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On the crassness of Leibniz's metaphysics.

"TO LIVE IS TO SUFFER" is the Buddha's first noble truth, and if the Buddha was right about the prominence of suffering (or pain, or evil, and so on) in life--a prominence which for many makes of this life a vale of tears--then perhaps any philosophy that does not attempt to come to terms with this fundamental reality is, in just that measure, a failure. Of course, especially because evil or suffering (in others, at least) is never a matter of direct perception, it is a legitimate question, right from the start, just how prominent suffering is, and there are many factors that determine how one answers it. Whether by temperament, by experience, by understanding, or by some combination of such factors, some take a bleak, pessimistic view of human history, regarding it as "a succession of contingencies, catastrophes and occasional lapses into peace and civilization." (1) Others are more optimistic and see history largely as a succession of positive--even if at times extremely hard-won--advances. To this latter group Leibniz might fairly be allied. (2)

Henri Blocher characterizes the problem of evil as "the supreme problem," and in a passing reference to Leibniz he writes, "a Lutheran and a forerunner of the ecumenical movement, [Leibniz] applied all the resources of his prolific and brilliant mind to the supreme problem." (3) Whether or not you agree that the problem of evil is life's supreme problem, likely it will not take much to convince you that Leibniz's formidable philosophical arsenal is on full display in his treatment of it, which is hardly surprising, given that theodicy was one of his lifelong preoccupations. (4) In what follows I consider whether the weapons Leibniz deploys against the problem Eire sufficiently powerful to withstand an objection put to his theodicy by Adrian W. Moore in his impressive The Evolution of ModeRN Metaphysics: Making Sense of Things, (5) Moore claims Leibniz's system lacks the resources to defend against this objection, but I intend to defend Leibniz on this front, utilizing primarily his theory of truth and his adherence to the principle of sufficient reason.


The reception of Leibniz's solution to the theodicy problem has hardly been a happy affair. (6) The core of his view is that the evil of this world is a function of its perfection, defined as an optimal balance between, on the one hand, the simplicity of the laws by which God has chosen to create and conserve the world and, on the other hand, the fecundity (richness and diversity) of the effects of those laws. For many, what is offensive about this is not so much the exuberant optimism of its best-of-all-possible-worlds vision, (7) as its apparently gross undervaluation of pain or suffering. (8) More than anything else, what has precipitated myriad negative reactions is this optimism's perceived callous indifference, its intellectualism. For many, Leibniz's view of the world, to be appreciated for the beautiful equation it is, requires us stand so far back from suffering as to cause us to fail completely to recognize its stark and pervasive reality. (9) From the outset Voltaire was moved to mockery. Others suspected Leibniz's very sincerity, claiming to have proof from Leibniz himself that the whole enterprise had been a hoax. (10) By the end of the nineteenth century, James Ward commented: "No wonder that such shallow formalism should strike earnest men as insincere." (11) Here is Henri Blocher again, with the weight of the twentiety century behind him:
   Who today is liable ... to accept the theodicy of Leibniz? As we
   approach the end of a century awash with human blood, we are too
   aware of the horror of evil not to give our support to Voltaire.
   "In the face of Leibniz's talk of dissonance linked with
   consonance, [writes Henri Gouhier], we are much less disposed to
   enjoy the harmony of the [work] when we consider that the
   dissonance is called Buchenwald [sic] or cancer or the death of a
   child." (12)"

   The optimism which claimed to be Christian appears to us [--so
   Werner Post--], "puerile or cynical: Auschwitz with a happy
   ending." (13)

Now let us consider the criticism of Moore, for whom Leibniz's system appears to be a "repellant lie":
   The problem ... is that this does not appear to be the best of all
   possible worlds. The existence of better possible worlds seems
   itself to be a basic datum.... To be sure, the conclusion that this
   is the best of all possible worlds has scope for profound
   consolation.... [But] the consolation will be minimal unless our
   recognition that things somehow make sense is not itself the limit
   of our ability to make sense of them; or, if it is the limit,
   unless we at least have a grip on why it is. One way or another
   Leibniz needs to confront the problem that his metaphysical story
   seems to be a repellant lie about what our lives are really like.

We have, Moore alleges, a profound mismatch between Leibniz's affirmation of the real unimprovability of things, and their merely apparent imperfection or improvability. For many philosophers, including Leibniz, this tension between the appearance of the world's improvability and the reality of its unimprovability (and of the reality of God and his goodness) is the crucial problem of theodicy. As Richard Swinburne puts it, "Theodicy is the enterprise of showing that appearances are misleading: that evils of the kind and quantity we find on Earth are neither incompatible with nor render improbable the existence of God." (15) However, if theodicy is about getting past the appearances, that is, squaring experience (pain) with a higher or deeper rationale for it, the question arises: which appearances? Moore holds that, when it comes to Leibniz's system, this is the pressing issue. The real challenge for Leibniz is
   to subvert the relevant appearances. It will be of no avail to show
   how we are misled about the world's overall value, by whatever
   standards we make this the best of all possible worlds, if those
   are not the standards that give us such a powerful impression of
   the world's improvability. (16)

More perspicuously, for Moore "the issue is not just whether [Leibniz's] account is true] the issue is also whether his account is all that it affects to be." (17) By "all that it affects to be," Moore means "truthful," (18) which he elucidates by citing David Wiggins's contention that "a world could furnish by the simplest means the greatest possible variety of forms yet be brutally indifferent to all human concerns and moral purposes." (19) Wiggins's idea is that the value of optimal rationality that so characterizes Leibniz's defense of the goodness of the world--balance between fecundity of phenomena and simplicity of means (laws) governing the phenomena--need not, of itself, imply particularly happy or meaningful lives for people. The picture of reality emphasized by Leibniz may resonate with some human values, that is, the scientific ones, but not necessarily with human values tout court. There seems to be at least a tacit acknowledgement on Moore's part that Leibniz accommodates at least some of the considerations that make for a truthful (rather than simply true) system, for he says that "Leibniz tries to forestall any such objection [as Wiggins's] by urging that his standards take due account of 'the good of individual people'." (20) Overall, however, for Moore Leibniz's efforts ultimately fail to meet the truthfulness objection, especially after Dostoyevsky's Ivan Karamazov gets hold of it:
   But there is at least one form that the objection can take that is
   completely immune ... to any ... response at Leibniz's disposal. It
   takes this form in the mouth of Ivan Karamazov, in Dostoevsky's
   novel The Brothers Karamazov. Ivan's heart is rent by stories of
   suffering among innocent children. He proclaims, "I don't want
   harmony ... I don't want it, out of the love I bear to mankind....
   Too high a price has been placed on [it]."... [The] fundamental
   target is the value accorded to sheer existence. For the protest is
   really that if this is the price that has to be paid to attain the
   best version of a world such as ours, then it would have been
   better had there never been a world such as ours, ... [that is,]
   had nothing been created at all. It is all very well for Leibniz to
   reply that this protest ignores the larger picture. But the protest
   is precisely that no larger picture can be relevant--save insofar
   as a blank canvas counts. (21)

By targeting "the value of sheer existence" or the "larger picture," as Moore expresses it, Ivan is operating in that deepest of domains where philosophy and religion overlap, that is, where the question concerns the meaning or point of it all. Ivan thinks that "all religions" are based on the desire to "find out what [the world with all its suffering] has all been for." He takes religion to be asking just what the "individual good" is of suffering. In this sense Ivan wholly embraces the religion's mission. As he says, he is a believer:
   Surely the reason for my suffering was not that I as well as
   my evil deeds and sufferings may serve as manure for some future
   harmony for someone else.... I want to be there when everyone
   suddenly finds out what it has all been for. All religions on earth
   are based on this desire, and I am a believer.

