L'une des correspondances philosophiques célèbres du XVII e siècle, la correspondance Leibniz-Clarke, a pour sujet ré current la définition et le statut des miracles. À la différence des autres thèmes de la correspondance : l'espace, le temps, les forces ou la question des indiscernables, les miracles engagent non seulement des arguments philosophiques, mais, surtout,  tout un débat concernant l'orientation théologique des deux auteurs. J'ai essayé dans ce travail de faire une lecture de la correspondance Leibniz-Clarke de la perspective des  lecteurs, qui, à l'époque, pouvaient distinguer aussi bien le sujet que la virulence des attaques. J'ai tenté d'approcher « la partie manquante » de la définition que Clarke donne des miracles et j'ai montré la façon dont on peut y découvrir les éléments nécessaires pour la reconstruction de la conception de Newton – tout-à-fait particulière et profondément hérétique – sur le mode dont l'intervention divine se passe dans le monde.


One of the most celebrated philosophical correspondences in 18 th century, the correspondence between Leibniz and Clarke opens on the issues of miracles and the status of miracles in natural philosophy1. In his introductory letter to Caroline,  princess of Wales, Leibniz emphasizes what he calls the "decay" of natural religion in England. Quit e an extraordinary claim for the beginning of a philosophical correspondance2. There seems to be three reasons for this "decay": the misterious cause of gravitation – a hot issue in Ne wton's natural philosophy – the status of absolute space and the alleged mortalism attributed in the letter to Locke  and his followers. Two of the accusations are directed against "Newton's sect" and will be further formulated in the correspondence with Clarke. Both are connected with the status of miracles  and the relation between miracles and laws. The third, concerning Locke's "mortalism" has been usually disregarded by the comentators. However, what I am prepared to claim in this paper is that all three star ting points from Leibniz's letter to Caroline are strongly connected between them and all are directed against Newton and his followers. Moreover, all three bear upon an ongoing debate about the status of miracles in natural philosophy. The political and religious implications of the correspondenc e between Leibniz and Clarke have been already emphasized3. We can see the philosophical debate as bei ng only the top of the iceberg. Embedded in the letters are as well layers of signification pointing to various  actors and a considerable background context. There are many more actors involved in this debate than the two who are actually writing the letters. As some recent authors have pointed out 4, Samuel Clarke is standing for an entire group of Newtonians, while Leibniz considers himself the repr esentative of another group, less well defined, which contains at least Caroline von Ansbach,  princess of Wales, and some of the continental philosophers, if not the entire house of Hanovra and the most important part of the established hyerarchy of power at the political and theological  level. Simplifying, we can say that on one side we have "Newton's sect"- to keep Leibnz terminology; on the other, Newton's potential ennemies.

The ten letters were written between 1715 and 1716  with a definite purpose of being published; the normal way of discussing, inside the intellectual community, matters of general interest. We can find traces of the  public character of this correspondence in most of the letters. However, if the correspondence has been widely discussed from the point of view of the  actors involved in the exchange, the readers of the letters and their ways of understanding the issues at stake have been much less investigated. I propose a different approach, st arting from the question of the potential readers of Leibniz-Clarke correspondence. Who were the potential readers to which the correspondence was adressed? What was of interest and what was common knowledge in them, for the contemporaries? To most of the modern philosophers, the Leibniz -Clarke correspondence is an exchange of views focusing on the status of space and time. In the beginning  of the seventeenth century, the focal point of the correspondence has been quite different. For Leibni z and Clarke the exchange engaged the status of natural philosophy and  religion and the relation between the natural and the supernatural world . As summarized by Leibniz, the main themes of the correspondence are the conception about God's place and action in relation to natural world, absolute  space and miracles. For Clarke, they are the  principles of natural philosophy and religion connected with the issue of liberty.

So, both authors agree upon the importance of the definition and discussions about miracles. They also agree on the interconnectedness between na tural philosophy and natural theology via the conception about miracles, laws and (natural) order.  However, there are major differences between the place of miracles inside the system of na tural philosophy and its importance with respect to theology. Themes of natural philosophy and theology  intermingle with religious and political disputes and interests. What is interesting for us is that t he theme of miracles can illuminate some of this background, clarifying not only specific points of the debate, but also important points in the doctrine of Newton's "sect".

Both authors wrote the letters with a  public in mind. Although adressed to Caroline of Wales, Leibniz letter from November 1715 was destined to  open a debate within the intellectual and political community. Both Leibniz and Clarke were adressing a  public which was larger than the traditional network of natural philosophers and which included at least members of the power elites (ecclesiastical and political). This is how the debate was read at the beginning of the 17 th century by friends and foes. And for this public, the letters were constructed  not only around specific points of the Newtonian doctrine of space and time, but involved the fundamentals of natural philosophy and religion. As one of the political characters involved in starting t he "war" have said, the Leibniz Clarke correspondence brings clarifications about two different conceptions about God.

«Mr. Newton dit que Dieu este OMNIPRESENS ma is qu'il n'est pas comme l'ame dans le corps. Monsieur de Leibniz appele Dieu INTELIGENTIA S UPRAMUNDANA d'ou il s'ensuit, dit-on, que Dieu ne peut pas faire quelque chose dans le corps que par  MIRACLE. On le quere lle fort sur le mot de MIRACLE. » 5

Why is a debate over the definition and status  of the miracles so important? If we believe the claims formulated at the beginning of their first  letter by both preopinents, the focus of the whole correspondence seems to have been the pour state of natural theology, endangered by Atheism. This is a common and vague word in seventeenth century  when various sorts of Atheistic or potentially Atheistic natural philosophies have kept natural  theology under a constant attack: materialists, Cartesians, Epicureans, Scepticks, Socinians and so on are only some of the alleged ennemies of established religion. Each side had its own ennemies  and allies and at least in part the debates were performed by or with the help of natural  philosophers. Consequently, one can say that the correspondence between Leibniz and Clarke commenc ed as a typical discussion of the seventeenth century theme of fighting the Atheism. Natural  philosophy has been traditionally considered as a powerful ally in this fight and the discourse  about God from the phenomena of the world was one of the essential activities performed by the seventeenth century natural philosophers. Especially in England, and especially in the second part of the sevent eenth century, natural philosophy was essentially a discourse about God and his relation with the Creation 6. Therefore, the status of miracles and a subsequent discourse about miracles belonged , however marginal, to natural philosophy 7. However, this is not the whole story. For the eighteenth c entury reader, the correspondence between Leibniz and Clarke is mainly a war between two kinds of  natural philosophy: the Continental Philosophy and Newtonianism. In 1715, Newton was already Englan d's hero and his natural philosophy, widely promoted inside and outside Royal Sociey w on the game. Meanwhile, the widespread popularity of Newtonianism went hand in hand with increasing rumours concerning the heterodoxy of Newton's friends and of Newton himself8. To some of the readers, at least, Leibniz's accusations against Newton's sect could have been more important than  the philosophical side of the debate 9. Clarke's answers to Leibniz's accusations can be and  have been read as the first attempt to open for the public the least known but most interesting part of Newton's natural philosophy.


