pp. 457 sq.)
aus Leibnizensungedruckten
ed. Mollat, pp. 5, 8,
Cf. Mittheilungen
Schriften,
etc.
2

Ibid.

221

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PHILOSOPHY
Hereagain,however,
theanalogyto thetruthsofreasonmayserve
as a clue. The principleof contradiction,
forinstance,indicatesa
for
a
the
admission
of
requirement
propositioninto the scientific
but
it
such
discovers
no
Nor does non-contrasystem,
proposition.
dictionsuffice
in determining
it
facilitates
theconstruction
facts; only
of a methodorganizing
factualexperienceinto one singleand consistentsystemof knowledge.The principlesof justice,too, are not
meantto determinehumanactionsdirectlyand immediately,
but
to
the
and
of
over
civilized
only reignsupreme
legislation government
communities.
If,and in so faras, thelatterdo notcomplywiththese
principlesof justice,the societyruledby themis no civilizedcommunity,but only a factualassociation,ethicallyundistinguishable
fromanimal associationsor fromorganizedbands of criminals
boundtogetherby fearor egoisticalinterests.
This consideration
pointstowardthe existenceof a generative
of
principle civilizedlifeinsociety,whichmayproveto be butanother
formor applicationoftheprincipleofcontradiction.
Coulda system
of government
or of law, constitutedby maxims diametrically
of justiceactuallybe conceived?Could a
opposedto the principles
of
genuinecivilization,reposingon the rightto mutualinfliction
harmor violationofproperty
would
be imagined?Sucha civilization
also be boundto involvea moraldutyto live dishonestly.
It would
consideras virtuousto be withoutvirtue,and as good anything
in
detrimental
to the commonweal. A moreobviouscontradiction
termscan hardlybe imagined.Thus,thedefinition
of actionswhich
are consideredan unrightful
harmor a violationof property
rights
however,
maybe variable.Thisvariableness,
by no meansdepreciates
the validityof the principlesthemselves,
the less so sincethe same
reservationapplies to the truthsof reason.The ratiobetweenthe
diameterand circumference
of a circleis a transcendent
number,
a circleexistsin therealm
whetheror notanything
at all resembling
ofnature;and ifa circleexists,theratioby no meansdependsupon
thematerialwhichexhibitsa circularshape.
The powerof the truthsof reasonappearsmostconspicuously
by
the veryabsurdityof the effectof theirhavingbeen neglected.So
of justicemoststrikingly
also is thepowerofthesovereign
principles
evincedin the veryinstanceof theirmostflagrant
transgression,
by
the tendencyof the transgressor
to cloak his actionin the guiseof
ofjustice,suchas the absurd"necessityknowsno
pseudo-principles
law"-which itselfpretendsto be a law ofjustice.
Leibnizfrequently
or ratherpersonified,
defined,
justiceas caritas
The alliance of
of
the
the
or
benevolence
wise.I
sapientis, charity
Ein ungedruckter
I Leibniz und Landgraf Ernst von Hessen-Rheinfels.
Briefwechsel,ed. Chr. v. Rommel, I847, Vol. II, p. 233: "Justitiaest charitas
sapientis,c'est-a-direune charit6,qui est conformea la sagesse, et charitasest
benevolentia
generalis."
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LEIBNIZ

AND

IN

I946
reasonand goodnessin thepersonofthesage was thusraisedto the
as well
rankoftheideal expectedto guidetheprogressofcivilization
as each member'sparticipation
in it. By acceptingthisideal, man,
accordingto Leibniz,livesup to theimageofGod afterwhichhe has
been created."Indeed,"he wrote,I"His goodnessand justiceas well
as His wisdomaredifferent
fromoursonlybecausetheyare infinitely
moreperfect."
The affinity
of this political philosophyto genuine Platonic
traditionsneedsno emphasis;the maindifference
beingthat while
Plato was concernedwiththe selectionof personsto hold power,
Leibniz was preoccupiedwith the principleswhichwere to guide
in termsoffuncthem.Here,as in so manyotherrespects,thinking
tionshad graduallysupersededthe searchforsubstancesor hypostases. Leibniz no longerconcurredwith the idea that the State
shouldbe governed
Whathe envisagedwas a human
byphilosophers.
withthebasic
constituted
and ruledby laws complying
community
principlesof reasonand justice-whateverlegislativeand executive
and carryingout these
organsmightbe in chargeof specifying
historicalconditions.
supremenormsin viewofever-changing
V

