« Philosophize This!

Episode #038 ... Leibniz pt. 2 - The Best of All Possible Worlds

2014-10-02 | 🔗

On this episode of the podcast, we continue our discussion of Gottfried Leibniz. First, we delve more into the feud between Leibniz and Isaac Newton, which we briefly mentioned last week. Next, we ask ourselves why God sometimes allows Steve Buschemi to murder innocent hitchhikers and why this question is so crucial to Leibniz. Finally, we return to the issue of free will vs. determinism and wonder whether we’re ever actually free to decide what kind of cheese to buy. All this and more on the latest episode of Philosophize This!

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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if they had tabloids? That issue certainly was a high profile issue, but it was far from the extent of their disagreements with each other on many issues, are seen as to profoundly genius intellectuals, who will very different opinions that often contradict each other, and these disagreements run deep. You guys even down to the foundation of reality itself, were all very familiar with the new Tony and model of the universe that shape scientific thought since a day he laid it out. You know this mechanistic atavism or the physical world is made up of real physical objects. Will the fact that live nets and his theory, this infinity of spiritual points, he calls monads the fact that it eventually didn't hold up the scientific scrutiny and the fact that the new Tony and view prevails. It may have been due to a fatal flaw present in here
experiments directly from the start, an assumption that he made. But it's interesting to consider for a second for us, because we aren't scientists how different science would be and how different the world might look if, for some reason, I don't know what it would be if at some point in history reliance is Monad Ology, the same level of notoriety. That Newton System did just imagine how different would think about science. Imagine how differen We would think about our place in the world now. This is the getting me delivering on my promise from last week of making sure we understand why Leibnitz was so compelled to create this system of monads his motivation, The bottom line was, he was scared. He saw the writing on the wall. He was worried that these new theories that we're coming around presenting the universe to be mechanistic, we're going to make God unnecessary or even worse, incompatible limits is born in sixteen forty six
And when he was only six years old, his father died, and so the pivotal moment, that's life, because this left him under the care of his mother, who was deeply religious and she made sure she passed on as much of that as she could under the young freed liveness one of the principal tasks of lien? It is life, one did he spent countless hours, arguing about and working on, is this relationship between theology in this new emerging body of thought- and the result of this is that, in the context of this larger war, that's going on between these two competing interests, Leibnitz as a major thinker on one side that was trying to make peace between those two sides, the ends up having a lot of the same argument over and over and over again just how it goes I mean during the short period he was a thinker on this planet, certain really pivotal issues were being discussed and they just happened to be what he spent his brain power. So when you look at his ology understand that this is why,
He needs this God centred Foundation in the first place and understand that when you talk about all these special attributes of the monads to us seem pretty arbitrary. I mean come on, monads, don't have windows. What is that about understand that these attributes to live nets aren't arbitrary and that he did Who says that these attributes must exist based on the results of these arguments, cities having in the real world about things like the relationship between humans and God, the nature of reality and how humans interact with that reality. But if you ask live- The one issue that many of these conversations centered around the issue that central to our episode today, and an issue that lie. That's probably be tired of talking about by the end of his life. It would be the problem of evil. How do you explain the fact that there is supposedly a magic being up in the sky was both all knowing and all powerful without limitations. How do you
reconcile that with the fact that evil exists in the world, that horrible things happened to completely innocent people all the time. And when somebody asked this question in modern times there not just talking about human behavior, you know they're not just talk about, DR by shootings and cereal. Killers, murdering dozens of people, are not just talking about things that can be explained away with some concept, like the devil, who some influencing their behaviour. For talking about things like natural disasters to look at the videos of the tsunami that happened a couple years ago, justice giant horrifying wave, helplessly engulfing just groups of children and their parents and their friends, you Know- is God just sitting back and watching as these kids inhale salt, water and suffocate and get torn to bits by telephone. phone poles and houses and car slamming into them? On that same note, is God
