This chapter discusses Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz’s theory of the actual world as the best of all possible worlds. The chapter opens with Leibniz’s response to the two most basic questions of metaphysics: Why is there something rather than nothing? And, why do certain things exist while other equally possible things do not? It examines Leibniz’s critique of Baruch Spinoza’s metaphysics, with particular reference to the argument that God must make a choice among possible worlds because not all possibles are “compossible.” In addition, it explores Leibniz’s claim that the best of all possible worlds is the world containing the highest level of perfection or reality, intelligibility, order, and harmony. The chapter concludes by looking at three theological doctrines underlying Leibniz’s conception of the best of all possible worlds: divine creation, conservation, and concurrence.
Christa Davis Acampora
Ecce Homo offers Nietzsche’s own interpretation of himself, his thoughts, and his works. This article analyzes how the text bears on his ideas about agency, fate, and freedom. It presents an account of “how one becomes what one is.” For Nietzsche, a person is a set of drives ordered or ranked a certain way; there is no will or subject separate from these that could carry out the work of becoming. What is most important is that one’s drives be coordinated in a single entity. Through these tactics some of us can become what we are.
John F. Wippel
Aquinas mentioned that the word ‘being’ (ens) signifies ‘that which is’ or ‘that which exists’. Aquinas recognized with Parmenides that the act of being cannot be divided by something completely outside being itself in the way a genus is divided into species by differences, for outside being there is only nonbeing and, as he also held, being is not a genus. Aquinas reasons that being can be divided by certain modes that are realized within being. These may be either certain general modes that follow upon every being, or more particularized modes that correspond to diverse modes of existing. The general modes of being (often referred to as transcendentals) are found wherever being itself is realized so that every being is also ‘one’, a ‘thing’, ‘something’ ‘good’, and ‘true’. Aquinas denied that a proper definition could be given for substance or for the other predicaments because each of them is a supreme genus and again because being itself cannot be regarded as a genus. Aquinas argued for a fundamental composition and distinction within every finite substance of two distinct ontological principles of being that include an essence that accounts for the fact that it is a being of a given kind and a distinct act of existing (esse) that accounts for the fact that it actually exists.
This article argues that the most difficult conceptual hurdle in the way of a contemporary analytical philosopher trying to approach medieval philosophy is the notion of being or existence. It considers the recent criticism of an eminent analytical philosopher, Sir Anthony Kenny, of the doctrine of being of an equally eminent medieval philosopher-theologian, Thomas Aquinas. The article also develops a reconstruction of the doctrine of Aquinas that is just as exact and accessible as the Fregean doctrine which serves as Kenny's background, and is able to provide adequate replies to Kenny's main objections.
This article examines Nietzsche’s thoughts about becoming and being, and how these are at odds with both knowledge and life. It discusses how Nietzsche addresses this problem, beginning with its historical part: Nietzsche’s story of how the philosophical tradition first builds the concept of being, but then pulls it down by the stages described in the famous ‘history of an error’ chapter in Twilight of the Idols. This development culminates in the replacement of being with becoming. But understanding what Nietzsche means by becoming requires an understanding of its relation to time. We arrive at a genuine sense of becoming only by stripping away our experience of time as succession.
This chapter provides an outline of the main philosophical and interpretative problems involved in Spinoza’s key concepts: Substance, Attribute, and Modes. Spinoza’s God has infinitely many qualities that constitute, or are adequately conceived as constituting, his essence, while the other qualities of Spinoza’s God, though not constituting God’s essence, follow necessarily from God’s essence. Spinoza calls the former “Attributes [attributa]” and the latter “Modes [modi].” Following a clarification of Spinoza’s understanding of Substance [substantia] in the first part of this essay, we will study in the second and third parts Spinoza’s conception of attributes and modes, respectively.
Spinoza was of course a necessitarian. But what motivated him to embrace such a troublesome view? This article first recounts the structure of Spinoza’s necessitarianism, recounting the roles of the attributes and infinite modes. It then explores various ways to interpret Spinoza’s claim that all things are necessitated: does that include only actual things? Can there be said to be any nonactual possibles? Finally, the chapter argues that Spinoza’s goals in ethics and in philosophy of religion could have been achieved without necessitarianism and that it was in fact Spinoza’s exceptionally high threshold for explanation that led him to adopt necessitarianism.