The applicationof theseprinciplesto the organizationof social


of mankind,
life,that is, to the actualizationof the community
followedthesamepatternas theapplicationofthetruthsofreason
to the construction
of a consistent
systemof knowledge.Justas no
twocontradictory
can
allowedto co-existin one and
be
propositions
the same systemof science,so also can no irreconcilable
beconflict
tweenindividualsand communities,
be tolerated
nations,or churches
underthereignof theprinciples
of justice,sinceit couldbe expected
to
to
or
eventually impede
rupturethe postulatedunityand to deinto
a
of
and
contest
brute
force.But theuse of constraint
generate
for
of
an
exercised
the
persecution
purpose overpowering antagonistic
doctrineor claimis alwaysan infallible
ofa defection
from
symptom
reasonand justiceand, consequently,
fromcivilization.
Leibniz'schildhoodand adultlifewereovershadowed
by theaftermathof theThirtyYears' War. To whateverfieldof humanaffairs
he turned,he observedmoralandmaterialdevastation.The Peace of
Westphalia,concludedwhenhe was twoyearsold,had notsucceeded
in eradicatingthe seeds of discontentwhichrepeatedlyduringhis
had
lifetime
wereto generatenewwars.The mainideologicalconflict
and
still
the
Christian
the
between
schism
Churches,
been,
was,
Roman Catholicand Protestant,and the rivalryof the Protestant
Churches,Lutheranand Calvinist,among themselves.True, the
ideologicaldissensionserved sometimesmerelyas a screen for
Philos. Schr.,ed. Gerhardt,VI, p. 51.

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PHILOSOPHY
dynasticpower politics. When it appeared expedient,Cardinal
Richelieu,forinstance,neverhesitatedto underhandedly
supportthe
GermanProtestantPrincesagainsttheirCatholicsovereign.Those,
suffered
and died in the firm
however,who did the actual fighting,
foror againstthe cause of Papacy, foror
belieftheywerefighting
or of therealpresenceofthe
againstthedoctrinesofpredestination
in
the
of
Christ
Host.
Our
economic
determinists
are used to
Body
that
the
actual
causes
of
wars
these
of
were
arguing
religion
by no
means religious,but economicor political.If this were true,we
wouldhaveto reckonLeibnizamongtheforemost
victimsofinsidious
From
his
twentieth
to
ofhis death,he
the
time
"propaganda."
year
devoted
himself
to
the
Churches
because he
reconciling
fervently
their
conflicts
to
believed
be
the
of
causes
wars. Yet,
veritably
Leibnizwas no laymanin politics,he knewthe insideversionof
diplomaticintriguesand occasionallyplayedan influential
part on
He
a
scene.
critical
theinternational
historian,
was,moreover,
by no
means disposednaivelyto takingpoliticalcamouflageat its face
consideredreligiousdiscordas at least one
value. If he nevertheless
causesofthecontemporary
oftheprimary
wars,he has to be accepted
and competence
as a witnesswhosetrustworthiness
cannoteasilybe
overruled.Maybe, in so far as the respectivedynasts, ecclesiastic as

well as secular,were concerned,theirreligiouspassionswere only


masks; but would thesepotentateshave succeededin luringtheir
peoplesto the shambles,had the masses,at least, not believedit
worthwhiledyingfortheirreligiousconvictions?
The historyof Leibniz's attemptsat actualizingthe reunion
of the ChristianChurcheshas oftenbeen told,though manyimhowportantdocumentsstillremainunpublished.'The principles,
ever,whichinspiredthis activityhave hardlyever been clarified.
and
On the one hand, each of the manychurches,denominations,
sects believeditselfto be the genuineand exclusivedepositoryof
the trueChristian
revelation.On theotherhand,therecouldhardly
be morethanone, at least in so faras fundamental
tenets,such as
thedogmaoftransubstantiation,
wereconcerned.
Hence,theproblem
arose as to whetherthe divergencies
dividingthe severalreligious
and presentedan unsurmountable
communities
were fundamental
obstacle to the union of all Christiansin one oecumenicchurch.
couldhave been of greateravail to the purposeof
What instrument
this
resolving questionthanuniversalreason,and whatnormmore
competentto rulethe relationsbetweenthe churchesthanthe idea
of justicedefinedby Leibnizas "what complieswithwisdomand
goodness joined together?"zRational analysis thus, in fact,became

