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  • Determinismo e utilitarismo nella teodicea di Leibniz
  • Ariella Lang
Gianfranco Mormino . Determinismo e utilitarismo nella teodicea di Leibniz. Filosofia escienza nell'età moderna 496.1.61. Milan: FrancoAngeli, 2005. 228 pp. index. bibl. €24. ISBN: 88–464–6316–1.

In his examination of Leibniz's theodicy, Mormino does not seek to provide a general overview of Leibniz's thought. Instead, he seeks to delineate the path that examines only some of the many connections that tie his theodicy to his philosophy more generally. These ties are both systematic, in particular issues surrounding the problem of evil, and historical, particularly the influence of the English philosopher Hobbes.

Mormino approaches the problem of evil in Leibniz by exploring the immediate seventeenth-century background to this problem. He argues convincingly that Hobbes's influence on Leibniz appears clearly in both his early writings as well as his later work. In particular, according to Mormino, Hobbes's "system of necessity" and his theory of contingency define the crucial issue that underlies the problem of evil for the evolution of Leibniz's theodicy: the fallibility of man.

Here we reach the heart of the philosophical matter. In his discussion of Leibniz's view of necessitarianism, Mormino focuses on the connection between Leibniz's theodicy and the justice of punishment. As Mormino argues, the principle task of the notion of causa Dei is the demonstration that reward and punishment are distributed in a rational way, according to impartial and universal means. The problem of justice is configured first as a definition of the conditions that permit the affirmation of the responsibility both of God and of man for their actions. That is, Leibniz's theodicy sets for itself as its minimum goal a vindication of God that makes God's causality, the causa Dei, primary while also making man accountable for his actions. Thus, argues Mormino, Liebniz proposes a determinism with utilitarian inflections where responsibility is rooted in the conscious tendency toward an end judged as good. Finally, Mormino's emphasis on the Hobbesian background to Leibniz's seventeenth century thought lays the groundwork for a persuasive account that emphasizes Leibniz's extraordinary originality, and the radical nature of his investigation into the nature of God and the origins of evil. [End Page 603]

Mormino organizes his work chronologically, spanning a time period from 1663–1716. In his early writings, discussed in chapter 1, Leibniz's consideration of the problem of divine justice is part of the larger debate on predestination. As Mormino suggests, these first reflections are more a result of Leibniz's political and religious concerns than his strictly philosophical interests. Aside from the schisms that were weighing down Christianity, Leibniz was well aware of the great controversy of the era, namely the desire to reconcile faith in the infinite perfection of the supreme creator with a world of great poverty and a God who condemns most men for eternity. Like Hobbes, argues Mormino, Leibniz believes that the question of how the just power of God is interpreted is fundamental for civil accord and eternal salvation. This issue produces one of the main strands of Mormino's argument: namely, that Leibniz's theodicy has both theological and political ends. While Leibniz does not develop fully his argument on the relationship between God and evil or his definition of divine justice in his early years, his work in this period marks a foray into issues that come to fruition in the German philosopher's theodicy.

In chapter 2, Mormino examines a letter Leibniz wrote Magnus Wedderkopf which marks the beginning of the philosopher's response to issues that were left unresolved previously. The letter marks Leibniz's first step toward a new and more complex theory of creation and, argues Mormino, is particularly significant because the reader sees Leibniz's shift from a focus on particular destinies to the more general question of the ultimate reason of things. Aside from his solution, which is marked by an extreme necessitarianism, the letter shows the evolution of Leibniz's thought. In other words, it provides students of Leibniz with an understanding of another rung in his formulation of the problem of the theodicy, and in...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1935-0236
Print ISSN
0034-4338
Pages
pp. 603-605
Launched on MUSE
2008-03-27
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Archived 2009
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