The second half of the seventeenth century witnessed both the delimitation of a special discourse about miracles inside natural philosophy 10 and another kind of discourse, often quoted, in which the main issue was the  separation. Science and religion are to be kept separate – is a claim to be found in the status of Royal Society as well as in various writings, sometimes the same writings that made use of an apologetic function of miracles as well. At firt s sight, we are facing a paradox. Firstly, natural philosophers and divines alike seem to be more concerned with various arguments to sustain religion from within the natural philosophy. Secondly, t he same natural philosophers seemed concerned with criteria for exposing wonders and false miracles in an attempt to describe a lawfull universe. In fact, the second part of the seventeenth century had witness a sort of dual commitment inside natural philosophy: the lawfull behaviour of the world syst em and special interventions of God into the creation11 or two types of divine providence: a general providence, describing God's action in the original creation of nature and a special providence,  referring to a particular act of direct divine intervention12. Not only that both aspects of God are present in most of the writings of natural philosophy, but, as J.E. Force and Peter Harrison have  shown, there has been an explicit concern for the philosophers around the Royal Society to preserve the special providence inside science. As J.E. Force strongly emphasized:

"The chief apologetic problem of the early Royal Society was to save the notion of a specially provident God who can miraculously intervene in His creation (or prophetically advertise a specailly provident act for completion at some later date)."13

Two main arguments developed during the second half of the seventeenth century 14. One is the argument from design: the beautiful and ordered fr ame of the world must be the result of a superior intelligence. Another is an argument from imperfection: however beautiful and ordered, the world is still imperfect (being made of matter) and therefore is in need of a superior power able to restore the initial "perfection". The first ar gument rely on the general providence, the second on the special providence. Although they can be and have been fo rmulated one after another, there is an essential tension, an inner contradiction between them. Therefore, as has been emphasized 15, the whole issue of miracles suffers a sort of logical instability.

At least to a part of seventeenth century natural philosophers playing down miracles seems to be less dangerous than the multiplications of wonders and prodigies to be witnessed in various "Enthusiastic" movements. Robert Boyle, John Wi lkins and Thomas Spratt among other are warning against the danger of attributing to God too many miracles.

"It is a dangerous mistake, into which many good man fall; that we neglect the Dominion of God over the World if we do not discover in every turn of human Actions many supernatural Providences, and miraculous events. Whereas it is enough gor the honor of his Government, that he guides the whole creation, in its wontes cours of Causes, and Effects; and it makes as much for the reputation of a Prince's wisdom, that he can  rule his subjects peacebly, by his known, and atanding Laws, as that he is often forced to ma ke use of extraordinary justice to punish or reward."16

It is however important to note that this is by no means a sceptical attitude towards miracles as such. In Spratt, Boyle and Wilkins case, the  underlying presupposition is a commonplace of the Protestantism in seventeenth century England. For the  most parts of English Protestant tradition, the age of the true miracles was over longtime before the Reformation 17. In any case of a newly reported miracles, the duty of a truly religious men is to addopt a skeptical attitude. Indeed, the multiplication of miracles cannot do more than diminish the authorit y and credibility of those truly miraculous events reported in the Scriptures. However, this claim is not  about God's power to do miracles. Even if the time of the miracles in history has passed, ther e is no doubt as to the power of God to perform new miracles with the purpose of save at least some of his people. Miracles are  possible and can happen. Sometimes they do happen. Questionable is our capacity of deciding  what is a miracle. Therefore, the experimental philosophy has to play an active role  against the worst kind of irreligion: Enthusiasm, namely various dissident movements which claim  to perform, witness or identify miracles in the present. And in order to do so, the natural philosopher is asked to understand the paradox in terms of natural philosophy.

One proeminent and influential case of explainin g the paradox was Robert Boyle. In numerous writings, Boyle was explicitly concerned with preservi ng a space for miracles inside natural philosophy. Combining a voluntaristic approach with the epistemological limitations of the experimental philosophy, Boyle has set up a framework of discussion in the second part of the seventeenth century philosophy18 . The main poins of this framework concerns the redefinition of matter theory in voluntaristic terms and the emphasis on two kinds of divine action into the na tural world. For Boyle, a world made of passive matter in motion is set in motion by God, directed  both by the laws of nature and by direct divine interventions19. He emphasizes what will become a standard  argument for God's existence in Newton, Whiston and Clarke: the fact that matter and motion are not sufficient for explaining the world.

"But because, this matter being in its own natu re but one, the diversity we see in bodies must necessarily arise from somewhat else than the matter they consist of, and since we see not how there could be any change in matter if all its (actual or designable) parts were perpetually at rest among themselves, it will follow that, to d iscriminate the catholic matter into variety of natural bodies, it must have motion in some of  its designable parts; and that motion must have various tendencies, that which is in this part of  matter tending one way, and that which is in that part of matter tending another: as we plainly see in the universe or general mass of matter there is really a great quantity of motion, and that variously determined, and that yet divers portions of matter are at rest." 20

Boyle's main concern is to claim that the the existence of miracles is not only coherent with mechanical philosophy, but that only in mechanical philosophy we have the right balance between God's general and special providence. Indeed, a very importa nt argument for mechanical philosophy is that it is more at ease than its rivals with accomodati ng miracles and "extraordinary and supernatural interpositions of divine providence".

"For when it plesases God to overrule or control the established course of things in the world by his own omnipotent hand, what is thus performed may be much easier discerned and acknowledged to be miraculous, by them that admi t in the ordinary course of corporeal things nothing but matter and motion, whose powers men may well judge of, than by those who think these is besides a certain semi-deity which they call nature, whose skill and power they acknowledge to be exceeding great, and yet have no sure way of estimating how great they are and how far they may extend."21

Therefore, the  new  mechanical philosophy can serve the true religion by allowing the interposition of the supernatural into the natural wo rld. Boyle's main points of the argument is that although other natural philosophers aknowledge the exist ence of miracles, by explaining them through various mediators or reducing them to "astral operations"22, they are ruling out the interposition of the supernatural into the natural world. For Boyle, as for many of his successors in England, there seems to be a strong reason to preserve, inside natural philosophy, a space for the miraculous. It was not an easy task. There is a tension between God's General Prov idence, expressed through universal laws, and what has been called Special Providence, God's direct  interventions into the world. On one hand, the universe was formed and is directed through general laws, the "catholic laws of motion". On the other, God can intervene to alter the laws23. In Boyle's terms,

"I admit that their events may sometimes be varied by some peculiar interposition of God... And though I think it probable that in the conduct  of that far greatest part of the universe which is merely corporeal, the wise author of it does seldom manifestly procure a recession from the settled course of the universe, and especially from the most catholic laws of motion; yet where men...are nearly and highly concerned, I think  he has, not only sometimes by those signal and manifest interpositions we call miracles, acted by a supernatural way.."24

How is this tension to be solved? Boyle's own solution was an appeal to what may be called "the epistemological function of a miracle". In more than one place 25, he uses the model of the encoded letter. God may have had written the world using a code. In our attempts to interpret nature we are in a similar situation with someone who has to read an  encoded letter. The meaning of the text is clear only to God; what we can do is to guess and infe rr a meaning which can be coherent with the context and sometimes may be true. But there are also part s of the letter which are bound to remain unclear and will probably always be like this. Moreover , both the known and the unknown can be used to testify God's Providence.

