Das Leben von Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (German Edition)
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Foucher de Careil, Oeuvres de Leibniz Paris, Leibniz Berlin, Monadology cited by propositions. Langley London, cited by book, chapter and part, e. Theodicy -- Theodicy, trans.
Farrer New Haven, cited by books and parts, e. III, p. Leibniz' letter to Jacquelot , Ger. Access options available:. Project MUSE promotes the creation and dissemination of essential humanities and social science resources through collaboration with libraries, publishers, and scholars worldwide. Forged from a partnership between a university press and a library, Project MUSE is a trusted part of the academic and scholarly community it serves. Built on the Johns Hopkins University Campus.
It is not apparent how the will of God is a free cause of existence of all things if God, by the perfection of his own wisdom, is determined to the choice — or rather to the acceptance — of only one [world], which alone is called the best, and if there is no indifference of freedom in that Weismann , In a not dissimilar vein, Du Pont-Bertris expressed incredulity that a world without evil was not possible, evidently assuming in the process that such a world would be better than ours:. For ultimately, in all these possible worlds, evil is always assumed to be mixed with good, and it is far from clear why it is.
Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz
Is there, then, no possible world wherein all evil is banished? And is the idea of an infinite goodness assisted by a power that is also infinite going to lead us to conclude that such a world cannot come out of the hands of God? Du Pont-Bertris , — As we shall see, such a question could be asked about many of those who joined in the eighteenth-century debate about optimism. In many ways, the fortunes of Leibnizian optimism in the s differed little from its fortunes in the s, in that it attracted plenty of support and not a little censure.
That Wisdom infinite must form the best Pope , 5. Pope , 6, 14 linked the notion of the best world with the old idea of the great chain of being, in which every creature was thought to occupy a unique place as part of a harmonious and perfect whole wherein all possible degrees of perfection, from nothingness up to God, were exemplified.
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Speculation soon arose as to whether Pope had been influenced by Leibniz. Pope , IV: himself later insisted that he had not read a line of Leibniz at the time he composed his poem, but not all were convinced by this. Voltaire , — claimed that in framing his poem Pope had expounded Leibniz, Shaftesbury, and Bolingbroke. Others sought to stress the differences between the poet and the philosopher. In and , Crousaz published two books against Pope, in which he also occasionally attacked Leibniz, albeit without ever citing him.
Crousaz, in His Examination of Mr. For example, in Erste Grunde der gesammten Weltweisheit [First Grounds of Whole Worldly Wisdom], Johann Christoph Gottsched — suggested that one could ascertain that our world is the best a posteriori :.
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Yet it was by no means the most influential apology for Leibnizian optimism that had appeared since the Theodicy. Until , Wolff had elaborated his philosophy in a series of lengthy German works, but in he began recasting his philosophy in a series of even lengthier Latin works. In there appeared the first volume of his Theologia naturalis , with the second emerging a year later. To support his assertion that God also permits evils for the same end he appeals to Romans 9.
Indeed, Wolff would increasingly become the figurehead of optimism, supplanting Leibniz, at least in Germany.
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In this regard, a dissertation entitled De bonitate mundi biblica [On the Biblical Goodness of the World], published in by Immanuel Ernst Hahn — , who would later become preacher at the orphanage in Dresden, was a sign of things to come. In this text Hahn defends and elaborates the position that had been first developed by Knoerr and Budde twenty-five years before, namely that God created the best world but the world did not remain the best.
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Hahn agrees with Knoerr and Budde that a lexical analysis of Genesis 1. While this would become increasingly common in the s and s, as we shall see, Hahn shows that even in , optimism had ceased to be thought of as a peculiarly Leibnizian doctrine, at least in Germany. Whereas an earlier review in the same journal see [Anon. How can a learned man, a Christian … think that a world in which there is evil and sin could be the best world God can make? Sin alone is such a great evil that all the perfection of a world infinitely superior to this one could not even counterbalance it Castel , These two objections would continue to dog Leibnizian optimism in the decades that followed.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in Britain, where the book was rarely cited and seems to have been better known through the handful of extracts in English translation that had been published in the Memoirs of Literature in see de la Roche than from first hand acquaintance with the book itself.
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It is curious that, despite the opposition that Leibnizian optimism had encountered in France and Switzerland principally through Castel and Crousaz and the great support it had enjoyed in Germany, the last extended defences of it were made by French and Swiss authors. Certainly, some elements of her optimism are distinctly Wolffian. By way of a corrective to this general level of ignorance, Vattel quotes huge chunks of the Theodicy and elaborates on them, as well as defending their principal ideas, though he does deviate on occasion.