de la riconciliationdes
ineditssur les problMmes
I Cf. Lettreset fragments
doctrinesprotestantes,
publ. par. P. Schrecker,Paris, I934.
2
ed. Mollat, p. 48.
Schriften,
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IN

I946
themethodLeibnizappliedto theprincipal
oftheChristian
litigations
churches.The conclusionhe reachedwas that the doctrinalantagonismwas, to a great extent,merelyverbal and that whatever
and
subsisted,werenotfundamental
genuinedogmaticdiscrepancies
did notpresentanyrealobstacleto reconciliation.
Sincethe Roman
Catholic Church,withoutseriousprejudiceto its unity,contained
as thoseofthe Jesuitsand the
withinits pale doctrinesas divergent
he
concluded
that
oecumenic
Christian
Jansenists,
unity,ifactualized,
of doctrine,
would not necessarilydemand completeuniformity
The
idea
of
monads
and
ritual.
here
be
institution,
may
fittingly
a
relation
of
the
churches
illustrate
to
as
as
the
which, early
applied
had parabolicallybeen expressedby free-thinkers
twelfthcentury,
Fable of the ThreeRings.Justas everymonad
in the well-known
diverselyrepresentsthe same universefromdifferent
viewpoints,
the same Divine Institution,
so each churchalso represents
though
it froma verydifferent
each represents
viewpoint,
dependentupon
and emotionalfactors.That
variablehistoric,national,intellectual,
this was indeed Leibniz's idea, appearedwhen he once proposed
the text of a prayer to AntoineArnauld,which,he claimed,
but by
could be used withoutscruplenot only by all Christians,
Jewsas well.
consideredschismscontraryto reason and their
He, therefore,
ofhereticsand
effects,
religiouswars and the atrociouspersecutions
nonconformists,
contraryto justice. "I believe," he wrote to
Father des Bosses,' "that persecutions
againstdoctrineswhichdo
not instigatecrimeare the worstthingsof all and that one should
but striveto make themexecratedby
not onlyabstaintherefrom,
those over whom one has some authority.It is permissibleto
refusehonoursand advantages,to whichtheyare not entitled,to
those whose doctrineswe deem harmful.But I do not thinkit
permissibleto confiscatetheirpropertyand stillless to use rigour
chains,the galleys,and
againstthemin the formof proscription,
evilsstillworse.Is thisnot,indeed,a speciesof violencewhichthe
what
victimcouldnot escapebut by a crime,to wit,by forswearing
he believesto be true?The greatera man'svalue the morehe will
underthistyranny."
suffer
Religiouswars may have lost theirtimelinesssince the period
when Leibniz strove to pacifythe religiousconflictswhichhad
engenderedthem. Unfortunatelyfor us, however, ideological
have not subsided,but are stillbeingused to provide
antagonisms
at least sham pretexts for periodic warfare.Yet, everything
Leibnizdenouncedas contraryto reasonand justicein the religious
strugglesof his time,still holds moretruein respectto the ideological divergencieswhich later replaced them. New dogmatic
I Philos. Schr.,ed. Gerhardt,II, p. 337 (originaltext in Latin).
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225

