Philosophical Essays and Texts of Leibniz

Lawyer, moralist

With the possible exception of Marcus Aurelius, no philosopher has ever had as much experience with practical affairs of state as Leibniz. Leibniz's writings on law, ethics, and politics[81] were long overlooked by English-speaking scholars, but this has changed of late.[82]

While Leibniz was no apologist for absolute monarchy like Hobbes, or for tyranny in any form, neither did he echo the political and constitutional views of his contemporary John Locke, views invoked in support of democracy, in 18th-century America and later elsewhere. The following excerpt from a 1695 letter to Baron J. C. Boyneburg's son Philipp is very revealing of Leibniz's political sentiments:

As for.. the great question of the power of sovereigns and the obedience their peoples owe them, I usually say that it would be good for princes to be persuaded that their people have the right to resist them, and for the people, on the other hand, to be persuaded to obey them passively. I am, however, quite of the opinion of Grotius, that one ought to obey as a rule, the evil of revolution being greater beyond comparison than the evils causing it. Yet I recognize that a prince can go to such excess, and place the well-being of the state in such danger, that the obligation to endure ceases. This is most rare, however, and the theologian who authorizes violence under this pretext should take care against excess; excess being infinitely more dangerous than deficiency.[83]

In 1677, Leibniz called for a European confederation, governed by a council or senate, whose members would represent entire nations and would be free to vote their consciences;[84] this is sometimes tendentiously considered an anticipation of the European Union. He believed that Europe would adopt a uniform religion. He reiterated these proposals in 1715.

But at the same time, he arrived to propose an interreligious and multicultural project to create a universal system of justice, which required from him a broad interdisciplinary perspective. In order to it, he combined linguistics, especially sinology, moral and law philosophy, management, economics, politics.[85]


Leibniz devoted considerable intellectual and diplomatic effort to what would now be called ecumenical endeavor, seeking to reconcile first the Roman Catholic and Lutheran churches, later the Lutheran and Reformed churches. In this respect, he followed the example of his early patrons, Baron von Boyneburg and the Duke John Frederick—both cradle Lutherans who converted to Catholicism as adults—who did what they could to encourage the reunion of the two faiths, and who warmly welcomed such endeavors by others. (The House of Brunswick remained Lutheran because the Duke's children did not follow their father.) These efforts included corresponding with the French bishop Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet, and involved Leibniz in a fair bit of theological controversy. He evidently thought that the thoroughgoing application of reason would suffice to heal the breach caused by the Reformation.

This content is from Wikipedia. GradeSaver is providing this content as a courtesy until we can offer a professionally written study guide by one of our staff editors. We do not consider this content professional or citable. Please use your discretion when relying on it.