I have decided to bump this topic up on these forums for the sake of inquiry. This is a topic that has been prevalent within my mind for quite some time now and I’d like to discuss it a bit more extensively.
I have been engaging in some studies on Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz in recent months. As you all should know, Leibniz was a strong defendant of the theory that this world is “the best of all possible worlds,” and was one of its main advocates. When I first read about this notion, my initial reaction was to refute it immediately. Consider this:
In an essay written by Leibniz entitled “On Freedom” (1689?), Leibniz states:
“For if there are certain possibilities that never exist, then the things that exist, at any rate, are not always necessary, for otherwise it would be impossible for others to exist in their place, and thus, everything that never exists would be impossible.”
From “Theodicy” (1710):
“If there were no best among all possible worlds, God would not have created one.”
From “Letter to Bourguet” (late 1712):
“I do not believe that a world without evil, preferable in order to ours, is possible; otherwise it would have been preferred. It is necessary to believe that the mixture of evil has produced the greatest possible good: otherwise the evil would not have been permitted.
The combination of all the tendencies to the good has produced the best; but as there are goods that are incompatible together, this combination and this result can introduce the destruction of some good, and as a result some evil.”
In order to fully understand the proposition I wish to assert, please note that I do acknowledge the fact that Heaven does not seem to be taken into consideration for Leibniz, he seems to focus strictly on earth. I do not wish to concentrate solely on this, however, because it should also be understood that Leibniz’s intentions were to refute contentious claims such as ones along the lines of: “if God is good, then why did x happen?”
It is also important to note that Leibniz did not choose to accept the Cartesian view that this is the “only” possible world because he said that it took away from the beauty of our world as we know it. His reasoning essentially outlines the idea that if we cannot imagine another possible world where things would have occurred differently than the way they have on this earth, we would be taking away from the beauty of the present world.
But, I insist:
Who is to say that these other things can possibly exist in the first place? Who is to say that everything that never exists contains within it an indisputable candidature for what can possibly exist? Just because we can imagine something happening in another’s place does not, by any means, entail that it could have possibly happened. We could very much hold the claim that if something is not in accordance with God’s perfect plan, it is impossible for it to have ever occurred. From this, we can eliminate it entirely from the category of “what could have possibly existed.”
i.e: Let us say some event happens. We will call this event, “event A.” Now, the simple fact that we can imagine an “event B” happening in place of “event A” in spite of “event A’s” clear occurrence gives us no ground to classify it as an alternate option to what could possibly exist.
Here’s a breakdown containing another form of reasoning which is similar to what I’ve stated above:
- God always acts with the mark of perfection & wisdom.
- The only possible world is the one in which God retains this quality (i.e. our world).
- All other events except for “event A” are not in accordance with God acting with the mark of perfection or wisdom, and thus their occurrence would entail a contradiction to His nature.
- Therefore, it is impossible for any other events except for “event A” to exist as possibilities.
Why can’t this be considered plausible?
Any comments on this? I keep thinking about this and it’s been bothering me for quite some time now. Any feedback would be appreciated.
What would be the Catholic response to this?