PHI

LOSOPHY

credos,underwhatevereconomic,philosophic,or politicaltrademark
they may have been circulated,do not even share the incomparably
higher dignity of religious tenets nor their legitimate claim for
universality.No other means of pacifyingthe world has ever been
proposed fromwhich greater success might be expected than from
a recourseto theuniversalideas ofreasonand justice,as recommended
by Leibniz. The only other alternative is recourse to brute forcea crimeagainst civilization,whateverits ideological pretextsmay be.
"War," wrote Leibniz,I "is a state whereinthe intentionof fighting
by forcefor the purpose of obtaining some thing is avowed. If we
could believe that God would always grantvictoryto the just cause,
war would be an appeal to Divine Judgment,or a kind of decisionby
lot. God, however, for other and stronger reasons, may allow the
unjust cause to outweigh.This is whyan appeal to Divine Judgment
amountsto temptingGod, just as though,startingwiththe erroneous
premise that God cannot allow evil, someone were to test whether
there is a God and whetherHe is just." But since it is not always
true that victrixcausa diis placuit, it is up to man to create institutions which will render the victory of the unjust cause more
difficultand less likely to occur. Has this not been the aim of the
rule of law among individuals, and should it prove impossible to
attain the same goal in the relations of the several nations interse?
What terminatedprimeval war of all against all and facilitated
the establishmentof civilized society organized in the State was,
indeed, the reign of law which, carrying out the fundamental
principles referred to above, forbade the harming of anyone,
guaranteed to each the possession of his own, and aimed at the
common good. Thus, the State became the organon of reason and
justice. "The aim of political science with respect to the doctrine
concerningthe formsof government,"wrote Leibniz,2"ought to be
to promote the floweringof the authorityof reason. . . . Arbitrary
power is the formof governmentdirectlyopposed to the authority
of reason." So far as the reign of civilization reaches, Reason itself
claims authorityover the authorityof persons. It would, indeed,
be blasphemous to exempt a despot from the laws of justice and
reason which, according to Leibniz, the Creator and Supreme
Governor of the world is Himself, by His own nature, bound to
respect. Leibniz was well aware of the dangers involved in an
autocratic regime,since he stated3 that the insomnia of a despot
and his resultantbad temperhave frequentlyinciteddecisionswhich
have brought destruction to myriads of human beings. On the
other hand, Leibniz was just as opposed to granting boundless
I
2

Opuscules,ed. Couturat,p. 507 (Latin).

Ed. Gerhardt, III, p. 277.

3 Cod. Jur. Gent.Praefatio,loc. cit.


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AND

LEIBNIZ

IN

1946
freedomto the citizens."True liberty,"he wrote,I"is one of the
to reason.Liberty,
greatesttreasuresof humannature;but inferior
indeed,shouldbe nothingbut the capacityof followingreason."
This conceptionoflibertywhichfolloweda veryancienttradition
was not limitedby Leibnizto the inter-relationship
of the citizens
of a State,but appliedequallyto the relationsofsovereign
nations.
in
in
is
of
States
itself
but
the
internaSovereignty
nothing
liberty
tionalrelations,
and should,therefore,
to
The
isolation
of
reason.
yield
natural
States
or
should
a
is,
indeed,
be,
condition,
sovereign
merely
even thoughthroughoutthe centuriesit has been misinterpreted
as a jural condition.As a consequence,peace betweenthe powers
in a
has, as Leibnizexpressedit,2 alwaysbeenliketheintermission
a
If
between
when
for
fight
gladiators
breathing
spell. the
theystop
humanrace wishesto replacethisstateof natureby instituting
an
in
which
as
the
of
the
organization
inter-relationshipnations,just
betweenindividuals,
shallbe ruledbylaw,it willhaveto
relationship
abandon the irrationalnoli-me-tangere
conceptionof sovereignty.
as
when
the
State
is
constituted
men
whohavenotformerly
"Just
by
beenboundby obligations,"
Leibnizwrote,3
"each one bindshimself
by a commontie,so also theseveralsovereign
powers,as thoughthey
werethatmanyfreepersons,mayaccepta commontie,be it by law,
custom,or a declarationof theirwills."Such a covenantof nations
would,ofcourse,likethelaw systemofa State,haveto be controlled
by the principlesof reason and justice. National sovereignty,
indeed,maybe vindicatedonlyif,and in so faras, it is requiredby
theseveryprinciples.
The conflict,
morethan ever acute
therefore,
and international
to-day,betweenthe ideas ofnationalsovereignty
law is only one symptomof the seesawingstruggleforhegemony
betweentheuniversalism
ofreasonand justiceand theparticularism
of contingent
"natural"interests;in moregeneralterms,between
civilizationand nature.So long as the two ideas of sovereignty
and law are not harmoniously
intoone singleand worldintegrated
widejuralpattern,civilizationcannotclaimto have wonthebattle.
VI
of the worldis demanded
Assumingthat the peacefulintegration
by reasonand justice,the problemof devisinga meansto thisend
is not philosophic,
but political.Two methodspresentthemselves
forits solution.The firstis analytical:to developexplicitly
whateverreciprocalobligations
may,at a givenpointoftime,be actually
relations,in theformeitheroftreatiesor of
impliedin international
r Ed. Gerhardt,III, p. 278.
2 Cod. Jur. Gent.Praefatio,loc. cit.