sitting back and watching pandemic disease, did God sit back and watch the bubonic plague happen? Millions of people choking on their own bodily fluids. How does. On reconcile that reality with the exist. Of an all powerful infinitely good God, and when somebody brought this up to life, that's especially by the end of his life. He must have just wanted to beat his head against the wall until they walked away and stopped. Ask him the question this quest can plagued him his entire life and although he has one of the most famous and brilliant responses to this question, hardly went away after he died its commonly been. Two as the biggest and most important theological question that Christian face today and it's one that for the record still hasn't been answered definitively. We see this all the time. Some terrible thing happens in the news: there's some horrific school shooting or a terrorist
attack and in the coming weeks, people do a lot of soul searching their confused. It gets hard for them to accept that, despite all their efforts, despite the fact that them and everyone around them, live so ethically. How Can one person do this? How can a small group of people do this to all of humanity? Why would God allow that to happen And then what inevitably happens is some big name. Christian blogger gets on the internet and they come up with some post attempting to console people and give them since four, why they think this stuff happens now, but people don't know is that this type of blog post has a name, but the name was into it long before it was ever written town in blog form. It's it's called a odyssey, the or the odyssey is a combination of two greek words, one meaning God the other meaning just So in short, it's a thing that somebody writes about God in order to justify his action or inactions.
Somebody writes at the odyssey and they're kind of like being God's defense attorney so to speak. Well, like I said these monies Christians are the only people that ever wrote a theocracy and like us, before that? Leibnitz has has one of the most famous dyes ever written. Let's talk about it now if you have a good memory, you're going to remember that we talked about this before Plotinus right, but let me make something clear the problem but protagonists is trying to solve during his time is a completely different beef. Then the problem Leibnitz is trying to solve during his time and the problem that modern Christians try to explain away. Let me explain the common occurrence in today's world. Somebody strolls up to a modern day christian and they say you believe in an all powerful, all knowing loving God, that put you on this. And it to glorify him and be happy yet millions and millions of people die of horribly painful, completely preventable diseases. Each year.
I hereby call the existence of your God into question, because if he did exist, as you say, he does, never allow that to happen will put this was a NEO platonists and from his perspective and through the perspective, of most thinkers in the middle ages. Talking about some evil, that's going on in the world didn't cause them to question and whether they were wrong about God existing or not it made it. Question whether they understood how it was possible in the first place. We can understand this mean they looked around them back then, in all these perfectly ordered unexplained. Phenomena around them and I'm a pretty darn certain god existed at that point. You know they sought evil in the world and they didn't question whether God existed because of it they They were legitimately confused about why it happens, how it's even possible and they look
for a reason why it could possibly exist now, as we talked about before Platina. Does it from the perspective of metaphysics that evil is not something God creates or allows its. The absence of good evil is the absence of good good thing, being the creation of God. This infinitely good source, known as the one example is let's say, a piece of wood represents all of creation. God created it. This infinitely good being created this piece of wood now, if there's a whole in that piece of wood, it's not that God created that whole. That whole is the absence of his creation. is the basis protagonist uses for saying why it's possible that evil can best in the world now is much more to hysteria. boys go back and listen to the protagonist episode to get a refresher courses. But the point is: there's a big difference between what put Titus was doing, which is,
reasoning to a conclusion that allows for evil to even be possible in a world created by God, just in theory, this a big difference. when justifying that enjoy. define what Leibnitz? In the modern day, Christians seem to justify, which is that God can, in provision and change the course of history, and in fact he does it all the time. Yet he still allows for terrible things to happen to innocent people. How do you explain that This argument is commonly referred to as the underachiever argument, claiming that God could work harder, but doesn't for whatever reason, to very different problems that are trying to solve here, and we can relate to this? We ve all heard someone talk about God and such glowing. Turks, we ve all heard someone tell a story like you know, I was at home. My baby started act and weird, so decide to take it to the hospital we're driving down the road. My mic car blows a head, gasket I'm stranded on the side of the road, and I look into the back seat and my baby is blue. It can't breathe it's convulsing on the seat.
