Paper Abstracts

Robert Merrihew Adams, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
"Perfection, Justice, and Love in Leibniz's City of God"

In contrast to Descartes and Spinoza, Leibniz insists on reasoning in theology from ethical or value-theoretical premises that are not inferred from revelation or experience of what God has done. This, as much as anything else, marks Leibniz as a proto-Enlightenment thinker, in a lineage that extends from ancient theistic Platonism through Kant to the theological reflections John Rawls's final years. The lecture will discuss the Theodicy in that historical and philosophical context, with attention to Leibniz's views on the relation of divine perfections to the attributes of created substances, and particularly on the relation of divine to human justice.

Maria Rosa Antognazza, Kings College, London
"Metaphysical Evil Revisited"

In the Theodicy, Leibniz famously distinguishes three kinds of evil: "Le mal metaphysique consiste dans la simple imperfection, le mal physique dans la suffrance et le mal moral dans le peché." (§ 21, GP VI, 115). The standard reading of the notion of metaphysical evil presented in this passage combines it with what Leibniz says about imperfection in the immediately preceding paragraph (§ 20): "il faut considerer qu'il y a une imperfection originale dans la creature avant le peché, parceque la creature est limitée essentiellement". According to this reading of Leibniz, metaphysical evil consists "in mere imperfection or the limitation of essence of any finite being"; for Leibniz, this original limitation of creatures qua creatures is "the most basic" kind of evil and "the ultimate source of both physical and moral evil" (Rutherford, Leibniz and the Rational Order of Nature, p. 10).

Metaphysical evil appears to cast a sinister shadow over God's creation as well as Leibniz's theodicean efforts. It seems that creatures, simply in virtue of not being gods, are in some sense intrinsically and inescapably evil, and that this partially yet necessarily evil nature is the ultimate cause of every other evil. In an intriguing paper on "Leibniz's Conception of Metaphysical Evil" (Journal of the History of Ideas, 1994), Michael Latzer has challenged the usual interpretation of metaphysical evil as referring to the limitation of creatures qua creatures. After drawing attention to the disastrous consequences of such a conception from a theist standpoint, Latzer notes that Augustine and Aquinas (with whose views Leibniz "explicitly identifies") do not regard creaturely limitation as evil since, according to them, only the privation of a perfection that a certain creature is expected to have can be regarded as evil.

In view of this problem, I propose to take a fresh look in this paper at what Leibniz says about metaphysical evil and, more generally at his taxonomy of evil in the light of existing taxonomies which were available to him. I will try to establish what Leibniz means by metaphysical evil and, in particular, whether for him it does include creaturely limitation. In so doing, I will also discuss the notion of physical evil and ask why facts such as earthquakes and birth defects are classified by Leibniz as metaphysical evils as opposed to their usual classification as natural evils. The fact that, in broad terms, Leibniz's approach to the problem of evil follows in the footsteps of the Augustinian-Thomistic tradition does not exclude the possibility of significant unadvertised deviations from this tradition. This possibility would in fact be in line with Leibniz's characteristic eagerness to signal his agreement with other thinkers even while subtly recasting their views. I will come to the conclusion that choosing the label of metaphysical evil for what Leibniz had in mind might have been not only unfortunate, but also ill-judged. That being said, I will conclude that Leibniz's notion of metaphysical evil is not as sinister as it at first sight appears.

Greg Brown, University of Houston
"The Theodicy and the Leibniz-Clarke Correspondence"

In his correspondence with Clarke, Leibniz refers to the Theodicy only eight times, and five of those references actually appear in his last letter for Clarke. The paucity of references to the Theodicy in the correspondence between Leibniz and Clarke, especially prior to Leibniz's final letter, tends to obscure the important role that the Theodicy played in provoking the correspondence in the first place, as well as the role it played in its subsequent development. Only behind the scenes, in his letters to Caroline, is the significance of the Theodicy in Leibniz's exchange with Clarke clearly revealed.