3 Opera, ed. Dutens, IV, p. 270 sq. (Latin).

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PHILOSOPHY
usage, and upon this basis to erecta consistentsystemof international law. There is, on the other hand, the possibilityof
a universalorganization
of
by establishing
proceedingsynthetically
the function
civilizedStates to be ruledby a charterperforming
in the lawfullife of any singleState.
exerisedby a constitution
withthefirstmethodrequiring
concerned
the
Leibnizwas primarily
used by historiansand jurists.But he by no means
instruments
The firstresultof
neglectedthe possibilityof politicalsynthesis.
law as it had been evolvedin
his endeavourto codifyinternational
of I693, which
thosedayswas his CodexJurisGentium
Diplomaticus
the Mantissa.These folios
was followedin I700 by a supplement,
treatiesconcludedsince
containthe most importantinternational
seemstobe mainly
and theirinterest,
theeleventhcentury,
therefore,
historical.Leibniz'sintention,
however,as expressedin the famous
Prefaceto the firstvolume,'was not that of an eruditereviewing
to drawguidingideas
thepast,but ofa politicalphilosopher
striving
forthe futurefromthe experiencesof this past. It mightseem at
firstas though,in the case at issue, the experiencetendedto be
Mostof the mutualagreements
printedin the
utterlydiscouraging.
Codex had not been abrogatedby the commonconsentof the condeath by violence.Far from
tractingparties,but had suffered
value
of
international
to
the
law,thisgraveyardofbroken
testifying
to the powerlessness
of
rather
to
be
a
monument
promisesappeared
law in internationalrelations.Pacts between sovereignStates,
it seemedto teach,wereallowedto remainin forceonlyso longas the
strongerpartywishesto recognizetheirvalidity.Yet, according
to Leibniz, such scepticalconclusionis undulyrash. To persist
researchon
in it would,in fact,be as unwaryas to abandonscientific
with
be
a
its
considered
that
the ground
equal right
historymay
The
of
coercive
theories.
lack
of
false
chronicle
powercapable
any
of enforcing
obligationsdoes not, in fact,
respectforinternational
law any morethanerrorscommitted
by the
depreciateinternational
of
method
the
usefulness
discredit
methods
applicationofimperfect
in general. The voluntaryconcludingof compacts between
impliesthe recognitionof an intersovereignStates intrinsically
nationallaw demandingcompliancewith contractualobligations,
breachesof promiseas unlawfuland unjust,and thereby
qualifying
has actuallysuffered
definite
provingthat the claimedsovereignty
of
The principle justice,accordingto whichany such
restrictions.
mustbe consideredunjust,derivesdirectlyfromthe first
infraction
principlesproposedby Leibniz. Nothing,indeed,could be more
thanto refuse
withthe suumcuiquetribuere
incompatible
flagrantly
its
as
due. Nothing
been
has
what
a State
contractually
recognized
at variancewiththe neminem
laederethan
couldbe morestrikingly
Videsupra,page

221.