On the other hand, belief in the mission (as it were) of religion is one thing; belief in its execution is quite another. The suffering of innocent children forces Ivan into nonbelief, that is, to the point where he realizes that, in fact, "it has all been" for nothing. He continues:
   But then there are the children, and what am I to do with them?
   That is the question I cannot answer.... [I]f it is really true
   that they share their fathers' responsibility for all their
   fathers' crimes, then that truth is not ... of this world. (22)

Ivan is repudiating a system--a grand sense-making of the world--in which the sufferings of one are redressed by the pleasures of another or by some equally impersonal benefit, such as cosmic beauty or balance between simplicity of laws and fecundity of phenomena. What Ivan believes to be true (and indeed accepts) of "all religions"--all grand sense-makings--is that they tell us that no compensation that is impersonal, not experienced as personal salvation, can count as compensation at all: the deficit being personal, the redress must be so too. For Ivan, the suffering of the innocent upends all of religion's pretensions. It proves that what God has in fact wrought fails to measure up to what for Ivan constitutes the only sense that can be made of religion in the first place. Thus, it is not specifically God or "the meaning of life" that he rejects:
   I believe in the underlying order and meaning of life. I believe in
   the eternal harmony into which we are all supposed to merge one
   day. I believe in the Word to which the universe is striving and
   which itself ... [is] God.... [But] I refuse to accept this world
   of God's.... We cannot afford to pay the price of admission.... It
   is not God that I do not accept.... I merely most respectfully
   return him the ticket. (23)

The deficiency in Leibniz's system that Moore takes to be revealed by Ivan's lament over human suffering is an inadequacy in the connection "between what he [Leibniz] says matters in the end and what matters now, to us." (24) Moore turns to Bernard Williams to sum it up: "Bernard Williams' ... indictment of what I am suggesting is untruthful in Leibniz is characteristically blunt. 'Like some other ... metaphysical geniuses ... [Leibniz is] capable of being ethically very crass'." (25) Leibniz, a spectacularly gifted polymath, is led by his unbounded muse to such intellectual heights as to lose sight of "what matters now, to us." The balance between simplicity of means and fecundity of ends may satisfy the mathematical intellect, but not the heart, not the person. The evil that Leibniz's calculations are intended to factor into a grand and perfect harmony looks to be simply one of the more logically challenging pieces of an infinitely deep, endlessly fascinating puzzle, a far cry from that harsh reality that, for many, poses the most profound challenge to belief in God or in any meaning of life.


Clearly, if the standards that Leibniz built into his system did not respect or incorporate at least some of the fundamental ways in which we value human being (beyond its scientific activity), it would be hard to see what could commend his view. In fact, many of the core values of human being do actually feature explicitly and centrally in Leibniz's discussions of standards of this world's "bestness" or perfection. Perhaps in much the same way that Plato held it to be true of his ideal republic, Leibniz holds it to be above all the value of justice that underpins the perfection of the universe. In On the Ultimate Origination of Things he writes:
   [O]ne must realize that just as in the best constituted republic,
   care is taken that each individual gets what is good for him, as
   much as possible, similarly, the universe would be insufficiently
   perfect unless it took individuals into account as much as could be
   done consistently with preserving the harmony of the universe. It
   is impossible to find a better standard than the very law of
   justice, which dictates that everyone should take part in the
   perfection of the universe and in his own happiness in proportion
   to his own virtue and to the extent that his will has thus
   contributed to the common good.... Nor should the fact that minds
   get such deference in the universe appear astonishing, since they
   are produced in the exact image of the Supreme Creator, and relate
   to him not only as machines to their builder (as other things do),
   but also as citizens to their prince. (26)

When it comes to justice, Leibniz is adamant that there is no disconnect between divine and human standards, which is to say that, at least as Leibniz intends his doctrine, divine and human justice are the same kind of thing. (27) His insistence on this point is clearly relevant to the question of Leibniz's truthfulness, a point upon which Paul Rateau seizes, noting that, for Leibniz,
   the explanation of evil and the justification of God [that is, the
   central preoccupations of theodicy] are legitimate demands: they
   are demands of reason that every theology that assumes univocity
   (and correlatively asserts that God cannot be unaccountable) must
   satisfy. So while I think one may reproach Leibnizian theodicy for
   failing in its attempt at explanation and justification, one cannot
   accuse it of not taking the objection from evil seriously. (28)

For Rateau Leibniz's system is truthful in the sense that it "takes evil seriously" and does not try to explain it away by claiming that evil for humans is not evil for God. For Leibniz there is no semantic disconnect or incommensurability between divine and human justice, so we have reason at least to expect more than mere formalism.

Leibniz's notion that justice or harmony in the world takes a recognizably human form can be developed by considering the comparison Leibniz makes above between God's treatment of minds and a prince's treatment of his citizens. What is revealed is Leibniz's view that persons (minds) are ends in themselves, that is, citizens or ends in their own right, rather than mere instruments in the service of some impersonal maximum harmony. As Leibniz says a moment later, such minds are "parts that are wholes"; and his overall meaning is that it is due specifically to their being minds that they enter into any calculation in the first place. Indeed, since "the universe would be insufficiently perfect unless it took individuals into account," we can infer that without its individuals there would have been no world at all. So Leibniz can write (elsewhere) that "the entire universe is made for minds, such that it can contribute to their happiness as much as possible." (29) Mentality is at the heart of the system, for minds are what the system is about: "minds are the primary unities of the world and are the closest likenesses of the first Being." (30)

At the same time, it must be said that Leibniz appears here to qualify the sense in which it is toward individual thinking substances that harmony is oriented. Though he says that "care is taken that each individual gets what is good for him," this occurs "as much as possible." Is this to set quantitative limits on justice; and if so, what is the limiting factor? "Similarly," says Leibniz, "the universe [takes] individuals into account as much as could be done consistently with preserving the harmony of the universe." This seems to put harmony in the driver's seat, not individual substances. Again, in Leibniz's "Resume of Metaphysics" (1697) we learn that "the greatest account is taken of minds, since through them arises the greatest variety in the smallest space." (31)

While such passages appear to make the mind merely the means toward realizing the simplicity-fecundity relation, it is essential to note that, for Leibniz, the standard that this relation expresses is not in any sense external or foreign to the mind, but something that he in fact regards as constitutive of the mind. The simplicity-fecundity relation expresses the function in the cosmos that any existing thing--any mind--must assume, if indeed it is to exist at all. This, I think, is the sense of "possibility" in play here. We see this perhaps most crucially from what Leibniz has to say about mind's chief activity, perception, which in the Monadology he defines just as the representation of "a multitude in the unity or in the simple substance." (32) In the very activity of any existing substance there is, constitutionally, a striving toward or effort to realize that same harmony or balance that is the core value of Leibniz's theodicy. However, so understood, pace Moore and others, what the system of theodicy expresses for Leibniz is less the idiosyncratic proclivities of a peculiarly mathematical temperament and much more the root character of the entities (monads) that Leibniz holds to comprise the universe in the first place. As he expresses the point almost forty years before the Monadology's account of perception: "To exist is nothing other than to be harmonious." (33)

