Malebranche and Leibniz on the best of all possible worlds

Southern Journal of Philosophy 48 (1):28-48 (2010)
Abstract
In this article I explore Leibniz's claim in the Theodicy that on the essential points Malebranche's theodicy "reduces to" his own view. This judgment may seem to be warranted given that both thinkers emphasize that evils are justified by the fact that they follow from the simple and uniform laws that govern that world which is worthy of divine creation. However, I argue that Leibniz's theodicy differs in several crucial respects from Malebranche's. I begin with a qualified endorsement of Charles Larmore's recent claim that remarks in Malebranche's correspondence with Leibniz indicate that their theodicies rely on incompatible conceptions of the moral rationality of divine action. I also attempt to go beyond Larmore's discussion in highlighting further differences concerning the sort of freedom involved in the divine act of creation. My conclusion is that these differing conceptions of divine morality and divine freedom reveal that in contrast to the case of Leibniz, Malebranche's theodicy not only does not require that God create anything at all, but also is compatible with the result that the world he decides to create is not uniquely the best possible.
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