"And perhaps you will allow me to add that  by this way of ordering things – so that in dome of God's works the ends or uses may be  manifest and the exquisite fitness of the means may be conspicuous...and in the others the ends designed seem to be beyond our reach – by this way of managing things, the most wise author of  them does both gratify our understanding and make us sensible of the imperfection of them."26

Some of the unknown parts of the letter can be further clarify by God to some of us by means of grace and only because in his goodness He will decide to do so. This is a possible reason for the existence of future miracles. Therefore, what we will call miracles are signs of God's goodness and not events against or beyond natural order27. They are miracles for us, but not for God.

However, adopting the "epistemological sense of  miracles" will not entirely solve the problem. For example, there remains the question whether  once clarified and "discovered" will these signs remain miracles? Or, instead, they are only instance s of an undiscovered law? Is there an underlying regularity behind them? An affirmative answer means eliminating the miracles from the "real"world and, therefore, Boyle has to say no. The encoded letter to remain encoded28.

Boyle's case is only one instance of the struggle  of "saving the miracles" in seventeenth century. Some of the first Boyle's lectures held by the Newtonians might be read along the same line. Bentley, Clarke, Whinston and Newton himself were deeply c oncerned with the status of the miracles and the way of God's interventions into the world. In the next paragraphs I will try to show both that we can read Leibniz-Clarke correspondence as a peculiar case  of "saving the miracles" and that there were readers in seventeenth century which read it that way.


Leibniz's first letter to Clarke contains already most of the themes of future debate: the status of natural theology, miracles, God's way of action into  the world, space and time. In Clarke's first reply, however, there is no trace of the questions concerning  miracles. Only after being pressed, in Leibniz second letter, with numerous allegations of materialism and irreligion 29, Clarke formulates a tentative definition of what counts as a miracle. What is at stake is Newton's idea that the Universe is in need of a reformation30. The material frame of the world is winding do wn because the total quantity of motion in the world is decreasing 31. Therefore, God's action is required to preserve the present design. This very characteristic Newtonian argument have been us ed in various instances as an argument for the existence of God32 and as a solution to the general problem of activity and causation 33. Leibniz's line of attack involves the very delineation of God 's way of acting into the world: either  natural (according to the laws) or  supernatural (by miracles). In the first case, Newton's natural philosophy is jeopardizing God's transcendence. In the second, everything is miraculous.

In a previous letter to Caroline, Leibniz freely  declares what is really at stake: Newton's sect destroys the distinction between natural and supernatural.

"Il semble que Messieurs les Antagonistes detruisent la veritable difference entre le Miracle et le Naturel, et que selon eux la nature de Dieu  est d'agir tousjours par les miracles dans les actions qui devroient etre les plus naturelles." 34

There are at least two important points in this accusation. One is theological and bears upon the seventeenth century fight against Atheism. The other one involves the definition of natural, including the status of natural philosophy or natural theology. Both issues are important for the debate. The miracles have been widely used in the discourse against  Atheism: God's power to act against the course of nature is one of the common places of seventeent h century natural philosophy, including Newton's. Both Newton and Clarke have stressed the importance of God's actions into the world, along with the main lines of English natural philosophy. In Clarke's second series of Boyle lectures we can find a series of arguments for the claim that "the world depend s, every moment on some superiour being for the preservation of its frame"35.

However, if God's direct action into the world is beyond doubts and disputations, its status is less so. Is any such direct action miraculous? Where is the boudary between natural and supernatural? Here appears, for English natural philosophers, the first contradiction. One one hand, God acts into its creation. On the other, the age of the miracles has  passed. Therefore, the main problem of Clarke's first letter to Leibniz is to focus the debate on Newton's argument from imperfection 36 and not on the definition of miracles:

"He (God) not only composes and puts things together, but is Himself the Author and continual Preserver of the Original Forces of Moving Powers: and consequently this (the fact that the universe wants a reformation) is not a Dimin ution but the true Glory of His Workmanship, that Nothing is done without his continual Government and Inspection."37

Leibniz, on the other hand, although with a quit e explicit reference to this very well known debate, stands on different grounds. For him the age  of miraculous is not over. Simply, miracles belong to a different order than the natural: the order of grace 38. An event is miraculous for the believer and has its impact on the soul.

"J'appelle MIRACLE tout evenement qui ne pe ut etre arrivee que par la puissance du Createur, sa raison n'etant pas dans la nature des Creatures...39

It is important to note that in  investigating Clarke's response  Leibniz was well aware of both theological and metaphysical content of the debate over miracles. For him, the focus is God's power to give the grace. However, in the critique of Clarke and Newton, Leibniz is not so much preoccupied with replacing a definition with another. Rather, his point is to undermine  Clarke's definition. And the main point stressed by Clarke is that we have to formulate a definition of miraculous which does not stand on the concept of God's power. There are numerous instances of God's interventions into the world and it is not for us to measure the power of God from its effects. 40 Therefore, the "supernatural" is defined as a phenomenon and involves our limited knowledge and not God'spoint of view:

"The Argument in This Paragraph supposes that whatever GOD does in SUPERNATURAL or MIRACULOUS; and consequently it tends to exc lude all operation of God, in the governing and order of the Natural world. But the  Truth is this: NATURAL & SUPERNATURAL are nothing at all different with regard to GOD,  but DISTINCTIONS merely in our conceptions of things.

Consequently, a miracle is "miraculous" for us, but not  for God. From the point of view of the Creator, all interventions into the world are compar able concerning the power. We call some of the phenomena "miracles" not because they are God's  works (because all the phenomena are cause by God) but because they have an irregular appearance:

To cause the SUN (or Earth) to MOVE REGULARLY, is a thing we call NATURAL; to stop its Motion for a Day, we call SUPERNATURAL:  But the One is the Effect of no grater POWER than the OTHER; not is the ONE, with respect to God, more or less NATURAL or SUPERNATURAL than the OTHER41.