The letter that actually provoked the exchange between Clarke and Leibniz was not, of course, actually addressed to Clarke. What in his edition Clarke referred to as "Mr. Leibnitz's First Paper" was, in fact, as Clarke also noted, "An Extract of a Letter Written in November, 1715." The original letter had been addressed to Leibniz's erstwhile companion in Hanover, the recently instated princess of Wales, Caroline. And although the extract contains Leibniz's furious attack on the decline of natural religion in England— and thus alludes to themes that bulk large in the Theodicy—the Theodicy itself is not mentioned. But in the letter, which has never been published in its entirety, Leibniz prefaces his attack on the English philosophers with a discussion of a project he was attempting to pursue with Caroline's help, namely, that of having an English translation of the Theodicy published in England; and just before he commenced his attack, he remarked in deliberate understatement that "I dare say that it [the Theodicy] would be needed a bit in England."

I will provide evidence to suggest that the Theodicy translation project was probably hatched during Leibniz's nearly month-long stay with Caroline at Herrenhausen prior to her departure for England—a stay that had been made at her request, partly in order that she could read through the Theodicy with Leibniz again before she left Germany. I will then trace the role of the Theodicy translation project in the development of the Leibniz–Clarke correspondence and in Leibniz's attempt to secure Caroline's support in his dispute with the Newtonians.

Agustín Echavarría, Universidad de Navarra
"Leibniz's Dilemma on Predestination"

Leibniz assumes in his Theodicy a double strategy in order to solve two different controversies concerning predestination. On one hand, we have the dispute between Calvinists, who held the doctrine of the 'absolute decree' in God's election and reprobation, and Lutherans, who situated the reason of election and reprobation in God's foreknowledge of men's faith and infidelity. Leibniz tries to reconcile both confessions through his metaphysical theses of the 'unity of the creating decree' (UD) and of the notio completa of individual substances (NC). God neither predestines nor reproves anybody in particular, but formulates one unique decree through which he resolves to create the best. This decree refers to a complete world which, even from its own possibility, involves the complete individual substances with determined graces and actions, from which stem each men's salvation or damnation.

On the other hand, there is the dispute between 'Particularists' (mostly Gomarists), and 'Universalists' (mainly Remonstrants). The former affirmed that God wants to save only His chosen, while the latter stressed God's 'universal salvific will'. In order to approach both positions, Leibniz introduces a metaphysical interpretation of the scholastic distinction between 'antecedent divine will' (AW)—through which God aims to achieve every good in particular, such as the salvation of all men—and 'consequent divine will' (CW)—which is the resultant sum of all his antecedent wills, in virtue of which God chooses the best world, with all the particular sins and damnations involved in it.

This creates a dilemma in Leibniz's thought. The assumption of the scheme AW–CW in a non–trivial sense seems to require: a) that AW must have a real effect in the creature; b) the existence of undetermined created free will as an actual conditioning factor of AW. Both seem to be incompatible with UD and NC: God cannot with a 'serious' will want someone to be saved if he is determined to sin and to damnation in the very realm of possibles. The purpose of this paper is to show different possible solutions for the dilemma, focusing in providing a correct account of the metaphysical status of 'sufficient grace' and its universality.

Daniel Garber, Princeton University
"Metaphysics and Theology: The Role of the Monadology in Leibniz's Theodicy"

Writing on 5 May 1714, Nicolas Remond remarked that a friend "spoke rightly when he compared the knowledge we have of your system of monads to that which one would have of the sun by the single rays that escape the clouds that cover it." At that point, the Theodicy, published four years earlier, was one of the main sources Leibniz's public had for learning the details of of his metaphysics. In this essay I would like to explore the view of Leibniz's monadological metaphysics that one could get from the Theodicy and related publications, and the role that that metaphysics plays in the more central theological project of that work.

Jonathan Israel, Institute for Advanced Studies
"Leibniz’s Theodicy as a Critique of Spinoza and Bayle – and Blueprint for the Philosophy Wars of the Eighteenth Century"

Nicholas Jolley, University of California, Irvine
"Is Leibniz's Theodicy a Set of Variations on a Theme by Malebranche?"

