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The Problem of Evil in Early Modern Philosophy

The Problem of Evil in Early Modern Philosophy

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    The Problem of Evil in Early Modern Philosophy
    Book Description:

    The papers in this collection represent some of the best original work being done today on the theodicies of such early modern philosophers as Leibniz, Suarez, Spinoza, Malebranche, and Pierre Bayle.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8214-6
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Contributors
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 3-9)

    The essays in this volume are about the problem of evil as it was understood and wrestled with in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Or perhaps ‘problems’ of evil would be a better designation, since many distinct issues are to be found within the labyrinthine twists and turns of this momentous issue. For the philosophers of the period, the task of theodicy was both philosophical and theological. Philosophically, evil presented a challenge to the consistency and rationality of the world-picture disclosed by the new way of ideas. But in dealing with this challenge, philosophers were also influenced by the...

  5. 2 Suarez on God’s Causal Involvement in Sinful Acts
    (pp. 10-34)

    In this paper I will explore certain key features of Francisco Suarez’s account of God’s action in the world, with an eye toward explaining his view of the precise way in which God concurs with – that is, makes an immediate causal contribution to – free action in general and sinful action in particular. Suarez agrees with his mainly Thomistic opponents that God is an immediate cause of every effect produced by creatures – including every free act and,a fortiori, every sinful act elicited by creatures with a rational or ‘free’ nature. But he differs markedly from them in...

  6. 3 Descartes’s Theodicy of Error
    (pp. 35-48)

    I have called my paper ‘Descartes’s Theodicy of Error’ in deference to Descartes’s claim in the synopsis to theMeditationsthat the Fourth Meditation has to do only with error, not with sin. In fact, it may seem strange to consider the Fourth Meditation as a theodicy at all. Considering the ‘order of reasons’ of theMeditations, the point of Meditation Four could well be seen as narrowly epistemological. Having proven the existence of his almighty, supremely good Creator, Descartes now needs to use this concept to undergird his criterion of truth; the fact of human error creates an immediate...

  7. 4 Spinoza: A Radical Protestant?
    (pp. 49-65)

    The dabbler’s Spinoza is, and probably will long remain, an atheist, though a virtuous one. Scholars, of course, construct a figure of greater spiritual complexity, taking into account the pronouncedly religious, even ‘god-intoxicated,’ character of much of his writing. Yet even among those who have studied Spinoza carefully there appears to be a broad consensus on at least one point: Spinoza was not a Christian. The reason frequently given for this conclusion is the complete lack of evidence of his membership in any Christian denomination (see, for example, Laux 1993, 254f; Mason 1997, 208; Nadler 1999, 291; Zac 1985, 116/490)....

  8. 5 Spinoza in the Garden of Good and Evil
    (pp. 66-80)

    On the face of it, the mere idea of discussing Spinoza’s approach to the theodicy problem should appear misguided, if not downright absurd. After all, should not Spinoza reject the whole question of theodicy as incoherent, and grounded in a false or inadequate conception of the nature of things? It would seem, in fact, that the question cannot even be raised within his metaphysical and moral system, and that thus it is worthless to investigate anything other than why that is so. And yet, as I hope to show, I think there is more to it than that.

    For the...

  9. 6 Malebranche on Disorder and Physical Evil: Manichaeism or Philosophical Courage?
    (pp. 81-100)

    Malebranche’s theodicy is not present in his first and most famous work, theRecherche de la vérité, published in 1674–5. He conceived his theodicy only after 1680, when his thought matured, especially with theTraité de la nature et de la grâce, and he continued to clarify its concepts and principles until the end of his career. (The last work of the Oratorian,Réflexions sur la prémotion physique, which appeared in 1715, contains a detailed summary of his reflection on the theme.) This theodicy is not very well known. It is less well known than other Malebranchian theories, like...

  10. 7 Bayle on the Moral Problem of Evil
    (pp. 101-118)

    The problem of evil is generally regarded as a philosophical problem, that is, as one that arises independently of religious faith. It was Epicurus, after all, who gave the problem its classic formulation. It is the Christian conception of God, however, that gives the problem its greatest urgency, but with the result of restricting its interest, at least for some. Motivation for investigating the problem can be had by regarding it as dealing less with the conception of God, Christian or otherwise, than with conceptions of the world. That is, talk about God is more widely relevant when understood as...

  11. 8 Leibniz and the ‘Disciples of Saint Augustine’ on the Fate of Infants Who Die Unbaptized
    (pp. 119-137)

    In theTheodicy, Leibniz discusses a great variety of theological positions. In most cases, his approach is conciliatory and his criticism is couched in irenic terms. This is not surprising because theTheodicywas part of a lifelong effort to promote the reunification of the Christian churches. But Leibniz’s criticism of ‘the disciples of Saint Augustine,’ in other words, the Jansenists, is uncharacteristically harsh and dismissive.¹ Leibniz says that he agrees with some of what the Jansenists say about necessity and contingency, but only ‘provided that certain odious things, whether in expression or in the dogmas themselves, are set aside’...

  12. 9 Leibniz and the Stoics: The Consolations of Theodicy
    (pp. 138-164)

    Theodicy is usually conceived as a branch of apologetics: a quasi-legal defence of the justice of divine action, or of the consistency of God’s perfection with his creation of a world containing physical and moral evil.¹ This is the sense given to it in the title of the Latin summary of Leibniz’sTheodicy: ‘The Case of God Defended through His Justice, Reconciled with His Other Perfections and All His Actions [Causa dei asserta per justitiam ejus, cum caeteris ejus perfectionibus, cunctisque actionibus conciliatam]’ (G VI 437). The significance of theodicy, however, reaches beyond the domain of theology proper. Leibniz holds...

  13. 10 Remarks on Leibniz’s Treatment of the Problem of Evil
    (pp. 165-179)

    The primary aim of this paper is to make a contribution toward understanding Leibniz’s rich and intricate treatment of the problem of evil. In my opinion, the study of Leibniz’s treatment of the problem of evil and, more generally, his philosophical theology is in its infancy compared to the study of some other aspects of his philosophy. Hence, the aims of this paper are modest – something like an initial map of selected highlights of the relevant terrain.

    There is no doubt that the problem of evil was a life-long preoccupation for Leibniz. In its most general form, the problem...