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AND

LEIBNIZ

IN

I946

to inflictupona State evilsfromwhichhis contracting


partnerhad
to
abstain.
The
first
of
commandment
himself
expresslypledged
international
law and thebasisofall theothersis therefore,
according
to Leibniz,the faithfulobservanceof treaties.In the prefaceto
the Codex he sarcasticallyrebukedthose statesmenwho, he declared,play withtreatiesas childrenwithnuts.
To allege"obligationsofhonour"as excusesfortheviolationofthe
but dishonest."All
givenword,was, in his eyes,not onlyunlawful,
obligationsof law," he wrote,I"are also obligationsofhonour,above

all, thosewhichderivefromthe pledgedword. It is dishonestto


violatethem,evenifexceptionsmightsometimes
be foundwhich,if
takenin a strictsense,may be valid; yet theybefitlawyersrather
thanprinces.Honestpeople,theworldat large,posterity,
and our
own conscienceare not alwayssatisfiedwithwhat maybe valid in
court."The same consideration
holdstrue,as he noted in another
passage,2if insteadof alleged obligationsofhonourconsiderations
ofprestigeare allowedto prevailoverprinciples
ofjustice.
As a consequenceof thisconception,
LeibnizrejectedPufendorf's
denial of the possibilitythat nations,by theiragreements,
create
international
on thelack
law,sincethisdenialwas based exclusively
ofa superiorpowercapableofenforcing
theexecutionofcontractual
obligations.Those, indeed,wrote Leibniz,3"who base all obligationson constraint
and consequently
take powerforthestandardof
of Plato's Thrasymachus
law, relapseinto the tyrannicaldefinition
who maintainedjusticeto be but whatpleasedthe mostpowerful."
The invalidationof thisargumentat the same timedisposesof the
faithon the groundof
attemptto justifyviolationsof international
an allegedmorallaw of the Statefunctioning
of that
independently
The
so-called
reason
individuals.
state,
binding
of
systematically
expoundedby Machiavelli,and bashfullyreadmittedby our constatesmenunder the pseudonym of expediency,
contemporary
to
justify
pretends
unjustand evenillegaldecisionsby reasonoftheir
usefulness
to a wholenation. Accordingto Leibniz,however,any
such argumentviolatesthe veryuniversality
of the ideas of reason
and justice. Any nation takingadvantage of such an infraction
on whichits rightto existence
therebyweakenstheveryfoundation
exclusivelyreposes.
Loyaltywas thusvestedwiththe dignityof the capitalvirtueof
statesmen."To preach the love of peace," Leibniz wrote,4
"when
one makesothersfeelall the effects
of war,to refuseallegationof
to refuseto considermodifications,
to dictateequivalencesand
rights,
I
2

Werke,ed. Klopp, V, p. 253 (French).

Ed. Gerhardt, VII, p. 509.

3 Ibid., VI, p. 35. Conf.Opera, ed. Dutens, IV, 3, p. 275.

4 Werke, ed. Klopp, V, p. 254 (French).

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PHILOSOPHY
strictconditions;not to tolerateprecautionstaken by othersin
alliancesor thelevyingoftroops,openlyto mockthegivenword,to
of
pretendsuchreasonsas one is wontto inventforthesatisfaction
simpleand stupidpersonsin orderto ridiculethem;to add chicanery
to violenceand insultto spoils; these are traitsa thousandtimes
worsethanevenruin."
Yet, in spiteofexecrating
war,Leibnizwas notan abstractpacifist
all possiblesacrifices
and verywellrealizedthenecessityofbringing
to defenceagainstaggression.'He even concernedhimself
withthe
technical details of mobilizationand armamentand violently
opposedtheuse ofinhumanarmswhichhad at thattimebegunto be
a Latinepigram2
denouncommon.In I692, he sentto somefriends
human
mind
exerts
the
of
the
which
its
in
cing
perversion
ingenuity
in
and
new
shells
evils,
inventing
particulardescribingartillery
devisedforthedevastationofthe Palatinate.In viewof the sinister
ofthepoemmayhere
actualityofhis complainta prosetranslation
seemappropriate:
"What frenzydrives the human race? Flashes matching
the sky'slightnings
flareup, intermixed
withinfernal
fire.Not
satisfiedwithsimplethunderbolts,
the missileshurledby man
are pregnantwith volleys.A second engineshoots fromthe
mouthofthefirst,
concealingmanya bulletin itshollowwomb.
"To increasethe horror,a monstrous
minecomesflying,
and
the dire machine conveys an earthquake.Burstinghouses,
theirwallsandbasements
blownup,arescattered
widelythrough
a
Within
few
hours
the workof centuriesis turnedto
space.
ruin.For inventing
evilswe menare verilyan ingeniousflock.
himself
could loose no moreperniciousthingupon
Phlegethon
our earth,norwas anycrafteverworthier
of the Stygiangod."
Inventionsofthiskindwereand are theultimateconsequencesof
be the dividingfactorreligious,
sectarianism,
political,economic,or,
as it became after Leibniz's time,national; sectarianismwhich
"consists in pretendingthat others should rule their conduct
accordingto our own maximsinsteadof beingsatisfiedwithseeing
of
everyoneapproachthe principalaim."3 The very universality
theideas ofreasonand justiceoughtto preventthisaim frombeing
conceivedas the welfareof one nation,one race,or one class to be
of congainedat the expenseof the others."Provided something