These considerations point to the idea that, pace Moore, Leibniz has deep structural reasons, grounded in the very nature of the monads themselves, for thinking that evil and its solution are built into the system from the outset. In this regard, he must not be thought of as approaching the question of divine justice or compensation for suffering along purely quantitative or extrinsic lines, that is, without regard for the qualitative or intrinsic nature of things. That is not how things work for Leibniz at the deeper level of the universe of minds, for as regards that kind of universe there can be no such thing as purely quantitative equivalences or relations. Sufficient reason--here, justice for or balance or harmony between minds--saturates Leibniz's system, and the key point is that minds are not numbers (to put it crudely). The differences are manifold, but the most basic one is that minds are real, while numbers are merely abstract placeholders of real things, that is, possibilities. What this difference amounts to is the fact that, unlike numbers, minds have qualitative or content or intrinsic meaning; or (better) they are qualitative content, in the sense that they are active percipients or centers of awareness. By contrast, numbers, being purely formal, are empty or nonspecific in terms of content. Thus, the central activity of theodicy, namely, doing justice to entities (minds) that have experiences, involves very different kinds of calculation or balancing than occurs in mathematics. That is, for minds--beings that grow and change and have memories--events in the world balance out in ways very different from the ways in which numerical equivalences are achieved. The harmony required by theodicy is comprised of morally logical ties between evil or suffering, on the one hand, and redress or recompense, on the other. (34) The kind of tie required on this calculation is such that specific sin or evil X is morally necessary for Y to come about, and such necessity is not brute, not simply numerical or quantitative.

Leibnizian harmony, then, is not a function of some purely quantitative equivalence--in the way, for instance, an insurance company might set a monetarily equivalent value, say $35,000, on the loss of a finger. (35) At all levels in the Leibnizian universe intrinsic or qualitative connections obtain: everything--individuals taken individually and collectively--is ruled by a grand qualitative confluence or interconnectivity, a fact which Leibniz can be taken to express in his striking claim, "ethics and metaphysics meet at the apex." (36) The key point is that this deep systematicity holds at or arises from the basic level of unique and individually distinct substances (monads). For Leibniz, cosmic justice is rooted in individual monadic self-actualization, which means that such recompense as Leibnizian monads receive accrue to them from the internal laws of their own, individual development. Arguably this is the seminal dictate of sense-making (including especially moral sense-making) of Leibniz's system, namely, that what befalls individuals makes sense in terms of the very nature of the unique individuals who comprise the system. (37)

In light of these general considerations in support of the sensitivity of Leibniz's system in respect of the individual human condition, Moore's concern that Leibniz's standards of our world's "bestness" are foreign (because impersonal or insufficiently personal) might best be construed as the charge that Leibniz comes up short as regards the relevant standard, not that he somehow misses it altogether. Here it should be noted that how one decides whether the compensation that Leibniz says is "as much as is possible in this world" is "enough or sufficient" compensation, may come down, at least partly, to a difference in how one takes Ivan and Leibniz respectively to define "this world." Specifically, we need to be clear whether the world's parameters include an afterlife for its members. Since the world's suffering is made sense of in terms of the individual lives that bear it, whether those lives survive earthly existence is obviously relevant to the discussion. (38) For Ivan, the suffering of children elicits his absolute condemnation of existence, and in this respect considerations of an afterlife do not seem to figure in his judgment. (39) Leibniz, by contrast, thinks that there can be no solution to the theodicy problem without recourse to the afterlife, so his position ultimately involves acceptance of a degree of unknowability as regards the specific form compensation is to take. (40) For now, to make Leibniz and Ivan talk to each other, perhaps the best strategy is to see what can be said on Leibniz's behalf without appeal to the metaphysical device of an afterlife in which a great accounting takes place. Let us consider two responses from Leibniz that depend less, or less obviously, on such metaphysical considerations and more on considerations of truth and rationality.


Here, again, is Ivan's objection. He is not saying that a world in which there were no torturers of children would be a better world, since such torturers exist in what is already granted to be the best possible world. The world in which there are no torturers of children would and could only be a worse--not a better--world. Thus, Moore takes Ivan's response to be: "Right then, better no world at all--the best is simply not good enough!" (41)

What Ivan is expressing is a counterfactual conditional truth--the counterfactual condition being the nonexistence of any world, that is, of both this and all other possible worlds (all of which are worse than this one). The most obvious general problem with Ivan's claim is its sheer extremity: since the counterfactual condition is nothingness, it leaves nothing to determine the truth value of his claim. That is, if nothing existed, there would be no standard by which anything could be judged to be better than anything else. I take Ivan's response to be that the evil of this world is so egregious as to make nothingness itself better than it. Thus, the world is of a net negative value, that is, less than zero.

The first response I shall explore on Leibniz's behalf invokes his theory of truth. On that conception, if Ivan's statement is actually true of this world (that is, of the world in which he makes it), then there must be something about this world that makes it true. That is, Ivan's claim cannot be simply or just true, that is, true, but for no reason at all. All truths, be they contingent or necessary, are in this sense grounded truths. Logically speaking, Leibnizian truth expresses a relation in which a predicate is in, or is grounded in, a subject. (42) Any predicate truly and positively affirmed of any subject does not just hang there, imtethered, in respect of its subject; no more than any subject, possible or existing, just hangs there, untethered and independent of its world or of God (the ultimate ground). This is the truth about truth, for Leibniz; if it is not, he declares, he "[does] not know what truth is." (43)

What this means for a defense of Leibniz within the parameters of his own system is that if it is true (as Ivan believes) that it is better for this world not to exist (or not to have existed) at all, then that counterfactual conditional truth needs to be grounded in some part of this existing world's complete concept. There is no other possible ground for it. For Ivan to be able truly to talk this way about our world, there must be some feature of it that serves to ground the truth that it should not exist. The simple counterfactual conditionality of Ivan's truth does not vitiate the requirement that there be something to make it true. And as between this world and no world at all, the only candidate is this world.

But this places Ivan in an odd position. For it looks as if this existing world of ours provides the necessary condition of the truth that this world ought not to exist. Can the truth that the world should not exist really be grounded in the existing world itself? On Leibniz's theory the answer seems to be "no." For the fact that the world (already) exists expresses a truth that itself, just like Ivan's truth, requires grounding, and grounding in exactly the same place: there must be something about our world that makes it true to say of it that it should exist, that is, that makes sense of God's selection of it for existence. However, once we allow this truth in addition to Ivan's truth about its preferable nonexistence, we seem then to be forced to attribute to this world qualities that pull it in contradictory directions. Our world must then be such as to ground Ivan's truth that it should not exist at all; however, because it exists, our world must also be such as to make it worthy of God's sustaining act--that continual choice to create this world grounded in that feature of our world by which its existence is preferable to its nonexistence. (44) It seems, then, that what is required to make Ivan's truth true tears asunder our world's complete concept, by setting up two opposing "shoulds" against each other.