And I frantically wave my arms at all the passing cars and this really really passionate middle aged guy Poles over, and he takes my baby. Russia's it The hospital and saves its life. God is so incredible. Jesus influence that man's behaviour, the man would have otherwise driven passed me. You never would have stopped and help me and my baby, but God put it in his heart to pull over on the side of the road and make my life better than it would have been if God hadn't intervene, They even more incredible part to me about that stories. It God does. All of this comes Wheatley outside the man's conscious awareness I mean before this part, and blew a head gasket in their car. This guy wasn't just driving down the road singing some journey song and then it's taken away whereby God pulls over on the side of the road and says I am here to take you to the hospital, like some Jesus robot, Now he thought he was acting on his own volition. He thought it was just being compassionate helping another person out being ethical aside from the other problem,
the problem with attributing this miracle to a supernatural, God that, intervened in your world to make your life better than it otherwise would have been. The problem that limits needs to address is that we also have to give God credit. For the ninety nine times out of a hundred that the baby dies. In that scenario, we also have to give God credit for the person that hitchhiked down the road and tries to get help and then get picked up by some Steve Fushimi looking I who kills them, augurs a hole in the side of their head and makes it decoration for their mantel piece. You know this is known as the under achiever argument and the response it lie. Bits gives that it's not that God is an under achiever? It's that we humans just perceive him to be an under achiever naively when In fact, we are living in the best of all possible worlds. Soap, to clarify a part of last week's episode when limits calls this existence the best of all possible worlds. He's referencing this notion that God could do more, but chooses not to right.
So. He obviously disagrees with it, but that puts them in a very interesting place. He's committed no tools Five minutes the world is not arbitrary, every act of creation by God, driven by a specific purpose or a sufficient reason is principle of sufficient reason is something that he's very famous, for God. Didn't just make the world kind of good to limits. He made it the best he possibly could and for good reason. Now. This leaves live MIT with the task of proving how that's possible when people like Steve Shimi exist in the world, and this would have been a very common argument levied against you know We live in the best of all possible worlds. Ok, imagine the world. If the holocaust never happened. You know the world today a slightly better place if millions and millions of people weren't killed back in World WAR Ii. Why didn't God make that world possible
its argues against this and a couple ways firstly says, but to give a modern example, let's not pretend like we know for a fact that, if nine eleven never happened, the world would be a better place for it. We are not all knowing as human beings, but God is, for example, maybe that attack prompted a response from the United States that caused us to intervene in the Middle EAST and it prevented some future attack were of half a million people God could be allowing certain things to take place as damage control for future events. Now. The second way that he refuted the one that I think is far more compelling. Then that is limits would say. We live in the best of all possible worlds. How? arrogant and short sighted. Is it for We assume that human happiness is the metric that God uses to determine how good the world is. The Euro
this is bigger than you human species understand that he talks about how it can be just as likely that God created the best of all worlds, but he's he's considering all sentient creatures in all the polar bears, all the dogs, all the cats and maybe a few thousand human beings dying over here is ultimately better offer all the polar bears and the dogs and cats. Not. This is a really interesting argument for me. And it should be said to be a totally unbiased and comprehensive podcast. I should say that limits gives all kinds of examples of how God might measure goodness in the universe that don't necessarily have to do with humans, and it's not entirely clear which one he subscribes to personally. But the conflict with modern Christianity is obvious here we as humans are the exalted species what's goin on here we are on the same level as all these other animals. The polar bears were special
this whole universe was created so that we can have this ethical obstacle course. You know, after for the polar bears, their coat commercials forget them. The point: is it's tough to reconcile the modern christian world view with the want and killing of humans? That's all I'm saying, but it really doesn't matter because the whole point that limits is making here said we don't know what gauge God uses to determine what good is. So how can anybody say that were not living in the best of all possible worlds? Now the burden of proof on the personal claims. Otherwise you know for someone to refute that we are living in the best of all possible worlds. They have to prove that that's the case. Blindness looks at Highnesses argument about evil, just being the absence of good or a hole in a piece of wood, and he thinks it's ridiculous. He writes if God is responsible,
for all of creation, then he's also responsible for the holes he leaves it live. It says that everything that happens in the world, good or evil can ultimately be tied back. The God's will but that doesn't mean God, does it all with a smile on his face, and this is the big difference to liveness when God wills for good things to happen. He does so line, says by decree and when he wills, evil things to happen, he's just kind of letting it happen. But why does God do this because he is doing his duty, as God just doing my job man and that job is to create the best possible world see originally at the beginning of everything. God contemplated all possible ways. The universe could have played out and he chose the best one. We humans, we feeble humans, may not understand all the ins and outs of it's the best one. After all, why it's? The best one may have very little to do with us at all so evil to life.