Werke,ed. Klopp, V, p. 617 sq.


In Bombos Epigramma (Werke,ed. Klopp, V, p. 636). Bishop Bossuet
to whom, among others, the epigram had been sent, answered ironically:
"You have blasted the bombs,and yourepigramdirectedagainst thisthunderbolt should triumphover all that noise whichit helps to forgive."(Oeuvresde
Leibniz,ed. Foucherde Careil,2nd ed., I, p. 422.)
3 Opera, ed. Dutens, I, p. 740.
I

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AND

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IN

I946

sequenceis achieved,"Leibnizwroteto a Frenchfriend,'"I do not


care whetherit originates
in Germanyor in France,forI desirethe
welfareof mankind."And in a letterto CountGolofkin,
Chancellor
to CzarPetertheGreat,he declared:2"I do notdiscriminate
against
any one nation or party.And I wouldpreferto see the sciences
bloomingin Russia to seeingthempoorlycultivatedin Germany."
VII
function
of reasonand justiceor, as we might
Thus,the unifying
expressit in one word,civilization,is a directconsequenceof the
transcendent
foundationof these ideas supersedingDescartes'individualisticand voluntaristic
startingpoint. In a historicalperwas
spective,Descartes'emancipationof knowledgefromauthority
a necessarystep.The authorityhe dethroned,
however,was essenthe scope of this
tiallythe authorityof persons.Misinterpreting
he himselfand his followers
overlookedthe factthatby
liberation,
endowingeach individualwith absoluteautonomyin the fieldof
knowledge,
theydisruptedthelinkswhichmakesciencean achievement of civilizedsociety.The autonomoussubject of knowledge
was leftisolatedin an atomizedworldofthought.
ofknowledge,
Descarteshad firstto fight
True,to attaincertainty
fromthe bonds of authority.
forits freedom
But once thisfreedom
had unconditionally
been actualized,it becameclearthat certainty
could be reachedonly by again yieldingpart of the newlywon
autonomyand makingknowledge
contingent
uponan instancemore
than
hitherto
any authority
recognized,
namely,God's
tyrannical
inscrutable
decree.
As a matteroffact,neitherDescartesnoranyofhis followers
ever
reobserved
the
of
suspension judgmenttheoretically
actually
no
whenever
evidence
elicit
individual's
to
the
quired
emerged
consentand whenjudgmentcouldconsequently
be basedonlyon the
Had theynot understoodtheirownwarncreditofsomeauthority.
thehistory
anddissemination
ofknowledge
ingmerelyhyperbolically,
would have sloweddown morethan underany rule of authority.
Each newindividualsettingout forthe searchof truthwouldhave
had to start afreshwith the cogitoergosum, and no furtherdevelop-

ment would have been allowed simplyto carryon fromwhere


traditionhad leftoff.Moreover,any knowledgeof facts,even the
most primitive,
such as descriptivegeographyand history,would
havebeen-and to someextentactuallywas intheCartesianschoolsinceits factualstatements
had
barredfromthe fieldof knowledge,
the
of
to
be
on
some
credit
accepted
unavoidably
authority.
x Philos. Schr.,ed. Gerhardt,VII, p. 456.
a Oeuvres,ed. Foucher de Careil,VII, p. 503.

