Leibniz and Kant on Empirical Miracles: Rationalism, Freedom, and the Laws

In Brandon Look (ed.), Leibniz and Kant. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 320-354 (2021)
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Leibniz and Kant were heirs of a biblical theistic tradition which viewed miraculous activity in the world as both possible and actual. But both were also deep explanatory rationalists about the natural world: more committed than your average philosophical theologian to its thoroughgoing intelligibility. These dual sympathies—supernaturalist religion and empirical rationalism—generate a powerful tension across both philosophers’ systems, one that is most palpable in their accounts of empirical miracles—that is, events in nature that violate one or more of the natural laws. The primary goal of this chapter is to exhibit their respective efforts to resolve this tension, and to show how Kant’s noumenal ignorance doctrine allows him to set aside some key difficulties that Leibniz’s model leaves unresolved. The chapter concludes with the unorthodox suggestion that both systems leave conceptual space for the idea that finite free beings, rather than just God, can produce empirical miracles.



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Andrew Chignell
Princeton University

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