Friday, September 10, 2004

Jovis Omnia Plena

From Leibniz's Discourse on the Natural Theology of the Chinese:

"21. Father Longobardi relies heavily on the Chinese axiom which says that all things are one. He mentions it expressly (7:41) and returns to it often. Father de Sainte-Marie also speaks of it (p. 72). There is yet another passage recorded by Fatehr de Sainte-Marie (p. 73) which shows that there exists something more than material qualiteis. The Sing Li Philosophy, Book 26, p. 8, says that the directing and procreating virtue is not found int he disposition of things and does not depend on them but is composted of and resides in the Li which has dominion over, governs, and produces all. Parmenides and Melissus spoke in the same way but the sense which Aristotle gives them appears different from the sense given to Parmenides by Plato. Spinoza reduces all to a single substance, of which all things are only modifications. It is not easy to explain how the Chinese understand it but I believe that nothing prevents according them a rational interpretation. With respect to that which is passive in them, all things are composed of the same prime matter, which differes only by the forms which motion gives it. Also, all things are active and possess Entelechies, Spirits and Souls only by virtue of the participation of the Li, i.e., the same originative Spirit (God), which gives them all their perfections. And matter itslef is only a production of this same primary cause. Thus everythign emanates from it as from a central point. But it does nto follow from this that all things are different only by virtue of accidental qualities: as, for example, the Epicureans and other materialists believed, admitting only matter, figure and movement, which would truly lead to the destruction of immaterial substances, or Entelechies, Souls and Spirits.

"22. The say that all is one should be counterposed with another, that the one is all, of which we have spoken above in recounting the attributes of the Li. It means that God is everything by eminence (eminenter), as the perfections ofeffects are in their cause, and not formally, as if God was the mass of all things. In the same way, all things are one, but not formally as if they comprised one, or as if this great One were their matter. Rather all things are one by emanation (emanenter), because they are the immediate effects of Him; that is, He attends to them intimately and fully, and expresses Himself in teh perfections which He communicates to them according to their degree of receptivity. And it is thus that one says Jovis omnia plena; that He fills all, that He is in all things adn that also all things are in Him. He is at the same time the center and the space because He is a circle of which the center is everywhere, as we have said above. Theis sense of the axiom "that all is one" is all the more certain for the Chinese, since they attribute to the Li a perfect unity incapable of division--according to the report of Father Longobardi noted above--and what makes the Li incapable of division is that it can have no parts."

[Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Writings on China, Cook & Rosemont, Jr., eds. Open Court (Chicago, 1994), 94-96).]


This passage provides an interesting example 1) of Leibniz's eclecticism; and 2) of one of the great minds of early modern Europe trying to discern the meaning of Chinese philosophy through the trickling information, often misleading, being received from the East.

By the way, I nominate Leibniz as the philosophical patron of blogging.

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