Leibniz's theodicy has sometimes been described as a set of variations on themes by Malebranche. Leibniz himself arguably encourages the reader to view his theodicy in this light; in the Theodicy itself Leibniz remarks that Malebranche's system is easily reduced to his own by reducing the two conditions of simplicity and fecundity to the single advantage of maximizing perfection (para. 208). However, to accept Leibniz's characteristically eirenical suggestion at face value would be a mistake. In this paper we shall demonstrate the important differences between Malebranche's and Leibniz's approaches to the problem of evil. We shall argue that Malebranche does not offer a vindication of God's justice due to his commitment to the claim that God is solely motivated by self-love in creating the world and that humanity's fallen nature disqualifies it from God's concern for particular human suffering. Leibniz on the other hand is committed to a more optimistic appraisal of human nature, considering human souls as mirrors not only of the universe but also of God. Leibniz's optimistic metaphysics and lack of interest in the Fall lead him to the conclusion that promoting human happiness is a central motivation for God. These commitments distinguish Leibniz's defense of God from Malebranche's project which is 'theotimology' - that is, the rational study of how God's actions honor and glorify him.

Christia Mercer, Columbia University
"Leibniz's Theodicy and the Epistemological Problem of Evil"

Jewish and Christian theists have often claimed that God is in the world and in human beings. Consider Paul: "One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all" (Ephesians, 4:6); "For in him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28); God is that "of whom all things are, through whom all things are, in whom all things are" (Rom.11: 36). If the Supreme Being is so present, then why can't humans know the divinity more easily? The grave difficulty of attaining any proper knowledge of God generates what I call the Epistemological Problem of Evil. As Paul insists, those who have sought the truth "are without excuse" in that "what can be known about God has shown it [the truth] to them. Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made..." And yet Paul acknowledges, "[they] became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened" so that "claiming to be wise, they became fools" (Romans 1:18-23). This paper explores the severity of the Epistemological Problem of Evil for early modern thinkers and places Leibniz's Theodicy in this context.

Michael J. Murray, Franklin and Marshall College
"Vindicatio Dei: Evil as a Result of God’s Free Choice of the Best"

Central to Leibniz's theodicy is the claim that God has chosen to actualize the best of all possible worlds. Indeed, Leibniz goes further, arguing that God's perfection not only leads God to actualize the best world, but makes God's choice to actualize the best world unavoidable. But how then could Leibniz defend the freedom of God in creating, or the contingency of states of affairs created? This paper examines the history of the discussion of the compatibility of God's goodness with God's freedom in creating from the thirteenth through the seventeenth century, giving detailed attention to the discussion as it unfolds during within seventeenth century scholasticism. I argue that Leibniz's own thought on this issue was deeply informed by this earlier discussion and provides crucial background for understanding his own mature view.

Paul Rateau, Université Paris
The Theoretical Foundations of the Leibnizian Theodicy and its Apologetic Aim

In this paper, I would like to show the originality of Leibniz's project in the Essais de Théodicée. Leibniz is of course not the first philosopher to try to reconcile the wisdom, goodness, and omnipotence of God with the existence of evil in our world. In a way, he belongs to a great tradition initiated by Plato. However, is Theodicy only a name created by him to refer to this traditional and recurrent attempt? Do we have to regard the Essais de Théodicée as a summary or a précis of all the arguments in favor of Divine Justice gathered by the philosophical and theological tradition? I think we have to take Leibniz seriously when he says that his attempt is not only to show that a world with evil could be better than a world without, but to demonstrate that our Universe must be the best (Abrégé, I).

I will focus on the theoretical foundations of the Leibnizian Theodicy and emphasize the problems raised by this doctrine of Divine Justice, a doctrine Leibniz is reluctant to call a science in its own right. The Theodicy attempts to solve the problem of evil in a rational manner. It supposes a certain conception of God and of his action (God always acts according wisdom, goodness and justice, never in an arbitrary way), a certain idea of justice (whose principles are not established by God, but are universal, uncreated and eternal), and the harmony between Faith and Reason (two sources of truths). The Theodicy also has a defensive and apologetic aim: it replies to objections against the perfection and the goodness of God. Given this, the Theodicy involves different types of discourse and argument that are not and do not claim to be, in a strict sense, demonstrative.