In a sense what I am attempting to express, in the specific terms of Leibniz's theory of truth, is the more general point Leibniz makes that "to make something which surpasses in goodness the best itself ... indeed would imply a contradiction." (45) A similar result may obtain using a possible-worlds-based analysis of Ivan's counterfactual conditional (as opposed to an analysis, of the kind just undertaken, based solely on Leibniz's conception of truth). On the possible-worlds model (to speak generically), for Ivan's counterfactual judgment to be truth apt, the values or standards of evaluation embedded in it must be capable of assuming a place in some possible (sufficiently nearby) world. That is what it means for a standard of value to be possible in the first place. Possibles--of whatever kind we are talking about--are not possibles in a vacuum, but have worlds or systems of relations to support or frame them. (46)

Now, the standard of value invoked in Ivan's "just-not-good-enough" judgment must itself be a possible standard. If this judgment is to make sense, it is to some world other than the best possible one that he must go (since it is the best possible world that his standards condemn). But which possible world can accommodate the standards of Ivan's condemnation? The possible world in which the standard of Ivan's judgment is realized must clearly be a possible world less good than the best possible world. But this requires that the standards of the (or any) worse possible world exceed the standards of the best possible (and actual) world--which clearly cannot be. And of course things get worse, just when we need them to get better, if we proceed to other possible worlds in the effort to ground the standards of Ivan's counterfactual judgment. In short, if the best possible world fails to measure up as the foundation of Ivan's judgment, no lesser possible world can.


It may be that the only way out of this impasse is to allow that at least one of the truths in question--Ivan's truth that our world ought not exist, or the truth that our world does exist--is without any ground. This strategy of decoupling a truth from its ground--thereby admitting a measure of arbitrariness--may in fact bring us to the heart of the matter, though it invites, I think, another reply from Leibniz.

Ivan's argument is that because no sense can be made of a certain evil--Ivan says it is not "of this world," and for Moore "no larger picture can be relevant" to our efforts to frame it--it would have been better had the world not existed. Now, if Ivan's claim really is true, this means that, in effect, the best possible world, which actually exists, is or involves something that is, absolutely speaking, a bad thing. We are talking in this case about the existence of an evil that is truly gratuitous or unjustified, that is, an evil that is purely destructive (to use a more modern formulation), or uncompensated, or unharmonized, or outside all order (to phrase it in Leibnizian terms).

However, as we have just hinted, does not the existence of such a thing stand as a violation of the principle of sufficient reason (PSR)? Consider just what must obtain for complete nonexistence to be truly preferable to existence in this case. Ivan reasons: "Because nothing can justify the evil that exists, it would have been better had there not been anything at all." He is saying, in effect, that if all that existed were this world--that is, were there no other option (which in this case means complete nonexistence)--that would be a bad thing. Because it is measured against complete nothingness, the best possible world's actual existence amounts, ultimately, to a net normative deficit. Surely, however, if Ivan's premise entails the existence of net negative value, then we have to do with a form of pointlessness. For arguably that is just what pointless evil is: evil of which no sense is to be made (by whatever standard of sense-making of evil we might agree). (47) It would seem, then, that Ivan's position, in order to be true, must sacrifice PSR. (48)

This PSR-based consideration may provide a way for Leibniz to turn the charge of untruthfulness back against Moore. Moore's allegation rests on the claim that Leibniz's standards of this world's "bestness" are not our standards. However, is not adherence to PSR among our (including Ivan's and Moore's) most basic standards? Isn't Moore's demand that any truthful standards must be our standards, that is, must do justice to our reality, itself an expression of PSR? Assuming it is, then surely Leibniz can say that any objection (like Ivan's) that requires for its operation the suspension of PSR, is, by dint of that requirement, itself an untruthful or disingenuous objection. For effectively it asks us to pretend that we are something other than what we really are, namely, beings unremittingly insistent upon reasons for whatever we are willing to acknowledge as real, or to take as fact, including (especially) the fact of evil. (49)


My approach in this paper has been to indicate ways in which Moore's allegation of untruthfulness in Leibniz's theodicy can be met by the resources of Leibniz's system--specifically, by his theory of truth and his adherence to PSR. Clearly, however, showing how Leibniz's theodicy is not untruthful (against specific objections of Moore) is one thing, while it is another thing to show, apart from Moore's objections, how it is truthful. In this penultimate section I consider a sense in which Leibniz's theodicy might be judged truthful in its own right. In the specific terms of Leibniz's theodicical remarks in the Discourse on Metaphysics, I shall examine what it means to for us to be beings determined upon reasons.

Granting that this insistence on reasons may be justified in the sense of being grounded in our very nature as thinking beings, a question nonetheless arises: are there not certain obligations that accrue to us in precisely the same way? If insistence on PSR can be legitimated, might there not also be a sense in which it can be abused? Just how insistent are we allowed to be? Are there limits to this kind of sense-making? Leibniz appears to think there are. From his remarks in the Discourse on Metaphysics, it seems clear that, in the largely general manner in which he believes us capable of grasping PSR's reach, we can be assured only that there exists an accommodation of each and every individual life to the whole. What we generally understand is that the whole (including each life in it) makes normative sense. Rational theology assures us of that much, but in the normal course of events that is the most it can do. In particular, it cannot reveal to us the exact how of evil's goodness (if we be permitted to speak that way), and so it cannot mount any argument that could dispel the world's appearance of being unjust. This means, of course, that Leibniz requires us to accept a certain amount of mystery in our lives. Theodicy brings us to an understanding that sense is to be made of life, right down to the level of individuals; but there is no promise of individuals' themselves grasping what that sense of their individual lives is, that is, the how of PSR. In the Discourse on Metaphysics, Leibniz explicitly links this kind of mystery and the absence of such knowledge-how:
   But we cannot always explain the admirable economy of this choice
   while we are travellers in this world; it is enough to know it
   without understanding it. And here is the occasion to recognize the
   altitudinem divitarum, the depth and abyss of divine wisdom,
   without seeking a detail that involves infinite considerations.

It is important to note, however, that the mystery in which the general principles of theodicy leave us is not unproductive or static. Rather, it provides us with sufficient resources for action. As Leibniz puts it here, "it is enough to know [the admirable economy of God's choice] without understanding it." (51) Absent anything like a full accommodation with or accounting of the grand scheme of things, the individual is cast back upon his will. (52) And here, of course, we must assume free will.
   The general knowledge of this great truth, that God acts always in
   the most perfect and desirable way possible, is, in my judgment,
   the foundation of the love that we owe God in all things, since he
   who loves seeks his satisfaction in the happiness and perfection of
   the object loved and in his actions.... And I believe that it is
   difficult to love God well when we are not disposed to will what
   God wills, when we might have the power to change it.... I hold,
   therefore, that ... in order to act in accordance with the love of
   God, it is not sufficient to force ourselves to be patient; rather,
   we must truly be satisfied with everything that has come to us
   according to his will. (53)

There is a link in Leibniz's thinking here between, on the one hand, the generality of the knowledge provided in or by theodicy and, on the other hand, the existence of a duty to love God or, as he puts it, to "seek [one's] satisfaction in the happiness and perfection of the object loved and in [God's] actions," or to be "truly be satisfied with everything that has come to us according to his will." (54) Mere patience or contemplation is insufficient for action; for action, motivation is required, that is to say, love. On this view, then, a certain kind of general knowledge that we do have, namely, of the goodness of God's plan, complements--in fact is foundational to--a certain kind of duty that we owe. For Leibniz, love of God as a duty is presented as a logically demonstrable, but not for that matter any less personally demanding, precondition of the path forward for anyone cognizant of the finite or limited nature of their perspective on the world. I add the qualification "for anyone cognizant of the finite or limited nature of their perspective on the world," because for Leibniz the greatest obstacle to the apprehension of this duty is the finitude of our experience of or perspective on the world. (55)