Aquinas used the term ‘agent’ referring to a created substance or to God. Aquinas's concept of substance explains that substances are set apart from accidents by the fact that substances are subsistent things. Aquinas believed that each substance belong to a particular species and has a complete nature common to any other members of that species that there may be. He also mentioned that there is a distinctive set of causal powers corresponding to each specific nature. Aquinas called the change (or motion) produced by the agent the ‘passion’. Aquinas considered active powers as real (though not necessarily physical) components of a thing that enable it to act in certain ways. A passive power is something posited to account for the fact that a thing is capable of being acted upon in a certain way, that is, to account for the fact that a thing is capable of undergoing a certain sort of passion. Aquinas claimed that every agent (living and nonliving) acts by intending some end. Aquinas did not think that inanimate objects do things out of an awareness of some goal. Aquinas distinguished two types of inclinations that include natural and voluntary. The types of natural inclinations are fire's inclination to heat and a stone's inclination to fall. A voluntary inclination is just any act of the will.
Stefano Di Bella
This chapter examines the complete-concept theory central to Leibniz's Discourse on Metaphysics of 1686. It argues that this doctrine lies at the intersection of three great layers of thought: his reflections on individual history and destiny, his ontological intuition of what is considered a “complete being,” and his logically minded unified theory of concepts and truth. In addition, the chapter considers the relevance of the doctrine of complete concepts to Leibniz's concerns about theodicy, and argues that the complete-concept doctrine was never abandoned by Leibniz, even though it was sidelined after 1686 in favour of other approaches to the theory of substance.
Domenico Bertoloni Meli
This chapter focuses on Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz’s interest in cosmology in relation to some of his other concerns, including God’s role in the universe, the reunion of the churches, freedom in philosophizing, and the abolition of censorship. It begins with a discussion of Leibniz’s reflections on Copernicanism and the world system, followed by an analysis of his views on the structure of the world and its physical and mathematical properties. It then looks at his correspondence with Landgraf Ernst von Hessen-Rheinfels, his view of lack of freedom concerning the world system as an important factor against the Roman Catholic Church, and his efforts to convince the Catholic hierarchy to lift the ban against Copernicus. It also considers Leibniz’s dispute with Isaac Newton regarding issues such as the nature of gravity and action at a distance.
Dewey gradually abandoned the absolute idealism of his early period for what became his well-known philosophy of experience, his “cultural naturalism,” as he came to call it. During this development, he had to reconsider some very basic metaphysical commitments found not only in idealism but in many other metaphysical systems. The result was his development of a robust version of nonreductive naturalism that emphasized process and creative emergence. This essay does two things: (a) it traces the development of key themes in Dewey’s metaphysics prior to Experience and Nature (1925, revised 1929), and then (b) it focuses on that work as the culminating expression of his metaphysics, especially with regard to the “generic traits of existence.”
William T. Myers
This chapter is divided into three main sections: Dewey’s metaphysics, Whitehead’s metaphysics, and the connections between them. The Dewey section begins with a discussion of current perceptions among scholars of Dewey’s metaphysics, which runs the gamut from those who claim that he did not do metaphysics to those who think he did it well. Next there is a discussion of Dewey’s starting point, with an emphasis on “The Postulate of Immediate Empiricism.” This seminal essay is crucial to understanding Dewey’s approach to philosophy in general. There is then a brief defense of Deweyan metaphysics, followed by a shortlisting of his generic traits of existence. The Whitehead section covers speculative philosophy, Whitehead’s categories, and his theory of prehensions. The final section discusses two of the many items that connect Dewey and Whitehead: their starting points and their take on the mind/body problem.
