The Kabbalah and Leibniz’s Theodicy

  • Allison P. Coudert
Part of the International Archives of the History of Ideas / Archives Internationales d’Histoire des Idées book series (ARCH, volume 142)


The great change in Leibniz’s thinking about the possibility of progress becomes abundantly clear if one compares passages from the manuscripts published by Fichant. In the one written in 1693, Concerning the Horizon of Human Knowledge, Leibniz argues that if human beings were to exist for long enough, there would inevitably come a time when everything that could be enunciated and written down would already have been enunciated and written down, and people would simply begin to repeat themselves:

If the human race continues for long enough in its present condition, and if every 100 years, or million years, or some even greater interval, each individual produced at least one new statement or proposition, it would necessarily follow that eventually all the propositions which could be enunciated would have been exhausted and therefore a perfect repetition would occur, word for word, of what had already been said or enunciated before. One would not be able to write a sermon, poem, novel, or book which had not already been written by another. The common saying, “Nothing is said which has not been said before” would be true to the letter.316 I find that the hypothesis that a certain interval of time produces at least something new is not certain or even reasonable. It seems rather that the difficulty of producing anything new continually increases.

But perhaps the number of enunciable truths, although finite, will never be exhausted, just as the interval between a straight line and the curve of a hyperbola or conchoid is never exhausted, although it is finite. And even if we suppose that the human race as we know it has existed for all eternity, it does not necessarily follow that everything that could be said has already been said. However, it is true that if the human race continues for a long enough time, almost everything that one could say would only be a repetition; and if new things are often said, eventually one will be unable to produce any more... But leaving such propositions aside, which are not entirely proven, let us content ourselves with having discovered a kind of horizon, which limits human knowledge, and with having elevated our understanding to such reflections, which make us recognize the limits which to some extent nature has placed upon it. 317


Human Race Human Soul Moral Evil External Good Extent Nature 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Allison P. Coudert
    • 1
  1. 1.Arizona State UniversityArizonaUSA

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