What comes out as a definition is rather peculiar.  The reason why we think it is miraculous for the Sun to stop is not because it is against the laws  of nature, but because it does not (usually) happen. In his third reply to Leibniz, Clarke suggested  that the necessary condition for something to be a miracle is to happen seldom, "and for the reason to create wonder"

"If a MIRACLE be that only, which surpases the power of all created beings; then for a man to walk on the water, or for the MOTION  OF THE SUN OR EARTH to be stopped, is no MIRACLE; since NONE of these things require INFINITE POWER to effect them. For a Body to move in a Circle around a Center in Vacuo; if  it be Usual, (as the Planets moving about the sun) ‘this NO MIRACLE, whether it be effected immedi ately by God himself or mediately by any INVISIBLE Created Power; if it be UNUSUAL,  (as for a Heavy Body to be suspended and move so in the Air this Equally a MIRACLE whether it  be effected immediately by God himself, or mediately by any INVISIBLE Created Power. L ASTLY: if whatever arises not from and is not explicable by, the NATURAL POWERS OF BODY be a MIRACLE; then every ANIMAL- MOTION whatsoever is a MIRACLE: Which see ms demonstrably to show, that this Learned Authors Notion of a Miracle, is erroneous42."

Defining miracles in terms of the unusual is not  as strange at it might seem. In fact, Clarke have been drawing on the same tradition of experimental philosophy opened by Boyle. However, Clarke's definition is even more peculiar than Boyle's. It is  quite obvious being unusual is not sufficient for something to be a miracle. There is a long debate in  English natural philosophy and especially in the Royal Society concerning the status of prodigies and wonders and Clarke is very well aware of it. Leibniz's third letter pointed exactly in this direct ion: there are unusual things which are not miracles, like monsters, for example43. Clarke's definition is at its best incomplete.

It seems that, at least on this point of the correspondence, Leibniz is right. Clarke gives only an incomplete account for the miraculous and quite an artifficial one, as well. Defining miracles in terms of the unusual has been done obviously to save Newton's  natural philosophy from Leibniz accusation of making use of the perpetual miracles. If a miracle  is an unusual event made "to create wonder", than universal attraction is not miraculous. But monsters  and prodigies are miraculous, at least unless there is no other, sufficient condition to save Clarke's de finition of a miracle. The definition through necessary and sufficient conditions is what Clarke's undertakes in his forth letter.

"UNUSUALNESS IS NECESSARILY included in the Notion of a MIRACLE. For otherwise there is nothong more wonderful nor that requires GREATER POWER to effect than some of those things we call NATURAL. Such as,  the Motions of the HEAVENLY BODIES, the GENERATION & FORMATION of PLANTS &  ANIMALS &c. Yet these are for THIS ONLY REASON NOT MIRACLES, because they are co mmon. Nevertheless, it does not follow,that every thing which is UNUSUAL, is therefore a Mira cle. For it may be only the irregular or more rare effect of USUAL Causes: Of whic h kind, are ECLIPSES, MONSTRUOUS BIRTHS, MADDNESS in MEN & innumerable things which the Vulgar calls PRODIGIES."44

Therefore, for something to be miraculous, it  has to fulfill the necessary condition of being unusual. It is an interesting subsequent epistemology involved into this definition. What is unusual? Who is to decide what is unusual? Again, the starting  point of Clarke's line of defence is the underlying epistemology of experimental philosophy promoted by the Royal Society. In a long series of discussions and debates, the Society had delineated the proper way  to deal with monsters, prodigies and miracles. The community of experimental philosophers has to decide on the testimony for any phenomena and to establish its regularity. The  unusual is then to be defined through the programme of experimental philosophy and by the community. The reason for picking up this definition of the miraculous is clear if we look not at the authors of the letters, but at the intended readers of the correspondence. Clarke formulates a necessary condition for the miraculous based upon the epistemological foundations of the experimental philosophy. What is interesting is that there it at least one evidence in Leibniz's fifth letter that he has recognised the strategy, and the refer ences. Therefore, he refers to Boyle and "other exquisite men" which did not dare to affirm such  absurdities as Newton's sect. Instead, Leibniz claims that the most important realisation of Boyle was  to impose the idea that "everything was done mechanically in Physics"45.

While making use of the epistemological f oundations of experimental philosophy, Clarke does not complete his definition of miracles in terms of necessary and sufficient conditions. However, if there is no sufficient condition for an unusual event  to be considered a miracle, is there at least an attempt to formulate such a condition in the correspond ence? In Clarke's fifth letter we can find just a small hint: the claim that, "with regard to God,  no one Possible thing is more Miraculous than another"46. This claim comes after a lenghty discussion concerning the sources of action into the world. Clarke's Newtonian starting point is that there is no conservation of the total quantity of motion in the universe. Instead, in mechanical systems, there is a de crease of motion, while in other cases there are sources of action introducing new motions into the world 47. Consequently, God's actions into the world extends on many levels; and at each level, the same General Providence is manifested. The terms natural and supernatural have a relative meaning:

"Does he really think there are in God two di fferent and really distinct Principles or Powers of Acting, and that one thing is more difficu lt to God than another? If not: then either a Natural and a Supernatural Action of God are Te rms whose Signification is only Relative to us; we calling an Usual Effect of God's Power, Natural; and an unusual one, Supernatural."

The only other option, claims Clarke, is to co nsider that natural is  what it is done through mediators, and supernatural what God is doing himself. But this is not what Leibniz means by miracles since angels can perform miracles as  well. Therefore, we are left  with the necessary condition and a superposition between the natural and the supernatural, the potentia absoluta and potentia ordinata. Now, by all means, this is a weak line of defence. Why did Clarke addopted it? If what he wants to say is that natural and supernatural are relative to us, that there is no way of distinguishing between potentia absoluta and potentia ordinata, then there is no reason why gravitation is not a miracle – apart from the fact that is a universal phenomenon. As an experimental effect, gravity is a universal property of things48. Its cause is unknown and most probably originates in God's General Providence. Again, Leibniz seems to be right and Newton's case is even weaker than before. There is a missing part in a definition of miracles that cannot eclude wonders, prodigies or monsters. There is a missing part in defining God's action into the world (as if it is only potentia ordinata) that gives away the unknown cause of gravity. The logical consequence of this line of defence is that there are no miracles but on ly laws: that God's acts only through his General Providence, according to universal and mechanical laws. But this is precisely what Clarke is arguing against. He denies the conservation law for the Universe. He claims that the frame of nature could not have been created through mechanical means by mechanical forces. He denies the "mere mechanism". He questions Leibniz's attempts to exclude God from the world:

"Nor it is less surprising to find this Assertion again repeated in express Words, that, after the first Creation of Things, the  Continuation of the Motions of the Heavenly bodies, and the formation of Plants and Animals, and every motion of the bodies both of men and all other animals, is as mechanical as the motions of a clock."49

Here, Clarke reiterates old accusations. Instead of defending his notion of a miracles, the most of the fifth letter is a attempt to parallel Leibniz 's views to those well known and publicly exposed as Atheist; the natural philosophy of Rene Descartes.