It seems to me that there is a certain truthfulness--a forthright acknowledgement of the so-called human condition--in Leibniz's view here that to strive always to see past events and circumstances that must at times inevitably appear unjust in order to find God's perfection in creation is a fundamental duty of life, and thus one of its core challenges. (56) If this is optimism, it is not unbridled or altogether lacking in realism; it may even incline toward philosophical humility. (57) This truthfulness amounts to a kind of circumspect realism about the limited role that metaphysics can play in the thinking person's life. For Leibniz, to borrow a phrase, there can be no "metaphysics without tears." The conclusions of rational theology are sound, but they are not a substitute for the effort of will required of us as finite beings. As I read Leibniz as regards this love that we owe God in all things--this duty to love God-- it rests as a task for us, on the personal level, to square the deliverances of natural theology with the frequently contradictory deliverances of concrete, personal experience. Because experience is persuasive in its own way, this gap or disjunct between rational theology and experience is, for Leibniz, bridged ultimately not in thought or in some sort of intellectual seeing, but in volition. (58) This seems inevitable, since clearly there is no overcoming the appearances of things for us--appearances that over the course of our lives push back against or resist the equally undeniable rational theological picture. (59)

Such a view seems to be confirmed in the faintly admonitory tone of the Discourse on Metaphysics. Adopting the first-person perspective, Leibniz characterizes our individual predicament: I know, as a matter of general principle, that there exists a divine master plan, a plan that is good. But such knowledge as I have provides at best only the glimmers of an account of my place within that plan, of the role I am to play. And so a natural self-doubt arises, which Leibniz enunciates: "But perhaps it is certain from all eternity that I shall sin?" His response is uncompromising: "Answer this question for yourself : perhaps not; and without considering what you cannot know and what can give you no light, act according to your duty, which you do know." (60) In exhorting us to answer our question for ourselves, Leibniz is telling us to act only on the basis of what we know. He is enjoining us to fit our will to our knowledge, not to mere possibility (as he alleges against the practice of the quietists). Against Moore, then, his message seems to be that the generality of theodicy is not an indictment of metaphysics for failure to reach down to the personal; quite to the contrary, it involves an enjoinder or admonition, at the level of the personal, to "man up" to general principle or duty--duty "which," Leibniz adds emphatically, "you do know." As Leibniz might see it, then, it is not he who is being crass or insensitive (to personal circumstance), but his detractors who, by making a principle of ignorance, are being precious or peevish (about personal circumstance) in their complaint. Is this not a fair reading of the following?
   Can the soul complain about anything other than itself? All these
   complaints after the fact are unjust, if they would have been
   unjust before the fact. Now, could this soul, a little before
   sinning, complain about God in good faith, as if God determined it
   to sin? (61)

Presumably, Leibniz's idea here is that the only way to complain about God "in good faith" would be to complain about God on the basis of some knowledge one had, by the terms of which God had somehow failed to measure up. But this is surely to place oneself, at the very least, on an even footing with God. It is to complain of God as if God is, minimally, a peer--almost as if one were to quip, "How come God gets to be God?" (62) Such a posture is "unjust," says Leibniz--which Jonathan Bennett translates a little more liberally, but perhaps a little more aptly, as "indecent." It is, in its own way, crass--a transgression of limits.


To close, it might be instructive to set Leibniz's theodicy in the context of a more recent (relatively speaking) account. It seems to me that something of the Leibnizian balance or settled accommodation between human finitude and divine infinitude animates the writing of Austin Farrer, author of the preface of Huggard's translation of the Theodicy. That Farrer undertook such a labor suggests, perhaps, sympathy with Leibniz's doctrine, so it might not surprise us to find common ground between them. (63) In the final paragraph of his Finite and Infinite--a Leibnizian sounding title if ever there was one--I think it possible to detect intimations of Leibniz's view both of what can be achieved in natural theology and of what cannot be achieved (and so must be left to individual effort and ultimately to faith). (64) Farrer penned this concluding comment in the early part of World War II, just as its horrors were beginning to unfold:
   As I wrote this, the German armies were occupying Paris, after a
   campaign prodigal of blood and human distress. Rational theology
   will not tell us whether this has or has not been an unqualified
   and irretrievable disaster to mankind and especially to the men who
   died. It is another matter [that is, not a matter of rational
   theology], if we believe that God Incarnate also died, and rose
   from the dead. But rational theology knows only that, whether Paris
   stands or falls, whether men die or live, God is God, and so long
   as any spiritual creature survives, God is to be adored. (65)

Farrer's enjoinder "God is to be adored" appears to have a strong thematic kinship with Leibniz's identification of love of God as our primary duty as "rational creatures." (66) What Farrer believes rational theology (as distinct from, inter alia, religious or specifically Christian faith) can do for us seems to parallel the kind of sense-making of our lives (and particularly, sense-making of the road ahead), which Leibniz believes to be available to us in theodicy. Farrer makes a direct link between the existence of finite spirits, on the one hand, and their duty to adore God, on the other. Mutatis mutandis, this seems to be Leibniz's counsel in the Discourse on Metaphysics, namely, to consider the love of God as a fundamental duty, which translates as a duty to find satisfaction with the world as it is, as supremely difficult as this may at times be. (67)

University of Victoria

* Correspondence to: Philosophy Department, University of Victoria, P.O. Box 1700 STN CSC, Victoria, BC, Canada V8W 2Y2.

(1) John Gray, Gray's Anatomy: Selected Writings (Toronto: Anchor Canada, 2009), 223.

(2) See Leibniz's disagreement with Bayle's assessment concerning the amount of evil there actually is throughout the whole of creation, in Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Theodicy, trans. E. M. Huggard (La Salle, 111.: Open Court, 1951), 264; as translated from vol. 6 of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Die Philosophischen Schriften (hereafter, GP), 7 vols., ed. C. I. Gerhardt (Hildesheim: Georg Olms Verlag, 1996), 249.

(3) Henri Blocher, Evil and the Cross, trans. David G. Preston (Downers Grove, Ill.: Intervarsity Press, 1994), 20.

(4) Maria Rosa Antognazza summarizes: "In short, the whole metaphysical and theological system that Leibniz had sketched on the basis of his reflections on a number of different fields, notably logic, mathematics, and physics, had for him a basically ethical and religious inspiration. The final aim was the celebration of the glory of God in his creation by concurring at the realization of God's 'principal design': 'the happiness of this city of God,' or the common good of humankind, towards which Leibniz worked through all this kaleidoscopic theoretical and practical endeavors." Maria Rosa Antognazza, Leibniz: An Intellectual Biography (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 261. The centrality of theodicy to Leibniz's philosophy is a theme running through editors Larry M. Jorgensen and Samuel Newlands's collection, New Essays on Leibniz's Theodicy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014).

(5) Adrian W. Moore, The Evolution of Modern Metaphysics: Making Sense of Things (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012).

(6) As Jonathan Israel notes in his "Leibniz's Theodicy as a Critique of Spinoza and Bayle--and Blueprint for the Philosophy Wars of the 18th Century" (in New Essays on Leibniz's Theodicy, 233-44), the few bright spots in this story are Lessing and Rousseau. Elements of Leibniz's theodicy meet with approval in the writings of Claude Tresmontant and Austin Farrer. See Blocher, Evil and the Cross, 21, and my discussion of Farrer below in section VI.

(7) Here is a representative passage: "In addition to the beauties and perfections of the totality of the divine works, we must also recognize a certain constant and unbounded progress in the whole universe, so that it always proceeds to greater development, just as a large portion of our world is now cultivated and will become more and more so.... Many substances have already attained great perfection.... [Progress never comes to an end." On the Ultimate Origination of Things, in Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Philosophical Essays (hereafter, AG), trans. Roger Ariew and Daniel Garber (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1989), 154-55; GP 7:308. Leibniz's optimism does not come without cost to his system, in which there is a theological tension between the doctrine (stemming from Origen) of universal salvation and the doctrine (in the Augustinian tradition) of eternal punishment for the damned. For an account of this tension, see Robert Merrihew Adams, "Justice, Happiness, and Perfection in Leibniz's City of God," in New Essays on Leibniz's Theodicy, 213-17.

