Volume 2, Issue 2, Fall 2013
Leibniz and the Amour Pur Controversy
The topic of disinterested love became fashionable in 1697 due to the famous amour pur dispute between Fénelon (1651-1715) and Bossuet (1627-1704). It soon attracted the attention of Electress Sophie of Hanover (1630-1714) and she asked for an opinion about the dispute from her trusted friend and correspondent, the Hanoverian councilor Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716). This gave Leibniz an opportunity to present his views on the matter, which he had developed earlier in his career (for example, in Elementa juris naturalis of 1671 and Codex iuris gentium of 1693). In his 1697 letter to Sophie he did not explicitly take sides in the dispute, but formulated his own views on the topic in a theological manner, aiming to provide an account of disinterested love which would surpass the doctrines of both French theologians. In addition to presenting Leibniz’ early views on disinterested love and examining this alternative formulation of his views on love, I will show that after the letter Leibniz gave this alternative perspective up and returned to his earlier, more philosophical views on the topic, which suggests that he regarded them to be superior to the theological version, where the virtue of charity was related to the virtue of hope.