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Last Updated on July 14, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1091


According to Leibniz, God is all-powerful, all-knowledgeable, and wholly good. In his infinite wisdom, God chose to create this world out of all the possible worlds he could have created, and in choosing to create this world, he created the best world possible. Ultimately, God did not want human beings to be robotically obedient; he wanted them to possess an ethical personality capable of freely giving personal interaction with him. Leibniz argues that because God is the ultimate power of perfection, wisdom, and goodness, his decision to give his most important creation, humanity, a free will was a good thing. In order for humanity to exercise free will, God allows his creation to choose something other than good, which is how evil entered into the world: a man choosing evil over good. Because God is all-powerful, he could stop evil from happening, but instead, he acts to save people from that evil through his mercy and grace.

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Theodicy 121 says of God,

It is as sure a means of taking a man’s life to give him a silk cord that one knows certainly he will make use of freely to strangle himself, as to plant a few dagger thrusts in his body. One desires his death not less when one makes use of the first way than when one employs the second: it even seems as though one desires it with a more malicious intention since one tends to leave to him the whole trouble and the whole blame of his destruction. . . . Wisdom only shows God the best possible exercise of his goodness: after that, the evil that occurs is an inevitable result of the best. I will add something stronger: To permit the evil, as God permits it, is the greatest goodness.

Jesus Christ

In Christian thought, the only begotten son of God, Jesus Christ, was sent to earth by his father as a gift to redeem people from their sins and to restore their relationship with God. Leibniz contends that it was in God’s ultimate goodness that he sent his son to earth and that the world is a better place with Christ and sin in it than a perfect world would be without Christ and sin.

Theodicy 412 says of Christ,

We must, therefore seek another cause for evil, and I doubt whether even the Angels are aware of it, yet they cease not to be happy and to praise God. Boethius hearkened more to the answer of philosophy than to that of St. Paul; that was the cause of his failure. Let us believe in Jesus Christ, he is the virtue and the wisdom of God: he teaches us that God willeth the salvation of all, that he willeth not the death of the sinner. Let us, therefore put our trust in the divine mercy, and let us not by our vanity and our malice disqualify ourselves to receive it.

Pierre Bayle

Bayle (1647–1706) was a French Protestant (Huguenot) who fled France in the face of religious persecution to live in Holland. He was a historian, philosopher, and prolific writer. His most famous work, The Historical and Critical Dictionary (1697), has been called the most influential work of the Enlightenment and influenced Voltaire, Hume, Leibniz, and Thomas Jefferson. He is known as a skeptic, but because he wrote in such conflicting ways, his stance on many issues is still debated. His contributions to philosophy include a defense of religious faith and his support of toleration of others. It was Bayle’s claim that there is no rational solution to the problem of evil, and his inference that God is morally responsible for evil, that caused Leibniz to directly challenge him in Theodicy.

In the Preface to Theodicy, Leibniz writes,

Some able men in our own time have gone so far as to deny all action to creatures, and M. Bayle, who tended a little towards this extraordinary opinion, made use of it to restore the lapsed dogma of the two principles, or two gods, the one good, the other evil, as if this dogma were a better solution to the difficulties over the origin of evil. Yet again he acknowledges that it is an indefensible opinion and that the oneness of the Principle is incontestably founded on a priori reasons; but he wishes to infer that our Reason is confounded and cannot meet her own objections and that one should disregard them and hold fast the revealed dogmas, which teach us the existence of one God altogether good, altogether powerful and altogether wise. But many readers, convinced of the irrefutable nature of his objections and believing them to be at least as strong as the proofs for the truth of religion, would draw dangerous conclusions.

I hope to remove all these difficulties. I will point out that absolute necessity, which is called also logical and metaphysical and sometimes geometrical, and which would alone be formidable in this connection, does not exist in free actions, and that thus freedom is exempt not only from constraint but also from real necessity. I will show that God himself, although he always chooses the best, does not act by an absolute necessity, and that the laws of nature laid down by God, founded upon the fitness of things, keep the mean between geometrical truths, absolutely necessary, and arbitrary decrees; which M. Bayle and other modern philosophers have not sufficiently understood.

René Descartes

Descartes (1596–1650) is considered the father of modern philosophy due to his introduction of hyperbolic doubt, which means to doubt the truth of all one’s beliefs in order to ascertain which of those beliefs are true. He was born in France and became a soldier, an educator, a philosopher, a mathematician, and a promotor of logic as a means of solving problems in the natural world.

Leibniz argued in Theodicy that Descartes was wrong on both the nature of substance (he was a dualist) and the will of God being predetermined in our lives.

Theodicy 164 states,

One must confess that M. Descartes speaks somewhat crudely of the will of God in regard to evil in saying not only that God knew that our free will would determine us toward some particular thing, but also that he also wished it, albeit he did not will to constrain the will thereto. He speaks no less harshly in the eighth letter of the same volume, saying that not the slightest thought enters into the mind of a man which God does not will, and has not willed from all eternity, to enter there.

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