"Whoever entertains this Opinion is obliged in reason to be able to explain particularly, by what Laws of Mechanism the Planets and Comets  can contiue to move in the Orbs they do, through Unresisting Soaces and by what Mechan ical Laws, both plants and animals are formed; and how the infinitely various spontaneous motions of Animals and Men are performed."50

This is the standard form of the beginning of a argument from design. Its emphasis is on the term "mechanical laws": that the entire universe is the  result of mechanical laws acting on matter is one of the well known claims of Cartesianism. One of the  well known and irreligious claims of Cartesianism. Linking Leibniz with the Cartesian tradition means sending open accusation of Atheism.

We have to admit that Clarke's answer is not a good argument. It neither does justice to Leibniz views. But that is not its point. In defending Newt on's natural philosophy from accusations of heresy, Clarke is replying with accusation of Atheism. By par alleling Leibniz's views with those of Materialists and Cartesians, Clarke attempts to discredit the ki nd of natural philosophy which rely on general laws of conservations. The ennemy here is clear: the mechanical philosophy.

The reader of the correspondence is asked to make a choice. In opposition with the Continental mechanical philosophers, the Newtonians are the  proponents of a natural philosophy in which God plays an active part into the frame of the world:  by sustaining the design, creating new motions, being the cause of gravity and so on. But is this a God  who performs miracles? Some of His actions have unusual effects. However, it is not enough to say that  such effects are miraculous; not even in the relative sense of the term. In other words, leaving  apart Clarke's accusations for the Cartesians and other mechanical philosophers, there is still a missing part in his definition.

Consequently, the debate over miracles ends without  a proper definition and without clarifying the grounds. It is rather surprising, especially since  the whole strategy of necessary and sufficient conditions is clearly formulated. Moreover, for  all the informed reader s of the philosophical correspondence, the missing part of Clarke's definition can be easily found: in his widely read second Boyle lectures.


In 1705 Clarke is for the second time elected to give the Boyle Lectures: 8 sermons delivered at Saint Paul and published under the title  A Discourse concerning the Unchangeable Obligations of Natural Religion and the Truth and Certainty of the Christian Revelation 51. Among other subjects, we can find in this work a very interesting discussion of the relati ons between God and creation. Its main point is that God is the main source of action in the world.  Matter being passive and incapable of obeying laws, "something else, superior to matter, active, is needed" 52, both for starting motions and for conserving it. This action originates in God which can exert is  directly or through some mediators. In both cases, though, both the phenomena and the laws depend on God's interventions into the creation.

"Which preserving and governing power, whether it be immediately the power and action of the same supreme cause that created the world ...or whether it be the action of some subordinate instruments appointed by him to direct and preside respectively over certain parts thereof, does either way equally give us a very noble idea of providence."53

It is important to stress that Clarke's Newtonian position is that both conservation of motion and production of new motions depend upon the divine interventi on. Therefore every phenomena in the world has, in the last instance, a supernatural cause 54. As a result, the boundary between natural and supernatural is epistemological. Moreover, we cann ot define God's actions by quantifying the power necessary to produce them. It is impossible to know how much of divine power is necessary to bring forth a certain efect. Consequently, it is a mistake to formulate a definition of miracles in terms of power.

"It is not, therefore, a right distinction to defi ne a miracle (as some very learned and pious men have done) to be such an effect as could not have been produced by any less power than the divine omnipotence. There is no instance of any miracle in the Scripture which to an ordinary spectator would necessarily imply the immediate operation of or iginal, absolute, and underived power. And consequently, such a spectator could never be certain that the miraculous effect was beyond the power of all created beings in the universe to produce"55

The line of argumentation is identical with the  one later developed in the letters to Leibniz. Similarly, Clarke emphasize the need for a definition of the miraculous that avoids the terms of power. Meanwhile, efacing the boundary betw een the natural and the supernatural means also changing the terms of the traditional discussion concerning Go d's absolute and ordained power or the relation between the general providence and a special provid ence. For Newton and for Clarke, his spokesman, the miraculous is not against the course of na ture simply because the latter does not exist independently of God's actions:

"Consequently, there is no such thing as what men commonly  call "the course of nature". The course of nature, truly and properly speaking is nothing but the will of God producing certain effects in a continued, regular, constant and uni form manner; which course or manner of acting, being in every moment perfectly arbitrary, it is easy to be altered at any time as to be preserved." 56

In every respect, this position is constructe d against the Cartesian natural philosophy as understood in England: as a regularization of pr ovidence. On the contrary, for Clarke and Newton God's action into the world are conceived in purely voluntaristic terms. Consequently, the laws as well as the unusual events depend directly on God's  will. The phenomenal order is no more than "the constant and uniform manner of God's acting eit her immediately or mediately in preserving and contiuning the order of the world" 57. Moreover, for us, there is no real difference between those actions which occur through mediation and those which result from direct divine interventions, because we don't always have the means to judge the causes from the effects. One expects to find next either a denyal of miracles or the epistemologic al meaning. The unusualness is indeed present as a criterion. But the definition of miracles is rahter unexpected. The miracle is the unusual interposition in the regular manner of divine action "of some intelligent being superior to man". The condition for something to be miracle, besides being unusual, is that the actor involved in performing it is a "superior intelligence". Therefore, the definition completed reads:

"a miracle may be rightly defined to be an effect produced contrary to the usual course or order of nature by the unusual interposition of some intelligent being superior to men."58

Surprisingly, the miraculous relates not with peculiar events in the course of General Providence, but with particular beings acting in the course of  nature. Here we are already on shaky grounds: if the conditions of unusualness and wonder are more  or less common in seventeenth century, this mention of a superior being is strange and worrying. Even  more so for Clarke's contemporaries. Because the whole issue of intelligent beings superior to m en do not refer only to angels, as one might have suspected, but also to prophets. Moreover, the main purpose of a miracle is the attestation of the true prophet or of the true doctrine 59. And this is how the issue of miracles ties up with the issue of prophecies. Miracles are signs of the same kind as those to be found in prophecies. And there seems to be a close connection between prophets and miracles.  The obvious meaning is that the true prophets perform miracles – and this is a sign of the fact that they are elected. Therefore, by looking at the prophecies and miracles we can be enforced in our fait h and in the truth of our particular doctrine. Again, Clarke relies here on widespread arguments. In the second part of the seventeenth century 60, in England, the prophecies are widely discussed and trasformed into a stronger case for the Christian aplogetics than the discussion about miracles.