When explaining how God came to choose our world, Akenside explains:. There were, as we shall see, a handful of later defences of optimism from the second half of the s, at least in Germany, but to all intents and purposes the doctrine had ceased to attract any heavyweight support after the early s. In the next section we shall see why. The last wave of spirited defences of optimism in the early s made little impact.
By this time, such breezy dismissals of optimism were not uncommon in either France or Britain. And the doctor of the Sorbonne Franc? Plato said, God chose the best: Leibnitz said, he could not but chuse the best.
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Plato supposed Freedom in God, to chuse one of two Things equally good: Leibnitz contended that the Supposition was absurd; but however, admitting the Case, God could not chuse one of two Things equally good. Thus it appears the first contended for Freedom ; and that the latter, notwithstanding the most artful Disguises in his Theodice , was a rank Fatalist Warburton , Presumably, British and French detractors did not feel the need to offer more in-depth treatments of Leibnizian optimism because the doctrine had by then lost whatever loose hold it had had over their compatriots.
This was not the case in Germany, however, and detractors there took optimism much more seriously, crafting thoughtful and sustained critiques. First, he mentions Leibniz just once, in passing, while other optimists, in particular Wolff and Bilfinger, are discussed at length, thus indicating yet again that optimism was not always seen as a quintessentially Leibnizian doctrine, even in his native Germany. Second, Croll draws a distinction between the best world and the most perfect world, which till that point both optimists and non-optimists had assumed to be the same thing.
Croll , 15 and 18 argues that our world cannot be the most perfect because a more perfect one is possible, namely one without physical and moral evils, that is, one in which Adam did not fall. Yet Croll , 18 insists that this does not mean our world is not the best; in fact, he supposes that it must be, inasmuch as God always wills the best and so must have decreed the creation of the best world. Our world is the best in the sense that it completely fulfils the end that God proposed to himself in creation, and it does so using the most perfect means at his disposal. A much more influential German critique appeared in the mids in the work of philosopher and Lutheran pastor Christian August Crusius — , who by that time had already developed a reputation as a trenchant critic of Leibniz and Wolff.
If someone knows and wants the best, and is also capable of doing it, he will do the best. By the early s, optimism had become something of a philosophical punching bag, even in Germany, site of its most fervent support in earlier decades. In the mids, the depth of the opposition that had formed against it became even more apparent thanks to the activities of the Royal Academy of Sciences and Belles-Lettres in Berlin, an institution that had been established by Leibniz in but had suffered from neglect and underinvestment until being revitalized in by Frederick the Great — The official minutes of the Academy for 7 June record the decision:.
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It is a matter of: 1 determining the true meaning of that proposition according to the hypothesis of its author; 2 comparing it with the system of optimism, or the choice of the best, to indicate the connections and differences between them; 3 lastly, to put forward arguments that will be thought most fitting to confirm or destroy this system. Announcement of the contest prompted a number of complaints. Nevertheless, these concerns were not widely shared, judging from the number of entries the academy received: at least 18 see Buschmann , The prize was thus awarded to the essay by Adolf Friedrich Reinhard — , chamber secretary to the Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz.
The first objection, which is unique to Reinhard, is worth outlining in some detail. So stated, perfection is more a property of the range of available ends or the means used to attain them than a property of a thing or system of things. An intelligent being striving for perfection in its works can find, in the execution of the ends and rules it has proposed, several ways of acting that are equally in keeping with its intentions. These ways are consequently of equal perfection, and the intelligent being is indifferent about whether to choose one or the other Reinhard , Reinhard then slides from saying that there can be a number of equally good ways to attain any given end to saying that in fact there typically are , a slide he justifies on the basis of experience; there are, he notes, many different ways to build a pleasure house, by varying location, decor, arrangement etc.
World-creation, he supposes, is no different, since in addition to the many different primary and secondary ends God could propose, there are likely many different ways of attaining each and every one of them and the optimist is in no position to deny that some of these will be just as good as others, leading to worlds of equal perfection Reinhard , Hence there is no single best world and thus no requirement — moral or otherwise — for God to create one world in particular. If the aim in setting the prize question was to generate attacks on optimism, it succeeded, with the contest bringing a lot of the latent hostility towards optimism out into the open.