(8) For present purposes I am not talking about what Leibniz calls "metaphysical evil" or the "simple imperfection" of every created thing. I am talking about what Leibniz refers to as the "physical evil of suffering and the moral evil of sin." Theodicy, 136; GP 7:115. For some of the interpretive difficulties surrounding metaphysical evil, see Michael Latzer, "Leibniz's Conception of Metaphysical Evil," Journal of the History of Ideas 55 (1994): 115.

(9) David Hume holds Leibniz possibly to be the first philosopher to have been so "extravagant" as to deny the universal truth of human misery; see Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, ed. Henry D. Aiken (New York: Hafner Publishing Company, 1966), pt. X, 62. As a measure of just how far back from evil Leibniz is willing to stand to see the patterns of ever increasing perfection in our world, see Ultimate Origination (AG, 154; GP 7:307-08): "This is true not only in theology, but in nature as well, since a seed flung to the ground must suffer before it bears fruit. And, all in all, one can say that afflictions that are bad in the short run are good in their effect, since they constitute a short path to greater perfection. It is just as in physics, where liquids that ferment slowly also improve more slowly, but those in which there is more violent disturbance improve more quickly because they eliminate [impure] parts with greater force. And this is what you might call stepping back in order to leap forward with greater force (one retreats the better to leap forward). These considerations must be held to be not only pleasing and consoling, but most true."

(10) There is a letter published by the theologian Pfaff in the Acta Eruditorum (March 1728), in which Leibniz claims (to Pfaff) that his theodicy was not to be taken seriously. Richard Popkin is neutral on the credibility of this source, though Otto Willareth adduces evidence suggesting the letter to be a fabrication; see Otto Willareth, Die Lehre vom Uebel bei Leibniz (Strassburg: C. & J. Goeller, 1898), 12; and Richard H. Popkin, The History of Scepticism: From Savonarola to Bayle, rev. ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), 268.

(11) James Ward, The Realm of Ends, or Pluralism and Theism (Cambridge: University Press, 1911), 320-21.

(12) Henri Gouhier, "Situation contemporaine du problem du mal," in Le Mal est parmi nous (Paris: Plon, 1948), 12 (as cited in Blocher, Evil and the Cross, 135 n. 2).

(13) Werner Post, "Theories philosophiques sur le probleme du mal," Concilium 56 (June 1970): 96 n. 2 (as cited in Blocher, Evil and the Cross, 135 n. 3).

(14) Evolution of Modern Metaphysics, 69-70 (emphasis added).

(15) Richard Swinburne, "Some Major Strands of Theodicy," in The Evidential Argument from Evil, ed. Daniel Howard-Snyder (Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1996), 30.

(16) Evolution of Modern Metaphysics, 83-84 (emphasis added).

(17) Ibid., 83 n. 43. In this connection, Moore cites Bernard Williams, "The Women of Trachis: Fictions, Pessimism, Ethics," as reprinted in Williams, The Sense of the Past, ed. Myles Burnyeat (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2006), 49-50.

(18) The sense he intends is developed in Bernard Williams, Truth and Truthfulness: An Essay in Genealogy (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2002).

(19) Evolution of Modern Metaphysics, 85. Compare Wiggins, "Sufficient Reason: A Principle in Diverse Guises, Both Ancient and Modern," Acta Philosophica Fennica 61 (1996): 126.

(20) Moore, Evolution of Modern. Metaphysics, 85. The reference is to Theodicy, 143.

(21) Moore, Evolution of Modern Metaphysics, 85 (emphasis added). Compare Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, trans. David Magarshack (London: Folio Society, 1964), 275. I take reference to what is "at Leibniz's disposal" to be a reference to the resources or principles that we might agree characterize his system. Part of the effort of this paper is to indicate that such resources are in place. Of course, for the debate to proceed, we must agree just what the resources of Leibniz's system are. What about appeal to the existence of an omniscient God: is recourse to that in bounds? If so, then surely, if the implication of what Ivan is saying is correct, creation's omniscient God must have erred colossally in bringing about this world, as the choice was supposedly open to him not to create. This puts obvious strain on God's omniscience. On the other hand, if we grant Leibniz recourse to divine omniscience, Ivan's objection loses all force.

Moore is not the first to take Ivan Karamazov to have dealt the knockout punch to theodicy. In the preface of his Evidential Argument from Evil (ix), editor Daniel Howard-Snyder recalls: "When I was a student at Syracuse University, I once told an acquaintance in the English Department that my dissertation was on the problem of evil. I recall her reply as though I heard it yesterday: 'The problem of evil? Isn't that old hat? I mean, what more can be said after Ivan Karamazov?'"

(22) Dostoyevsky, Brothers Karamazov, 274.

(23) Ibid., 275. For a penetrating account of the force of Ivan's rebellion, see Michael Stoeber, Reclaiming Theodicy: Reflections on Suffering, Compassion and Spiritual Transformation (London: Palgrave Macmillan 2005), 3-6.

(24) Moore, Evolution of Modern Metaphysics, 86.

(25) Ibid., 86 n. 44. The reference is to Bernard Williams, Plato: The Invention of Philosophy (Phoenix, 1998), as reprinted in his The Sense of the Past, ed. Myles Burnyeat (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press 2006), 184 n. 39.

(26) AG, 154; GP 7:307 (emphasis added).

(27) The Political Writings of Leibniz, trans. and ed. Patrick Riley (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1972), 48-49.

(28) Paul Rateau, "The Theoretical Foundations of the Leibnizian Theodicy," in New Essays on Leibniz's Theodicy, 97.

(29) Leibniz, "Memoir for Enlightened Persons of Good Intention," in Political Writings, 105.

(30) Leibniz, "A Resume of Metaphysics," [section]22, in Gottfried W. Leibniz, Philosophical Writings, ed. George H. R. Parkinson, trans. Mary Morris and George H. R. Parkinson (London: Dent, 1973), 147; GP 7:291. Nor do minds ever lose their intrinsically valuable character. Thus, writes Leibniz in A New System of Nature, "rational souls follow much higher laws, and are exempt from anything that might make them lose the quality of being citizens of the society of minds; God has provided so well that no changes of matter can make them lose the moral qualities of their personhood." AG, 141; GP 4:481. A similar passage is found in "Memoir for Enlightened Persons of Good Intention," [section]9, in Political Writings, 105.

(31) Leibniz, "Resume" [section]21, in Philosophical Writings, 147; GP 7:291.

(32) See Leibniz, Monadology, [section]14; AG, 214; GP 6:608.

