Leibniz and the Problem of Evil

Topics: Philosophy, God, Atheism Pages: 10 (3721 words) Published: August 2, 2013
LEIBNIZ’S CONCEPTION OF THE PROBLEM OF EVIL BY OKOJIE E. PETER epo4escriva@yahoo.com MAY 2013 INTRODUCTION For many centuries, philosophers have been discussing evil, how it exists in the world, and how this relates to God. The discussion on evil and its relations to us is not an easy one though. It is commonly called the problem of evil. The problem of evil in contemporary philosophy is generally regarded as an argument for atheism. The atheist contends that God and evil are incompatible, and given that evil clearly exists, God cannot exist. The problem is generally used to disprove God’s existence by showing an inconsistency between an all-powerful, all-good, and all-knowing God; and the existence of evil. Philosophers over the centuries have tried to show that there is no inconsistency with the existence of God and evil. Leibniz is one of the philosophers who grappled with this problematic. For him, we live in the best of all possible worlds because God chose to create this world, and in trying to solve the problem of evil, his argument provides that the attributes of God such as omniscience, omnipotence and perfection are validly not inconsistent with the presence of evil in the world. The aim of this work therefore, is to focus on the modalities of logic, namely, possibility, necessity, and contingency, the problem of evil and how Leibniz deciphers it, free-will, and objections to Leibniz’s claims. Thus, in seeking to do this, I shall thread the following course: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. A Brief Biography of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz The Notion of the Problem of Evil Background to Leibniz’s Theodicy Leibniz’s Conception of the Problem of Evil Leibniz’s Account, a success or failure? Conclusion

1. A BRIEF BIOGRAPHY OF GOTTFRIED WILHELM LEIBNIZ Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz was born in Leipzig, Germany in 1646, his father being a professor of moral philosophy. Leibniz was a Christian idealist philosopher who was heavily influenced by Benedict Spinoza. He studied both Greek and Scholastic philosophy. He later studied mathematics under Erhard Weigel. He then gave himself to the study of jurisprudence and got a doctorate in Law at Altdorf in 1667. He discovered the infinitesimal calculus without being aware of the fact that Isaac Newton had already written on the same subject before him. However, it was Leibniz who first published his in 1684, whereas Newton published his in 1687. He rejected the offer of professorship at Altdorf. It was in 1682 that he founded at Leipzig the Acta eruditorum, and in 1700 he became the first president of the Society of Sciences at Berlin, which later became the Prussian Academy. Being a Christian, he occupied himself with the problem of uniting Christian Confessions; particularly he tried to find common ground for agreement between Catholics and Protestants.1 Although Leibniz had enjoyed a life in the public limelight, his popularity declined at the end of his life. He died in obscurity in 1716, and his


Frederick Copleston, S. J., A History of Philosophy, Vol. 4, (New York: Continuum Int’l Publishing, 2003) p.265

funeral was attended by his secretary only.2 His main works include Monadology, Philosopher's Confession, Principles of Individuation, New Essays in Human Understanding, Essays in Theodicy, New System of Nature and of the Interaction of Substances amongst others. 2. THE NOTION OF THE PROBLEM OF EVIL The problem of evil, is the difficulty of reconciling the existence of evil in the world with the existence of an omniscient (all-knowing), omnipotent (all-powerful) and perfectly good God. This argument is the atheistic argument that the existence of such evil cannot be agreeable with, thus negates the existence of such a God. The problem of evil has occupied human minds for untold ages. This persistent problem has engaged professional thinkers and thoughtful persons alike in various attempts to make sense of the existence of evil in the world. In his autobiography, the...
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