This article begins by setting out Kant's views on the dialectic of reason and the related concept of reflective judgment. It then shows how two main strands of German philosophy in the nineteenth century develop those doctrines in different directions. On the one hand, German Idealism develops dialectic in a way that minimizes the necessity for the kind of rational presupposition that is indicative of Kantian reflective judgment. Idealism does this in the service of constructing more and more ‘scientific’ philosophical systems that ground objectivity of claims and theories in terms of necessity. On the other hand, German Romanticism embraces the idea of reflective judgment and the idea of an ‘Absolute’ that is beyond human comprehension, arguing that objectivity cannot be grounded in the idea of a total, all-encompassing system of thought. It then treats two major twentieth-century representatives of these approaches: Adorno and Habermas.
The early moderns confronted an abundance of causes and types of causal explanations. From Aristotle through the Scholastics they had inherited the doctrine of the four causes, that is, depending upon context the material, formal, final, or efficient cause provides the proper explanation or answer to a ‘Why?’ question. From the Christianization of Aristotle's Unmoved Mover they had inherited the idea of God as creator of the universe. And to the creator role had been added the idea of providence whereby God in some sense ‘manages’ the world of mundane events. Aquinas had actually identified God as the efficient cause of all things.
Peter R. Anstey
This article examines the views of René Descartes, Robert Boyle, and John Locke on essence and kinds and outlines the polemical stances that motivate and direct each of their views. It describes the ontological categories to which they subscribed and their own speculative theories about the actual kinds in the world. It categories to which they subscribed and their own speculative theories about the actual kinds in the world and discusses the late-Aristotelian theory of substantial forms.
This chapter discusses Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz’s philosophical reflections on essences, ideas, and truths in God’s mind and in the human mind. After examining Leibniz’s claim that the essences (essentiae) of things are like numbers, the chapter goes on to analyze his argument that ideas are the buildings blocks of truths and that the intimate nature of ideas is what determines the truth of a proposition. It then outlines Leibniz’s views about ideas and truths in relation to God’s understanding; language (in particular philosophical language); scholasticism and nominalism; and the relationship among words, signs, and ideas. Finally, it considers Leibniz’s account of the nature of ideas in the human mind in relation to the existence of God.
Paul S. Loeb
This article shows that Nietzsche’s published presentations endorse the cosmological truth of eternal recurrence and that they indicate how belief in this truth can be supported with direct mnemonic evidence as well as a priori scientific proof. It also introduces a refutation of any attempt to construe Nietzsche’s doctrine as a thought experiment that would help to test or promote the affirmation of nonrecurring life.
Eternity is a property that substance and modes have in common. Spinoza posits in E5p23 that “the human mind cannot be absolutely destroyed with the body, but something of it remains which is eternal.” Thus, men have both an indefinite existence or duration, and an eternal one. This thesis sounds very odd because it seems to stand in contradiction to the “parallelism” between body and mind. One may wonder whether Spinoza really thinks that the mind enjoys eternal existence or if he is merely paying lip service to a traditional belief. What does he mean when he states in E5p23s that “we feel and experience (experimur) that we are eternal.” The purpose of the article is to understand this mysterious statement and to examine Spinoza’s definition of eternity in order to determine if modes can enjoy a real eternity.
This article examines the free will problem as it arises within Thomas Hobbes' naturalistic science of morals in early modern Europe. It explains that during this period, the problem of moral and legal responsibility became acute as mechanical philosophy was extended to human psychology and as a result human choices were explained in terms of desires and preferences rather than being represented as acts of an autonomous faculty. It describes how Hobbes changed the face of moral philosophy, through his Leviathan, in ways that still structure and resonate within the contemporary debate.
Jeffrey K. McDonough
This chapter attempts to clarify Leibniz’s theories of freedom and contingency by viewing them against the backdrop of his efforts to reengineer important philosophical concepts. In developing a concept of freedom, Leibniz is above all concerned to preserve divine and human responsibility (Section 1). His account of freedom requires him to reject necessitarianism, that is, the view that all things are absolutely necessary (Section 2). Leibniz therefore carves out two concepts of contingency. The first is centered on the thought that something may be contingent considered by itself – that is, per se – even if it is necessary in light of God’s goodness or will (Section 3). The second is centered on the thought that it may be possible to draw a distinction between contingent and necessary propositions in terms of logic alone (Section 4).