(33) De Arcanis Sublimium vel de Summa Rerum, 11 February 1676, in Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Samtliche Schriften und Briefe, ed. Academy of Sciences of Berlin, Series I--VIII (Series VI [Philosophische Schriften], 3, no. 60: 474), as cited by Antognazza, Intellectual Biography, 190 n. 221. example, his Death and Eternal Life (New York: Harper & Row, 1976), 160: "There has always been something morally unattractive about the idea of the compensatory joys of heaven. It suggests a comparatively low level of ethical insight centred upon the notion of justice as exact reciprocity, 'an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,' a certain quantum of pleasure cancelling out a certain quantum of pain. The individual is treated as though he were a creditor in a hedonic bank, whose needs are adequately met by ensuring a mathematical balance. He is not seen as a free personal will capable of growth and of the exercise of positive acceptance, understanding and forgiveness [emphasis added]. But surely the individual would be much more truly valued for his own sake as a living end in himself by a justification of the pains and sorrows through which he has passed in terms of a fulfillment which is a state of his own self and of the human community of selves of which he is a part.... Such a justification treats each individual as an end in himself within a kingdom of ends, both because it functions as a justification in his own estimation [emphasis added] and because the good on which it depends is a state of which the individual is to be a part."

(34) This view has implications for a Leibnizian account of forgiveness: it represents, on the part of those bestowing it, a trust in the ultimate goodness of creation. Against such a reading, Vladimir Jankelevitch argues that since Leibniz "admits necessary evil and since this evil is a least amount of evil, sin finds itself more minimized than eliminated. Now, if the negativity of evil is a least positivity, then forgiveness in its turn risks being no more than a least rancor." Vladimir Jankelevitch, Forgiveness, trans. Andrew Kelly (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2005), 69. On Jankelevitch's view "least rancor"--a quantitative minimum of a vice, rather than the generically different virtue of forgiveness--is all Leibniz manages to attain. It seems to me that Jankelevitch's criticism ignores the central (if ultimately problematic) Leibnizian distinction between moral and logical necessity. For a treatment of forgiveness within the wider context of the period, see Karen Pagani, Forgiveness and the Age of Reason: Fenelon, Voltaire, Rousseau and Stael (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2008).

(35) The general "intrinsicalist" point I make here about Leibniz's theodicy is readily comparable, I suggest, to central features of John Hick's theodicy in, for

(36) Animadversiones in partem generalem Principiorum Cartesianorum, in Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Discourse on Metaphysics and Related Writings, ed. and trans. Ronald N. D. Martin and Stuart Brown (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1988), 123; GP 4:391-92. Compare Political Writings, 105.

(37) For illustration of what might be meant by the quantitative or "extrinsicalist" approach to theodical compensation that I take Leibniz to repudiate, consider: "While believing that God does provide at any rate for many humans such life after death, I have expounded a theodicy without relying on that assumption. If, for example, the goods making possible free choice for the Nazi concentration camp guards (in choosing whether to disobey orders), for the Jewish victims (in deciding how to bear their suffering), and for many others involved are not goods great enough to justify God's allowing the Nazis to choose to exterminate Jews, maybe they would be if the evil is compensated by some years of happy afterlife for the Jews involved." Richard Swinburne, "Some Major Strands of Theodicy," in Evidential Argument from Evil, 45-46 (emphasis added).

(38) This is true even if agreement among philosophers is not universal about how much significance attaches to the point. For Hick, "any morally acceptable justification of the sufferings of humanity is bound to postulate a life after death" (Death and Eternal Life, 160). As to how bound such justification is to postulate an afterlife, consider Hastings Rashdall's view in Philosophy and Religion: Six Lectures Delivered at Cambridge (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1916), 77: "If anyone on a calm review of the actual facts of the world's history can suppose that such a world as ours could be the expression of the will of a rational and moral Being without the assumption of a future life for which this is a discipline or education or preparatory stage, argument would be useless with him. Inveterate Optimism, like inveterate Scepticism, admits of no refutation." By contrast, Richard Swinburne claims to be able to dispense with consideration of all but "the relative strengths of the goods and evils" involved in this world alone. See "Some Major Strands of Theodicy," 45-46.

(39) What Ivan in fact provides is not a denial but an endorsement of the afterlife: "I believe in the eternal harmony into which we are all supposed to merge one day.... [But] I refuse to accept this world of God's." Dostoyevsky, Brothers Karamazov, 275 (emphasis added). There seems to be a tension here: why refuse to accept this world of God's if there is a harmony into which we will all merge one day?

(40) See Discourse on Metaphysics, [section]34, where Leibniz speaks of "the immortality required in morality and religion." AG, 65-66; GP 4:460.

(41) We seem very close to Arthur Schopenhauer's assessment of Leibniz's position: "Even though Leibniz's contention, that this is the best of all possible worlds, were correct, that would not justify God in having created it." On the other hand, unlike Moore, who attempts to respect wider Leibnizian doctrine, Schopenhauer's rationale is decidedly im-Leibnizian. He continues: "For he [God] is the Creator not of the world only, but of possibility itself; and, therefore, he ought to have so ordered possibility as that it would admit of something better." Arthur Schopenhauer, "On the Sufferings of the World," in Parerga and Paralipomena: A Collection of Philosophical Essays, trans. T. Bailey Saunders (1893; New York: Cosimo, Inc., 2007), 14. The metaphysical voluntarism underlying Schopenhauer's objection against Leibniz, namely, that God creates (or, following Schopenhauer, "orders") possibility itself, is explicitly rejected by Leibniz in his treatment of Descartes and Spinoza.

(42) This is most famously articulated in Discourse on Metaphysics, [section]8; GP 4:432-33. It is also one of the basic ways in which Leibniz formulates the principle of sufficient reason, as he affirms explicitly in "On Freedom": "However, there have been left to us two ways of knowing contingent truths; one is the way of experience and the other the way of reason. The way of experience is when we perceive a thing clearly enough by our senses; the way of reason is derived from the general principle that nothing happens without a reason, or, that the predicate is always in some way in the subject." Leibniz, Philosophical Writings, 109 (emphasis added).

(43) 4/14 July 1686, [section]13, in G. W. Leibniz: Philosophical Texts, trans. R. S. Woolhouse and Richard Francks (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 112; GP 2:56.

(44) After all, the fact of our world's existence represents its victory not merely over every other possible world, but also over complete nothingness. This must be true, if it is true, as Leibniz thinks, that God did not have to create in the first place: "[0]ne must confess that there is evil in this world which God has made, and that it would have been possible to make a world without evil or even not to create any world, since its creation depended upon the free will of God." Theodicy, 378; GP 6:376.

(45) Theodicy, 267; GP 6:252.

(46) The same is true for Leibniz, of course. For him, whatever reality possibles qua possibles possess is grounded in God. See Monadology, [section]43; GP 6:614.

(47) In this sense, that net negative value is pointless is a function of what might be termed the "logic" of value. "Pointless" is how Bruce Russell (correctly, in my view) characterizes gratuitous or unrecompensed evil, the existence of which leads him (pace Leibniz) to affirm the nonexistence of God, in "The Problem of Evil: Why is There So Much Suffering?" in Introduction to Philosophy: Classical and Contemporary Readings, 4th ed., ed. Louis P. Pojman and James Fieser (Oxford: Oxford University Press 2008), 230-36.

(48) I stress that Ivan's position cannot be true, not that it cannot be stated. Within the best of all possible worlds Ivan is at liberty to say that that the world is not good enough; but he cannot say it as a truth, that is, in a way that is grounded in any actual normative dimension of this world. The truth of Ivan's statement must lie elsewhere, beyond the literal meaning of its words. For Leibniz, what Ivan's statement must express is Ivan's lack of understanding and a consequently ill-founded desire that things be different than they are.