The parallelism between prophecies and miracles has been widely used during the second part of the seventeenth century, in England. It gradually  developed in a twofold argument: most of the known miracles were performed by or in connection with known prophecies. As Peter Harrison has shown, the case for prophecies was considered stronger th an the case for miracles. In accordance with the new epistemological turn, the prophecies did not need  second hand testimony, were not violations of the laws of nature and were well attested 61. Moreover, unlike miracles, the prophecies have a sort of duration. As Robert Boyle had emphasized, prophecies:

...have a peculiar advantage above most other miracles, on the force of their duration; since the manifest proofs of the prediction continue  still, and are as visible as the extent of the Christian religion".62

As the common argument at the end of the sev enteenth century developed, the fulfillment of a prophecy provides a demonstration; and there is no second-hand testimony involved in the process of demonstration (as in the case of a miracle) but a sort of "direct observation" 63. There is, of course, the problem of interpretation: the very fulfillment of  a prophecy being dependant on the historical scheme addopted. But the general argument did not mention t he interpretation at all, considering that on the true interpretation of the Biblical text and on the case of a correct interpretation of human history, the fulfillment of a prophecy is a historical event to wh ich we can have first hand testimony, as for any other historical event. Although under severe conditi ons, in principle, the philosopher can get to this meaning just by following the methodology of the true scientific research 64. Therefore, under the epistemological constraints of the new experimental philosophy, a prophecy is more credible and more convincing than a miracle.

But, all these being so, it is even more intere sting why, in his correspondence with Leibniz, Clarke change his definition of what is a miracle. In deed, most of the underlying discussion about the status and role of miracles in connection with t he prophecies dissapeared. Bearing in mind Clarke's second Boyle lecture, the definition of miracles in  terms of unusualness becomes clear. A miracle is a unusual event produced by the interposition of a prophet (or other intelligent being superior to man, as an angel) into the general course of nature. It  is not something against or above the "laws of nature" and it is also not something which exceds the ordinary actions or powers through which the world is created. This is, so to say, the missing part of t he defintion in the correspondence between Clarke and Leibniz. Now, it is important to note that Clarke's writings and especially his Boyle lectures were quite widely read at the beginning of eighteenth century and, moreover, that Leibniz read them carefully65. So why did Clarke hide a part of his definition of  what is a miracle in his letters? Why did he never mention the whole issue of prophecies and the connection between miracles and prophecies? It has been suggested that Clarke's position in the controversy has been weakened by Clarke's own previous troubles with the Church of England, from 1711-12, wh en he was forced to retract some of his views on the doctrine of Trinity and lost his position of royal chaplain 66. In a very documented article, Larry Stewart has shown that Clarke's exposion as an antr -Trinitarian, following the publication of his  The Scripture Doctrine of Trinity (1712) triggered similar discussions around Newton's  General Scholium from 1713 (or even  caused the publication of the  General Scholium)67. Therefore, Clarke's and Newton's heresy became almost a public issue. Consequently, Le ibniz's accusations in the correspondence might have been more dangerous than they seem, coming  after a previous scandal. However, it is still not very clear why Clarke's views on  miracles, which, as we have seen rely heavily on English natural philosophy tradition are to be connected with his heretical views on Trinity. Moreover, as we have seen, most of the discussion linking miracles an d prophecies is also a matte r of a traditional public debate. Both on his argument on the epistemological use of the miracles and in the connection between prophecies and miracles, Clarke's attempt to complete the definition seems to move on steady grounds. Again, the strategy is misleading and the  whole development from 1705's Boyle Lectures is hiding something: the true meaning of what count s for Clarke, and for Newton, as a prophecy and the highly unortodox Newtonian interpretation of the past fulfillment of prophecies.


From 1710 on, for Newton and for the Newt onians, the question of Newton's theological manuscripts, of Newton's theological views and the  subsequent religious beliefs was higly problematic. As it has been recently shown by authors like Steven Snobelen, Rob Iliffe or less recently by Richard Popkin and E. Force, Newton was not only a heretic  but a heretic with a certain number of disciples and followers. Clarke was certainly one of the prominent memebers of "Newton sect". Much remains to be done concerning the extent, religious beliefs or  theological view of this group, as for knowing why and how were they perceived at the beginning of the eighteenth century. However, from what has been already discussed concerning the events of 1711-13, it is rather obvious that the Newtonians had a hard time. William Whiston was convicted for he lding and discussing antitrinitarian views and expelled from the University. Samuel Clarke was suspected, convicted, forced to retract his views and lost a very important position. Newton himself seems to have been more exposed than previously thought. Meanwhile, his position was one of the most  important of his time: renown scientist and matematician, influential philosopher, Master of the  Royal Mint and president of the Royal Society, Newton was at least a very important public figure  if not the most imporant public figure for English philosophy of that time. As Steven Snobelen has  shown, although rumours concerning Newton's heterodoxy have spread in England and on  the Continent, publicly exposing Newton have been considered either impossible or too dangerou s. However this might be, for Newton and for his followers, there were dangerous subjects. And the interpretation of the prophecies was one of them because it was tied up with all the troubles that Whiston and Clarke had in the previous years. Already the publication of General Scholium as a concludi ng piece of the second edition of the  Principia stirred the spirits68. The General Scholium could be used and it was used to unveil a part of Newton's heretical beliefs concerning the one supreme God. But it was one thing to invoke to God of the Dominion and another to get into details concerning Newton's private beliefs concerning prophecies. That is why the subject of miracles was considered as extremely dangerous by Clarke and Newton alike. That is why at least a part of the discussion concerning the miraculous had to be hidden. Acting as the chief pupeteer, Newton himself prepared the strategy of concealme nt. In a draft manuscript from 1715 one can find what will be ofered as a solution to the problem:

"Miracles are so called not because they are the works of God but because they happen seldom and for that reason to create wonder.  If they should happen constantly according to certain laws impressed upon that nature of things, they would be no longer wonders of miracles but would be considered in philosophy as a pa rt of the phenomena of nature notwithstanding that the cause of their ccauses might be unknown to us.69"

What we have here is the whole strategy of giving only a part of a definition. It is also a reference to a long contemporary orthodox discussion about  miracles as signs of God's goodness and grace interpreted as legitimising the true religion. Newton 's own views on miracles has, in addition, the link with the prophecies: miracles are signs of the true prophet.

There are practically no occurences of the  word miracle in Newton's published writings. However, there are some relevant places to look fo r the term or for the discussion. A favorite place for starting a discussion about Newton's conception of miracles has been Newton's letter to Burnett from January 1680/1, where Newton claims that:

"Miracles, in the sense of unusual events, were necessary for such people and indeed were a mark of God's accomodation of his message to the capaccities of its intended recipients."

We have here both sides of Clarke's definition;  not only that the miracles are unusual events produced in order to create wonder, but also that they are a divine message "accomodated" to the recipients. This is a departure from the strict epistemological sense of the miracles: here, what Newton had in view is the sign: a miracle is an unusual event with a particular signification. A message from God. There is nothing new and extraordinary, in fact, bec ause no one can deny that a miracle is a sign from God. It is less usual, but by no means heretical  to say that in performing miracles, God has accomodated his message to the capacities of humans. However, the question of the language of the prophets in Newton's term is less common and less orthodox.

