Leibniz's Theodicy

Portrait of Leibniz

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz published only one book in his lifetime, the Essays on Theodicy: On the Goodness of God, the Freedom of Man, and the Origin of Evil—commonly referred to simply as the Theodicy—but despite the vast amount of scholarly work on Leibniz, the Theodicy still has not received due scholarly attention. Although, to be sure, the Theodicy has not been ignored, scholars have mined the Theodicy for insights into Leibniz’s views on particular topics rather than treating it as its own work.

Scholars have long lamented the lack of a complete English translation and/or critical edition of Leibniz's seminal Theodicy. The only available English edition (the so-called Huggard translation) is outmoded, translates none of the Latin or Greek texts, excludes a long and important appendix, and contains no critical apparatus at all.

Since 2010 marks the 300th anniversary of the publication of the Theodicy, the time is ripe for a new edition of the work. Its dissemination in both student and scholarly editions will enable readers to penetrate its admittedly somewhat forbidding style and begin, finally, to grasp its significance for the understanding of Leibniz's philosophy, early modern philosophy and intellectual culture generally, and the philosophical problems that it treats: the nature of divine providence, human freedom, and evil.

The issues that Leibniz engages in the Theodicy—the relation between faith and reason, the source and nature of evil, the nature of providence, and the nature of human freedom—are, of course, not merely of historical significance but continue to receive considerable attention both from philosophers and from public intellectuals. This new edition of the Theodicy will make Leibniz's contributions to these issues more readily accessible to a wider range of readers than ever before. The edition will not only constitute a contribution to the history of these issues but to ongoing philosophical debates.

Robert Sleigh (University of Massachusetts, Amherst) and Sean Greenberg (University of California, Irvine) have agreed to complete this new translation by the summer of 2011. Sleigh, a world-renowned expert in Leibniz studies, has previously translated and edited an excellent and important volume of Leibniz texts entitled Confessio Philosophi and Papers Concerning the Problem of Evil, 1671-1678 (Yale University Press, 2005). Greenberg, fluent in French, is a leading young scholar of early modern philosophy whose published work has centered on conceptions of the passions and the will.

The translation is now under contract with Oxford University Press.