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PHILOSOPHY
Completecertaintyof knowledgeand completefreedomfrom
thusappearto be antitheses
in so faras anycreaturalmind
authority
is concerned,and compatibleonly withinthe Divine Substance.
Scienceas it graduallyresultsfromthe workof numberless
generacertainnor perfectly
tions,is neitherperfectly
independent.The
one or theotherfacetmaybe stressedin variousepochs,but in none
has knowledgeever been atomizedintoindividualconsciousnesses,
and it has also,therefore,
neverbeen,andwillnever,so longas history
freeand completely
certain.For knowledge
lasts,be bothcompletely
is an achievement
of civilization,
thatis, a resultofcollectivework,
and the individualparticipatesin it by absorbingthe knowledge
accumulatedby the labourof precedingand contemporary
generationsand at bestby addingto it hisownmodestshare.
In the politicalfield,the consequenceof a refusalto accept
authoritywould be similarand would lead directlyinto anarchy.
We have but to translatecertaintyby security,
and independence
fromauthority
in
order
to
realize
the
by liberty
analogy.If security
is understoodin the onlylegitimatemeaningit may have in this
field,namelyas the guaranteeof justice,the eliminationof all
turnsout to be impossible.It appearsthenthatonlythe
authority
has to be constituted
in a certainmanner
agentexercising
authority
in orderto combinejusticewith freedom.Politicalemancipation
but in its
has, in fact,notconsistedin theabolitionof all authority,
transfer
fromprivilegedpersonsexemptfromthe law to the Law
itself.The Cartesianpostulatethatnoneshouldacceptas trueanythingto whichhe did not freelyconsent,was carriedout in the
of representative
and
politicalfieldby the institutions
government
equalitybeforethe law. Thus, the principleof freedomwas efficientlycombinedwiththenecessityofa supra-individual
patternof
justice,which,withinthesphereofthebodypolitic,is thecondition
ofliberty.
The philosophicdoctrineof Leibnizlaid a solid foundationfor
the inevitablecompromisesbetween libertyand security,and
between autonomyand certainty.By rejectingthe subjective
criteriaof truthproposedby Descartesand replacingthemwith
objectiveand formalcriteria,he at the same time renouncedthe
absolute emancipationfromauthority;but he also replacedthe
of a personwiththatofa formalmethod.And,disproving
authority
the dependenceof justiceupon power,he substituted
the authority
of objectiveand formalprinciplesof justice forthe authorityof
rulers.In bothrespects,the generativeprinciples
wereconceivedof
as havingtheirmainspringand archetypein the ideas and laws
accordingto whichGod Himself,accordingto His own perfections,
was boundto createand is boundto rulethe universe.By abandoning the conceptionof God as a despoticlegislatorand introducing
232

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DESCARTES

AND

LEIBNIZ

IN

I946
that of a constitutional
governorof the world,Leibnizwas able to
account for the processesof historywithouthaving to referto
unfathomable
theiraim as a harmonious
decrees,and to understand
combinationof freedomand justice in a world-widehuman
community.
If the denouementLeibniz proposed to the paradoxicalantithesisof libertyand securitywerebetterknownand understood,
and iftherewereanychanceoftheworldat largeheedingtheadvice
ofan interpreter
ofreasonand justice,ourpresentepochmighttake
the
ideas Leibniz evolved to overcomethe conflict
advantageof
desiresof humannature.For it may
betweenthesetwo primordial
notonlyshakesthe foundations
of
trulybe assertedthatthisconflict
in thestructure
certainepochs,butin ever-changing
formsis inherent
ofcivilization
itself.Whetherit appearsin theformofan antagonism
of a
between the certaintyof knowledgeand its independence,
dilemmabetweena secureroad to salvationcontrolled
by authority
and thefreechoiceofsucha road,ofan alternative
betweenpolitical
reincarnationsecurityand liberty,or-and thisis its present-day
as a conflict
and economicsecurity;
betweenfreedomof enterprise
all theseantitheses
ofoneand thesame
areonlyvariousembodiments
of anyhistoriccivilizationand theineluctable
intrinsic
imperfection
ofthelimitations
ofhumannature.But in whateverformthe
effects
tensionmaymanifest
itself,it can obviouslybe allayedonlyby one
of two means: by brute forceused in the serviceof one of the
humandesiresto suppressthe other,or-Leibniz's soluprimordial
to arbitration
by thetwinprinciples
tion-by submitting
anyconflict
ofreasonand justice.

233

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