There is still a lot to be done in the the exploration of Newton's theological manuscripts, especially if we are interested in the details of his interpretation of prophecies. However, from what has been done so far, we can already have a rough picture of what counts as a proph ecy and what does it mean for a prophecy to be fulfilled. For Newton, unlike for most of his contemporaries, most of Biblical prophecies are talking not about the future, but about the past. Most of the prophecies were already fulfilled in the first centuries of the Christianity. The time of the miracles has passed not only because God cannot or do not want to make miracles, but beceause there are no true prophets anymore.

And here we have the first reason to keep this vi ew out of reach of the public: Newton's own and peculiar explanation of why the miracles had cease d. The answer is simple: in the fourth century BC the last and the most horrendous of the corrupt ions of the true religion had occured. Athanasius and his followers changed the Church, the meaning of Christianity and, in Newton's opinion, most of its sacred books. All the following history of humankind is a history of corruption and decay. Not only the physical universe needs a restoration but also (a nd primarily) the human history. Between other mistakes of the fourth century followers of Atha nasius, founding monasticism was the most dangerous and performing false miracles was the most corrupted.  In his violent anti-catholicism, Newton accused the whole monastic movement as being only one of t he notable corruption of the true religion. There were no miracles after 4 th century because there were no true prophets after the 4 th century. At least, not known prophets. As such, most of the miracles recorded by the Church history are false miracles.

Another reason to keep as quiet as possible on  the subject of prophecies and miracles is Newton's conviction that by looking at the history,  and especially at the Church history we can, if we apply the correct scientific methodology, observe a certain  pattern of the fulfillment of biblical prophecies. In several manuscripts, Newton's concerns  with interpreting the prophetical language is strongly connected with assigning a  political pattern to the fulfullment of prophecies. The main reason seems to be the attempt to use prophecies for tracing a sort of regularity in God's general providence. In Newton's own terms, we can hope to see the  law underlying the phenomenal domain. The logical consequence of this line of interpretation is that once we have spotted the pattern, or the law, there are no more miracles or singular events but only instances of a general law.


1.  Roger Ariew, ed., G.W. Leibniz and Samuel Clarke. Correspondence.,  Hackett Publishing Company, Indianapolis, Cambridge, 2000. 2.  Robert Boyle, A Free Enquiry into the Vulgarly Received Notion of Nature,  edited by M. Hunter, E. Davis, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1996. 3.  R. M. Burns, The Great Debate on Miracles from Joseph Glanvill to David Hume, Lewisburg, Bucknell University PRess, London, 1981. 4.  Samuel Clarke, A Demonstration of the Being and Attributes of God and Other Writings,  edited by Enzio Vaillati, CUP, 1998. 5.  Peter Harrisson, "Prophecy, Early Modern Apologetics and Hume's Argument against Miracles", JHI, 60, 1999, 241-256. 6.  P. Harrison, "Newtonian Science, Miracles and the Laws of Nature",  Journal of the history of ideas, 56, 1995, 531-550. 7.  R. Hooykaas, Natural Law and Divine Miracle. T he Principle of Uniformity in Geology, Biology, and Theology, Second Impression, LEiden, Brill, 1963. 8.  Sarah Hutton, "The Seven Trumpets and the Se ven Vials: Apocalypticism and Christology in Newton's Theological Writings", in J.E.Force, R.H. Popkin,  Newton and Religion. Context, Nature and Influence, Kluwer, 2000, 165-177. 9.  Rob Iliffe, "A "connecteed system"? The Snare of  a Beautiful Hand and  the Unity of Newton's Archive", în M. Hunter,  Archives of the Scientific Revolution. The Formation and Exchange of Ideas in Seventeenth Century Europe, The Boydell Press, 1997. 10.  D. Bertoloni Meli, "Newton and the Leibniz- C larke correspondence", in I. B. Cohen, George E. Smith, The Cambridge Companion to Newton, Cambridge University Press, 2002, 455-464. 11.  D. Bertoloni Meli, "Caroline, Leibniz and Clarke", JHI, 60, 1999, 469-86. 12.  A. Robinet, Correspondance Leibniz Clarcke. Presentee d'apres les manuscrit originaux des bibliotheques de Hanivre et Londres, PUF, 1957, 2eme edition, 1991. 13.  Stewen Snobelen, « Isaac Newton heretic : the strategies of a Nicodemite, BJPS, 1999. 14.  Larry Stewart, "Samuel Clarke,  Newtonianism and the Factions of Post-Revolutionary England, JHI, 42, 1981, 53-72. 15.  Larry Stuart, "Seeing through the Scholium: Re ligion and Reading Newton in the Eighteenth Century, History of Science, 34, 1996, pg. 123-165. 16.  E. Vailati, Leibniz and Clarke: A study of their Correspondence, Oxford University Press, 1997.

