A Philosophy Paper on Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz

Introduction

According to the principle of sufficient reason, for everything that exists on Earth there is a reason, sufficient enough for it to continue existence; for everything that happens there is a reason as to why it happens and for everything that is proposed there is a reason as to why it is true. However, the reasons cannot be always known by us, unless there was a reason as to why everything happens, then the world would not make sense (Leibniz & Arnauld, 2011). This argument does make sense.

 

This principle accounts for the phrase “completing the whole demonstration”. According to Leibniz, a total perception of a subject with its true predicates makes up a network of explanations; they can be followed backward and forward in principle. The demonstration of these backward and forward explanations is what makes up the logical structure. He argues by giving an example of Ceaser whose bravery and aspirations made him cross the Rubicon and Peter who came into contact with a virus that caused his illness. He says that this can only be true if one predicate gives an explanation for another.

Arguments

To test the occurrence and reason for something, one would have to complete a demonstration, from which then, it would show the rationality and distinctness of something happening but not that it happened necessarily in itself or that it is not happening by itself is a contradiction (Leibniz, 1991).

Leibniz, however, does not believe in the idea “everything about a subject is necessarily true”, for the reason that “he does not accept the truth in the idea of the free will”. For him A, for example, is not necessarily A. A is A, but nothing in itself proves that A has to be. While A’s property is explained by another property of A, no property explains the existence of A which means that it is not a necessary being.

Leibniz used the sufficient reason not only to explain why a proposition is the way it is, “but also otherwise”. Therefore, it explains not the probability of why something happened but why it happened. For example, in a football team, there were ten boys, one girl and one boy selected, sufficient reason does not explain that the boy was selected because there was a higher probability that a boy would be selected, but why he was selected since there was a possibility that the girl would be selected.

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The principle of sufficient reason as thought out by Leibniz deals with two problems; “truths of fact” and “truths of reason”. The truths of fact depend on the free will of God and are based on logic; they are contingent and empirical truths. For example, it is a fact that if a monad breaks a leg or burns by fire, he will feel pain. It is common knowledge that if a monad acts to offend or hurt another monad, then the reaction will be in equal weight to the offense or hurt. Basically, truths of fact are sufficient reason in their being definite, as opposed to suggestions or assumptions.

The truths of reason are based on existing knowledge or facts, but not assumptions, and if it did not exist, it would involve a contradiction. They are necessary permanent truths (Leibniz, 1991). For example, the sky is blue, in this case, there is no given time the sky will change its color to purple. All these are based on the natural world created by God as it was. Another example is the air; the air we inhale is colorless, does not have a smell and cannot be touched, this is a true, logical and known and not an assumption.

The reason of all things is a necessary substance. God’s existence, for example, is logically necessary. He is ideal, real and everlasting. God is the cause of all excellence and reality. Therefore, every monad or human being is produced from God, is eternal and adds to the unity of other monads. A monad, on its own is self-sufficient and does not depend on another monad; however, their actions and their reactions are a result of reciprocated relationships with other monads (Leibniz & Arnauld, 2011). Therefore, the reactions of monads have their sufficient reason in the actions of other monads. The actions are governed by the principles established by God, which are in harmony.

According to Leibniz, it is essential for monads to know the eternal truths, which can only be acquired through knowledge, for maintaining this harmony. God, in his goodness, maintains harmony in the “divine and natural worlds”, and in “ethical and natural laws”. The spiritual world being a moral world guides the natural world. Therefore, if the rational soul of a monad can act according to reason, then it becomes a true reflection of God.

God’s perfection has chosen “the finest of all worlds” that should produce the best of happiness and harmony, but this may not be the case because monads act according to that which brings them physical goodness and may not be virtuous which is what leads to imperfection, suffering and sin. Going against harmony, goodness and happiness is sufficient reason for the consequences such as imperfection, suffering and sin (Leibniz, 1991).

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Summary

In my opinion, to a greater extent, this principle is true, based on the truths of facts and truths of reason. Moreover, consequences of most actions are dependent on the causality. For instance, a man cuts down all the trees in a given region with the intention of building houses, roads and offices. This action will make him happy and will bring physical pleasure; however, he has acted on what makes him happy and not what will make others happy. For the conservationist, it is not something to be celebrated because it has brought about distraction to nature, which is beautiful and conserves the earth’s riches like water and air.

According to Leibniz, the world, as it exists, does so because God intended for it to be so. According to the principle of sufficient reason, God is a necessary being. His being in existence is necessary as far as logic goes. The way things appear in nature is something we cannot explain, like why there are six continents and not five, why all continents have different colored people who speak different languages, butnot the same one. All these are facts of nature of the best possible world as intended by God and as we cannot explain it.

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It is true that not all explanations are causal. There is a possibility that one thing can lead to the occurrence of multiple things. Leibniz gives an example of a clock, the movement of the clock arms is not dependent on each other. The result of something may not necessarily be caused by another thing. Take, for example, a person who dies in sleep. This person was not sick, he did not kill himself, was not killed by another person, he or she just died. Such kind of death can be explained only by the belief in the existence of the necessary being, God. He brings monad to the best of the possible worlds and only He can destroy them. (Leibniz, 1991)

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