History of Modern Philosophy eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 841 pages of information about History of Modern Philosophy.
reason and force of will.  That which is real in the evil action, the power to act, is perfect and good, and, as force, comes from God—­the negative or evil element in it comes from the agent himself; just as in the case of two ships of the same size, but unequally laden, which drift with the current, the speed comes from the stream and the retardation from the load of the vessels themselves.  God is not responsible for sin, for he has only permitted it, not willed it directly, and man was already evil before he was created.  The fact that God foresaw that man would sin does not constrain the latter to commit the evil deed, but this follows from his own (eternal) being, which God left unaltered when he granted him existence.  The guilt and the responsibility fall wholly on the sinner himself.  The permission of evil is explained by the predominantly good results which follow from it (not, as in physical evil, for the sufferer himself, but for others)—­from the crime of Sextus Tarquinius sprang a great kingdom with great men (of. the beautiful myth in connection with a dialogue of Laurentius Valla, Theodicy, iii. 413-416).  Finally, reference is made again to the contribution which evil makes to the perfection of the whole.  Evil has the same function in the world as the discords in a piece of music, or the shadows in a painting—­the beauty is heightened by the contrast.  The good needs a foil in order to come out distinctly and to be felt in all its excellence.

In the Leibnitzian theodicy the least satisfactory part is the justification of moral evil.  We miss the view defended in such grand outlines by Hegel, and so ingeniously by Fechner, that the good is not the flower of a quiet, unmolested development, but the fruit of energetic labor; that it has need of its opposite; that it not merely must approve itself in the battle against evil without and within the acting subject, but that it is only through this conflict that it is attainable at all.  Virtue implies force of will as well as purity, and force develops only by resistance.  Although he does not appreciate the full depth of the significance of pain, Leibnitz’s view of suffering deserves more approval than his questionable application to the ethical sphere of the quantitative view of the world, with its interpretation of evil as merely undeveloped good.  But, in any case, the compassionate contempt of the pessimism of the day for the “shallow” Leibnitz is most unjustifiable.



%1.  The Contemporaries of Leibnitz.%

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History of Modern Philosophy from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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