Natural order, causation, and justice: A variety of harmonies in Leibniz's metaphysics
Carlin, Laurence Davis
Kulstad, Mark A.
Doctor of Philosophy
The first part of this dissertation focuses on Leibniz's very concept of harmony independently of its various applications. I argue that an examination of the relevant texts reveals that harmony is not merely an ontological notion, but that it is also epistemological. The key to understanding Leibniz's concept of harmony, I argue, is through his nominalist theory of relations, and its connection to his doctrine of distinct vs. confused cognition. In the second part of the dissertation, I examine Leibniz's theory of a harmony between the ideal realm of mathematics, and the concrete realm of nature. I argue that this harmony explains, according to Leibniz, the universal applicability of the principle of continuity, a principle which lies at the core of his account of the laws of motion, and his adoption of the Neoplatonic and Christian Aristotelian doctrine of a "Great Chain of Being." The third part turns to an examination of the harmony of efficient and final causation. Many commentators assume that for Leibniz final causation is applicable only to the metaphysical level of monads, while efficient causation is operative solely at the physical level of phenomenal bodies. I argue against this assumption that both types of causation are operative at each ontological level. In part four, I examine Leibniz's theory of the harmony of nature and grace, a harmony directly associated with his moral philosophy and his theory of natural retribution. I argue that while Leibniz's philosophy contains the metaphysical doctrines sufficient to account for how virtuous acts reward themselves naturally, it provides little support for the claim that vicious acts generate their own punishment. The dissertation concludes in part five with a discussion of the significance of the concept of harmony for the history of philosophy. I also argue that the previously examined pre-established harmonies are parts of a metaphysical system best understood, not as a series of harmonies operating in isolation from one another, but as a series of harmonies some of which are nested in others.