1 There are lots of commentaries concerning the subjects, importance, philosophical issues, and political background of Leibniz–Clarke correspondence. They may differ as to the prominence given to miracles in the letters. Some au- thors prefers to focus on more "philosophical" subjects as  the nature of space and time. However, as most of the recent commentaries have shown, the Leibniz-Clarke correspondence had been constructed around few philosophi- cal points, all having to do with the nature of God's rel ation with his creation and the way He is acting into the world. In this context, the discussion about miracles is essential. It is also very important if we take into considera- tion the context and the public of the debate. See D. Bertoloni-Meli, 1999, 2002, E. Vailati, 1997.
2 In Leibniz letter to Caroline from 10 May 1715, just before the first letter of the debate with Carke, one can find the main line of attack against Newton an s Newton's sect whose natural philos ophy is based on a  perpetual miracle (universal attraction) while constructing an explicit refutation of the true miracle of the Eucharist. See Robinet, 1991, 18.
3 Bertoloni Meli, 1999, 2002. See also Roger Ariew's introduction to his English edition of the correspondence, Hackett, 2000, p. vii-xv. 4 Bertoloni Meli, 1999, 2002, Stewart, 1996, Snobelen, 1999.
5 Extraits des lettres de Conti concernant Newton, communiques par Remond à Leibniz, 12 July 1615, Robinet, 1991, p. 20.
6 See Andrew Cunningham, "How the Principia got its name: or, taking natural philosophy seriously", in History of Science, 29, 1991, 377-392. "Cunningham thesis", that natural philosophy was a discourse about God, has been widely supported in particular cases as for example in Snobelen's and Illife's papers concerning Newton's natural philosophy and theology.
7 Harrison, "Newtonian Science, Miracles and the Laws of Nature", JHI, 56, (1995), 531-550.
8 Snobelen, 1999.
9 Bertoloni Meli, 1999 and 2000 draws constant attention to the importance of the accusations formulated in the let- ters from the point of view of the theological context involved. Some of Leibniz'accuzations, and especially the one involving Sociniansm and mortalism have been devised in order to undermine the credibility of Newton's friends and allies together with the credibility of Newtonian natural philosophy. See Bertoloni Meli, 2002, p. 458.
10 See Harrison, 1995, p. 531, Force, 1990.
11 See for example Robert Boyle's claim that: "And indeed, if we consider God as the author of the universe, and the free establisher of the laws of motion, whose general concourse is necessary to the conservation and efficacy of every particular physical agent, we cannot but acknowledge  that, by with-holding his concourse, or changing those laws of motion, which depende perfectly on his will, he may  invalidate most, if not all the axioms and theorems of natural philosophy." Boyle, Works, III, 516, The reconciliableness of Reason and Religion.
12 J.E. Force, "Hume and the Relation of Science to  Religion among certain members of the Royal Society",  JHI, 45 (1984), 517-536. In his analysis, Force starts with a claim concerning the extent of the phenomenon during the sec- ond half of the seventeenth and the beginning of eighteen th centuries, when a numerous range of apoligetic books and pamphlets maintain that the scientific study of nature shows both general and special providence.
13 Force, op.cit., p. 520.
14 Force, op. cit., op. 520-521 refers to them as "institutionalized arguments".
15 Harrison, 1995.
16 Thomas Spratt, The History of Royal Society, p. 360.  The same kind of attitude can be found in Wilkins' Of the Princi- ples and Duties of Natural Religion, p. 130. For Wilkins, it is "not reasonable to think that the universal laws of nature, by which thngs are to be guided in their natural causes, should infrequently or upon every little occasiin be violated or disordered." Other similar opinions are investigated by Force, 1984, 521-522.
17 See Spratt,  The History of Royal Society,  p. 349, 360, John Wilkins,  Of the Principlas and Duties of Natural Religion, quoted by Force, 1984, p. 521-522, Robert Boyle, A Free Inquiry..., IV, 339a. See also Peter Harrison, "Prophecy, Early Modern Apoligetice snd Hume's Argument Against Miracles", JHI 60 (1999), 241-256.
18 One of Boyle's most widely read works,  The Origins of Forms and Qualities,  became a sort of manifesto for the whole "programme" of the mechanical philosophy. See for example Peter Anstey, 2002.
19 "Boyle's voluntarism is most evident in his strong supernaturalism, according to which God had in the past and might at any time in the future suspend the ordinary course  of nature, acting in special ways to achieve particular ends. Thus, Boyle was fascinated by evidence from miracles and fulfilled prophecies, which appeared to vindicate such a role in the world on God's part", M. Hunter, Introduction, in Boyle, A Free Enquiry into the Vulgarly Received No- tion of Nature, edited by M. Hunter and E.B. Davis, CUP, 1996, p. XV.
20 Selected Philosophical Papers of Robert Boyle,  M.A. Stewart, ed., Manchester University Press, Barnes and Noble Books, New York, 1979, p. 18
21 A Free Enquiry into the Vulgarly Received Notion of Nature, M. Hunter, E.Davis, eds, Cambridge University Press, 1996, p. 14.
22 There is an interesting reference in Boyle's text to Epicu reans which are in fact denying miracles even if in theory they admit them. A Free Inquiry, 1996, p. 14. It is especially interesting because we can find the same line of defence against "Epicureans" in Newton's correnspondence with Bentley. By attributing active qualities to matter the Epicu- reans are close to atheism. What we have here is not only a general voluntaristic trend but also a peculiar accusa- tion linking any interposition of mediators (spirits, active properties and so on) with the danger of "atheism". 23 A Free Enquiry, 1996, p. 24, 60.
24 A Free Enquiry, 1996, p. 99-100.
25 For example in the Origins of Forms and qualities, A Free Enquiry, The Usefulness of Natural Philosophy etc.
26 A Free Enquiry, p. 163
27 Ibid., p. 114.
28 Ibid, p. 163.
29 In Leibniz second reply, Newton's philosophy and Newton's sect are accused of being Epicureans (and material- ists), Spinozists (and materialists), Soccians. See Robinet, p. 37-39. About the content and context of such allegations see Bertoloni Meli, 1999, 2002.
30 Explicitly formulated at the end of Opticks, Query 31.
31 There are many passages in Newton's published and unpublis hed writings concerning the lack of a general law of conservation. See his letters to Bentley from 1693 and some of his queries at the end of the Opticks, esp. Query 23 and Query 31.
32 In Newton's first letter to Bentley, for example.
33 See McGuire, 1970, Dana Jalobeanu, The place of the laws of nature in the conceptual structure of the Scienctific Revolu- tion, New Europe College Yearbook, 2001.
34 Robinet, p. 34.
35 Clarke, A Demonstration of the Being and Attributes of God and Other Writings, edited by Enzio Vaillati, CUP, 1998, p. 148.
36 Newton's standard argument that the world is imperfe ct because there is no general conservation law and the Universe is slowing down therefore needs a reformation. See Newton's first letter to Bentley, December, 1692,  Cor- respondence of Isaac Newton, edited by H.W. Turnbull, vol. III.
37 Robinet, p. 31.
38 Robinet, 18.
39 Letter to Conti, 9 April, 1716, Robinet 64.
40 Robinet, p. 107-109
41 Robinet, p. 50
42 Robinet, p. 72
43 Robinet, p. 98. Leibniz' fourth letter, 43.
44 Robinet, 115-116
45 Robinet, p. 114.
46 Robinet, p. 206
47 Robinet, p. 200-201
48 See Newton's distinction between universal and essential properties in  Regulae philosophandi, at the beginning of Book III of the Principia.
49 Robinet, p. 209.
50 Robinet, p. 209.
51 S. Clarke, A Demonstration of the Being and Attributes of God and Other Writings, edited by Enzio Vailati, CUP, 1998
52 Clarke, A Demonstration of Being and Attributes of God and Other Writings, ed. E. Vaillati, CUP, 1998, p. 147.
53 Ibid., p. 148.
54 Ibid., p. 148-149.
55 Ibid., p. 148.
56 Ibid., p. 149.
57 Ibid., p. 150.
58 Ibid., p. 150.
59 See also Enzio Vaillati, Leibniz and Clarke, OUP, 1997, Ch. 5.1.
60 Peter Harrison, "Prophecy, Early Modern Apologetics and Hume's Argument Against Miracles", JHI, 60/1999, 242- 244.
61 Harrison, op. cit., p. 242.
62 Boyle, The Christian Virtuoso, quoted in Harrison, 1999, p. 715.
63 Harrison, op. cit., p. 244-247.
64 Newton, Keynes Ms 5, Yahuda Ms 1 etc., strongly emph asized the univocity of the prophetical language and the scientific methodology necessary for the interpretation.
65 E. Vaillati, Leibniz and Clarke, chap. 5.1.
66 Bertoloni Meli, op.cit., Steven Snobelen, "Isaac Newton h eretic: the strategies of a Nicodemite", BJHS, 32 (1999), 381-419.
67 Larry Stewart, "Seing through the Scholium: Relig ion and Reading Newton in  the Eighteenth Century", History of Science, 34 (1996), 123-165.
68 Stewart, op.cit., Snobelen, op. cit.
69 Newton, quoted in Harrison, 1995, pg. 539.