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Leibniz’s Egypt Plan (1671–1672): from holy war to ecumenism

Strickland, L (2016) Leibniz’s Egypt Plan (1671–1672): from holy war to ecumenism. Intellectual History Review. ISSN 1561-5324

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At the end of 1671 and start of 1672, while in the service of the Archbishop and Elector of Mainz, Leibniz composed his Egypt Plan, which sought to persuade Louis XIV to invade Egypt. Scholars have generally supposed that Leibniz’s rationale for devising the plan was to divert Louis from his intended war with Holland. Little attention has been paid to the religious benefits that Leibniz identified in the plan, and those who do acknowledge them are often quick to downplay them. This tendency to downplay or even dismiss the religious benefits Leibniz claimed of the Egypt Plan is undermotivated and stems from a very superficial reading of the documents that together comprise it. In this paper I argue that we should take seriously Leibniz’s claim that a French invasion of Egypt would bring religious benefits, and that he saw them as important and intrinsically desirable inasmuch as he came to believe that the execution of the plan would lead to the flowering of co-operation and brotherhood among Christians in a show of inter-denominational koinonia, that is, fellowship with other Christians in the participation of shared goals.

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