(49) So committed are we to this principle of sufficient reason that, to the end of making sense of evil and suffering, we are willing to go to the most extraordinary speculative lengths. Blocher (Evil and the Cross, 12) captures well this fundamental connection between our acceptance of sufficient reason and the problem of evil: "The first question that arises, once intelligence has got off the ground and left sheer feeling behind, is that of [evil's] origin, cause or reason. The ancient Greeks asked why there was evil and where it came from. We could label the question 'logico-speculative', but must not assume it to be the prerogative of intellectuals and philosophers only. It is inseparable from the initial thrust of human thought, springing from the clash between the unjustifiable nature of evil and the need for consistency and meaning that belongs inextricably to the human mind."

(50) AG, 61; GP 4:455. Compare Theodicy 97, 103, 104; GP 4:74, 80, 81; and on mystery more generally, see Theodicy 88, 91-92, 115-18; GP 4:64, 67-69, 92-97.

(51) The concept of "knowledge without understanding," which I interpret here to mean knowledge-that without knowledge-how, is discussed by Leibniz in a letter to Queen Sophie Charlotte of Prussia in 1702. AG, 186-87; GP 6:499-500.

(52) "I do not claim to explain in this way the great mystery [that is, divine wisdom] on which the entire universe depends." Leibniz, Discourse on Metaphysics, [section]6; AG, 39; GP 4:431-32. Nor does Leibniz think it sensible for us to want such an accommodation, since it could never be within the grasp of a finite spirit. This is consistent with his view of human happiness as "a perpetual progress to new pleasures and new perfections." Leibinz, Principles of Nature and Grace, [section]18; AG, 213; GP 6:606.

(53) AG, 37-38; GP 4:429 (emphasis added). By "to will what God wills" Leibniz means, in effect, to act in a way we know God wants us to act, that is, to realize principle in our action.

(54) AG, 37-38; GP 4:429 (emphasis added).

(55) According to Leibniz, "one of the greatest sources of fallacy" in the view that the world is or contains more evil than good, "is the confusion of the apparent with the real. And here by the apparent I mean not simply such as would result from an exact discussion of facts, but that which has been derived from the small extent of our experiences." Theodicy, 265-56; GP 6:250. This is a constant refrain in Leibniz's writings on theodicy. That said, Leibniz thinks that every appearance of goodness contains some reality of goodness--the apparent good "always has some truth in it." Leinbniz, Discourse on Metaphysics, [section]30; AG, 61; GP 4:454--so the fact, stemming from our finitude, that we are and must ever be merely appeared to does not, of itself, render our situation hopeless.

(56) "Whoever truly loves God above all things will not fail to do what he knows to confirm to his commands. That is why it is necessary to begin with this love, since charity and justice are its inescapable results." Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Philosophical Papers and Letters, ed. and trans. Leroy E. Loemker (Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1989), 213. Loemker cites the manuscripts presented in "Trois dialogues mystiques inedits de Leibniz," Revue de metaphysique et de morale 13 (1905): 1-38. See Gregory Brown, "Leibniz's Theodicy and the Confluence of Worldly Goods," Journal of the History of Philosophy 26 (1988): 571-91. On the centrality for Leibniz of the duty to love God, see Antognazza, Intellectual Biography, 257, 259, 338-39.

(57) Some interpreters of Leibniz move beyond tempering Leibniz's optimism to denying it altogether. Blocher (Evil and the Cross, 21) sounds a sombre note: "Was Leibniz really so sure, deep down, of a God who is sovereignly good? Beneath his overeagemess to prove universal harmony, ought we to detect repressed doubt? Georges Friedmann's perspicacity is as devastating as it is convincing: 'Leibnizian optimism is in reality one of the first forms of the modern philosophies of anguish and despair.'" Blocher's reference (Evil and the Cross, 135 n. 4) is to p. 32 of Friedmann's Leibniz et Spinoza, 2nd ed. (Paris: Gallimard, 1962), but this reference should be to p. 22 of Friedmann's work. For useful background discussion, see Gregory Brown, "Leibniz's Theodicy and the Confluence of Worldly Goods."

(58) Here a remark by A. H. Momerie, made years ago in defense of individual free will, may shed some light on this demand of Leibniz's system: "There can be no association between an emotion, and an idea that tends to supress it; and even if there were, it would not account for the fact that the former gradually grows weaker and the latter stronger. Can any explanation be given of this fact except that it is due to the voluntary activity of the ego?" A. H. Momerie, Personality: The Beginning and End of Metaphysics and a Necessary Assumption in All Positive Philosophy, 4th ed. (London: William Blackwood and Sons, 1889), 70. Admittedly it sounds contradictory (on Momerie's part) to say that there "can be no association between an emotion, and an idea that tends to suppress it," since if an idea has a tendency to suppress an emotion, there clearly is an association between it and the emotion it suppresses. I take Momerie's point about the absence of association to refer to one of the central psychological data of theodicy, namely, that at the level of experience or appearances matters can be significantly at odds with the way we (following Leibniz) know them to be intellectually speaking, that is, in natural theology.

(59) As Donald Rutherford puts the point in a slightly different context, the ordinary psychology of Leibniz's theodicy "does not support the Stoics' image of the sage on the rack, happy and invulnerable, despite the physical torments inflicted on him." Donald Rutherford, "Justice and Circumstances: Theodicy as Universal Religion," in New Essays on Leibniz's Theodicy, 78.

(60) Leibniz, Discourse on Metaphysics, [section]30; AG, 61; GP 4:455 (emphasis added). I think there are strong parallels to be drawn between what I take to be Leibniz's meaning here and what the renowned scholar of Kierkegaard, David F. Swenson, once wrote: "[O]nly the heart's profound movement, the will's decisive commitment, can make that which is truth in general also a truth for me." David F. Swenson, "The Dignity of Human Life," in The Meaning of Life: A Reader, 3rd ed., ed. E. D. Klemke and Steven M. Cahn (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 25. This is an excerpt from Klemke's Kierkegaardian Philosophy in the Faith of a Scholar (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1949).

(61) Leibniz, Discourse on Metaphysics, [section]30; AG, 61; GP 4:455.

(62) Compare this with the following remark by H. A. Overstreet, a disciple of the radical personal idealist G. H. Howison: "There is no place in a democratic society for such radical class distinction as that between a supreme Being favored with eternal and absolute perfection and the mass of beings doomed to the lower ways of imperfect struggle" (as cited by John Passmore, A Hundred Years of Philosophy [New York: Basic Books, 1966], 74 n. 1). At the foundation of this view is some sort of basic ontological parity between divine and human persons. See John Macquarrie, Twentieth-Century Religious Thought: The Frontiers of Philosophy and Theology, 1900-1960 (New York: Harper & Row, 1963), 49-51.

(63) Some insight into Farrer's interest in Leibniz may be gleaned, I think, from the preface itself, in which Farrer appears to range his own account of free will against the series of options he believes confronted Leibniz (Theodicy, 32-33).

(64) This is not, however, to prioritize faith over love for Leibniz. Antognazza comments: "Leibniz's theology of love was probably inspired more by St. Paul ... than by Martin Luther, who emphasized faith rather than love." Antognazza, Intellectual Biography, 259.

(65) Austin Farrer, Finite and Infinite: A Philosophical Essay (Westminster: Dacre Press 1943), 300 (emphasis added).

(66) For Christians, Leibniz's identification of love of God as our fundamental duty is hardly surprising, given the primacy Jesus accords to that commandment (Mark 12:30-31).

(67) I am especially grateful to David Vaughn for the stimulating discussions we had which gave rise to this paper, and also to Charles Morgan and Eike Kluge for their help along the way.
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Author:Scott, David
Publication:The Review of Metaphysics
Date:Dec 1, 2016
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