Donald Rutherford, University of California, San Diego
"Justice and Circumstances: Theodicy as Universal Religion"

Leibniz's Theodicy can be read as an apology for a certain conception of universal religion, which has been realized historically (if imperfectly) through Christianity. At the heart of this religion is the idea of God as a supremely just creator, who has brought into existence the best of all possible worlds, in which a special place is reserved for rational beings who have the potential to live in fellowship with God. Less clearly defined is what a rational being must do and believe in order to participate fully in the kingdom of God. I will argue that the key to understanding this lies in the emphasis Leibniz gives in the Theodicy to les circonstances. Whether one's life leads to ultimate happiness and union with God depends upon circumstances that are outside one's control, including the seemingly arbitrary dispensation of divine grace. To be virtuous in the fullest sense, manifested in a perfect love of God, and to enjoy the happiness that is consequent on virtue, one must believe that God has provided for one's happiness through particular aids of grace. That is, one must accept that one's own destiny, and not just that of the world as a whole, depends upon God's providence, which provides the basis for the hope that as an individual one may overcome the limitations inherent in created human nature.

Tad M. Schmaltz, University of Michigan
"Moral Evil and Divine Concurrence in the Theodicy"

This paper concerns Leibniz's attempt to argue in the Theodicy that God is not the author of the "moral evil"—that is, sin–deriving from the free choice of created agents, despite the fact that he "concurs" with this evil in both a "moral" and "physical" manner. I begin by attempting to explain Leibniz's distinction of moral from "metaphysical" and "physical" evil in a manner that makes clear why he takes the former to introduce the most serious difficulty for divine conduct. Then I turn to the case of God's moral concurrence with sin. Though Leibniz takes this case to be most troubling, his treatment of it seems to be relatively straightforward. For God's moral concurrence consists in his failure to prevent the sin he knows will occur and has the power to prevent, and Leibniz insists that this failure is justified by the fact that God's prevention of such sin would also prevent the actual world from being the best one possible. However, Leibniz notes in addition the complicating requirement that this moral concurrence involve God's merely permitting, and not actually willing, the sin. This requirement seems to be in some tension with his claim that God physically concurs with creatures in the production of all of their actions, including their sinful ones. The problem, in particular, is that since God wills what he produces, this sort of concurrence would seem to involve his willing the sinful action, and not merely permitting it. In order to address this problem, I emphasize Leibniz's position that privations in creatures serve as a special kind of "deficient cause" of sin, with which God does not physically concur. My conclusion is that this position provides essential support for Leibniz's conclusion that God merely permits sin in morally concurring with it.

R.C. Sleigh (University of Massachusetts, Amherst) and Sean Greenberg (University of California, Irvine)
"Translating the Theodicy"

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, nor, for that matter, has it been taught much. 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 a work, and although portions of the work are sometimes assigned in courses, few professors would be so temerarious as to assign their students the entire Theodicy.

We believe that the only widely available translation of the Theodicy, published by Open Court Publishing Company, to which we will refer as the Huggard translation, since E. M. Huggard provided the translation, has contributed to the fact that the Theodicy still remains to be received as a work by both scholars and students. In this, the three hundredth anniversary of the publication of the Theodicy, we believe that the time is ripe for a new English translation of the work, whose 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.

We will discuss the principles of translation that we will be following in translating the Theodicy; we will explain how consideration of the manuscripts of the Theodicy will add to the understanding of the text; and we will explain how the annotations that we propose to include in our edition—especially in the student edition—will help to ensure that Leibniz's Theodicy can be received as a contribution to the intellectual life of the Republic of Letters and a fitting culmination to Leibniz’s lifelong project of Church reunification.