It is a necessary evil. He makes it very clear that we should make the distinction between the best of all possible worlds in a perfect world, as we would see it as a whole section of society where he talks about how it's logically impossible, for God, have created a perfect world and that the presence of evil isn't indicative of God not existing. It's a catalyst for some larger good, and this is a huge point right. Evil is not just the absence good, like Plotinus would hold evil, is a necessary state of affairs to allow for
I'm greater good is an example that Bertrand Russell gives in the history of western philosophy, and he illustrates this concept very well. He talks about how, as humans we would perceive being thirsty or dehydrated is something bad or something evil towards us right. So when we're thirsty or dehydrated, we arrive at that babbling broke up in the hills we drink, some cold, clean water. It tastes really good.
The goodness of that water is far greater than if we weren't thirty at all, and we drank some water out of an airport euro. By the way I just realized. I just destroy Bertrand Russell's example: I'm not trying to insult the great Bertrand Russell. You guys know how much reverence I have for him, but you get my point. Our thirst represents something we perceive to be an evil. Now line would say. Maybe you could wrongly think that in a perfect world God wouldn't ever allow you to get thirsty, he would never allow anybody to be thirsty, but this world actually is the best of all possible worlds, because when you drink the water, you derive more goodness from that drinking experience, and you would have something like thirst never existed in the first place. So it's not that God doesn't see this evil happening, maybe limits as statistically speaking, if you could play out every possible universe, like guns
maybe God realized that, by allowing thirst to exist and therefore allowing to exist the augmented experience of drinking when you're thirsty the universe is overall, a better universe for not that guarantees that no single human will ever die of thirst, but over the long run, statistically speaking, it is a better universe. Here's where it comes together. This is why the monads have a pre programmed Broadway script inside of them in our window, meaning nothing can go. Interrupt. White lips thinks that God created the best of all possible worlds. And to ensure that it stays that way. He created these monads in a state of pre established harmony and all the other attributes
Phone line, you know the monads arranged in a hierarchy, some monad serve other monads. All of these attributes are to ensure that the best of all possible worlds remains as proud as I am for explaining that this is far from where the conversation it's right. This just walks us into another giant area philosophy that, by the way, going to become more and more important and talked about on the show, as philosophy becomes more and more atheistic in the coming years, I'm talkin but the age old question of free will versus determinism Roquat by the way we see how this conversation takes us here right, This is one of the most commented on aspects of lines. Here is this Let's just guy the guy wants to reconcile the impeding differences between theology and new scientific mechanistic view of the universe.
And he chooses to reconcile it by saying that God created this universe in a state of pre established harmony will, if God predetermined things to happen, but in a certain way, then how does that allow for the notion of free will remember Spinoza, one of the other great continent rationalists he didn't allow for the concept of free will. He bought. It was an illusion, but limits did think. Freewill was I support, and the question arises not only how individual humans have free will
but also whether God himself can be said to have free will, if he in fact created the universe in a state of predetermined order that he's never going to deviate from and he ensures that it stays. That way. Can that be said to be a limit of God's power can be said to be all powerful. Then you can't intervene and change the universe, because to do so would be going against the best of all possible worlds. Well, for the record, I don't think it's necessarily a contradiction. I mean, if we're going to say that this God exists and that he created everything. Isn't it also possible that, like line says, he contemplated all the possibilities and decided on a path and just never deviates from that path, because it's perfect, but the idea of individual free well being compatible with alignment is honestly still up for grabs,
he claims it is, but is arguments are far from compelling for modern listeners? There are a couple that are interesting though, and we're gonna go over them right now. One of the main ones is that these windowless monads that limits lays out one of the reason why they need to be windowless. Does that there also entirely self containing, if that's the case and therefore not in by any sort of conditioning, exterior condition that would support determinism The only thing these monads have in the first place, to be able to make decisions is what's inside of them already, so decision that they make comes completely from inside themselves. So therefore they have to have free will. Most of the arguments have to do with some variation of compatible. Listen. Now we ve talked about compatible, isn't before. When we talked about the stoics. This whole conversation can get lost in the minutiae, real quick, if you let it so they're, just so many different individual shades and determine
some compatible, ism, etc. Maybe the most useful thing to say at this point in philosophy, one, the scum keep your interest on the subject is that why it's kind of ran into a brick wall. Here God has this pre established harmony that, at least in some capacity is dependent on human action, but human action is completely free. Here's what I will say compatible. I think the idea of Communism and free will are compatible with each other. Determinism is always some very into the idea that free will is an illusion. You know we think we're making free choices in the world weighing pros and cons in deciding on the best course of action, whether to get the regular cheese or the two percent cheese at the supermarket, but though it seems like we're making those decisions spontaneously, they really could have been perfectly predicted before we made them. You know imagine some really advanced computer program.
That new everything there was to know about your genetics and the biological processes operating in here and then it also knew every experience you ever had in your life from the second you're, born all the experiences you've had with cheese. In the past, all the experiences you've had with higher calorie foods versus lower calorie foods. All the experience you've had getting made fun of for gaining weight by people, and he even goes down to every experience you've had with, for example. Red packages versus blue packages? Thousands, if not millions of variables, all spinning around being calculated in your mind that lead to that decision. Can this advanced computer program also calculate and determine exactly what you would have done before you Did it after all, what is a brain other than you,
some advance computer making calculations based on the experiences that you ve had your life and if you think that computer can perfectly predict every decision that you make before you make it, can you really be said to have free will or do you just think? You have freewill interesting question? Will the biggest argument against compatible isn't by proponents of determinism is compatible, is really are proving that free will is compatible with the terminals and they're. Just switching the definition of what freedom is compatible. Ism is usually some bearing to the idea that we are making free choices, but there are certain events or external things that we have no control over occurring. For example, what say you drive and on the freeway your honor wrote her right. You can choose to do a lot of things. You can choose to speed up, slow down change, lanes, the left or right. You can choose to put day a code
Bumper sticker on the back of your car, but no matter what you do, you're still going to end up in the same place, you're still going to take the same off ramp, you would have taken you're still going to go through the same junctions. You would have simply by virtue of being on that road, but is that still free will in the sense that most people think about it and by the way is we'll find out in future episodes determinism doesn't just have to leave us these emotionless robots living. Our lives and hear something to think about throughout the week. As I mentioned on the John Locke Episode, if we build that we are solely byproducts of our conditioning, then it becomes much more difficult to feel hostility towards that annoying person at work, or even people like Steve, Bu Shimi. Thank you for listening I'll talk to you next time. You can follow me on Twitter. At I am Stephen West you can join in, discussion on Facebook? We find me
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Transcript generated on 2020-09-30.