Rationalism And The Plenum

I was at an Ultreya last night where we discussed the topic of sin, suffering and evil, and the conversation left us all, I think, with much to think about. One of the curious things I only thought about this morning is about how typical Rationalist metaphysical models of the world relate to the question of evil. If evil is defined as a lack of the good, then it seems obvious that any lack of the good is an example of evil; this includes a beautiful planet being destroyed even where no sentient life is significantly effected [obviously on Leibniz’ view and others they would have some petite perception of it, but I take it that won’t qualify as ‘significant’]. We came to the conclusion, I think rightly, that whatever exists is good insofar as it exists, and thus participates in God insofar as it reflects existence. Therefore, Satan is good, at least insofar as he exists, and in the end, there is no such thing as complete depravity if by that one means that some-thing looses all of its nature, since that would imply that it no longer exists.

Considering these things, I was thinking about how typically rationalist systems like Leibniz’ were committed to the claim that the world was ‘full’, or was a plenum. In other words, there are no spaces of no-thing between things. Obviously rationalist systems make some things easier and some things harder. Mechanics are usually harder for Rationalists than Empiricists, although alternatively Empiricists have a very difficult time explaining how things travel in waves through no medium whereas Rationalists can easily explain that by pointing out that the world is ‘full’, there are no empty spaces.

It is interesting for me to wonder whether or what this implies for Theodicy. I think my intuition tells me that the whole conversation of evil as a lack of something would lead me to believe that God would prefer to create a world which was phenomenally like ours, but full, instead of phenomenally like ours, but with empty spaces. If that intuition is not misled (and I note that I’m in good company with Leibniz), then it seems as though a rationalist metaphysic can be preferred for reasons of Theodicy, to an alternative metaphysic which posits actually empty spaces. It will not do us any good to say that God did not ‘create’ the empty spaces, for they are, after all, no-thing; it cannot do us any good precisely for the same reason that when we ask a baker why there is a hole in our doughnut when we weren’t expecting one and he answers “well, I didn’t make that; in fact it isn’t anything,” we are dissatisfied.

I think this is an additional reason to accept something like Leibniz’ Monadology.


About tylerjourneaux

I am an aspiring Catholic theologian and philosopher, and I have a keen interest in apologetics. I am creating this blog both in order to practice and improve my writing and memory retention as I publish my thoughts, and in order to give evidence of my ability to understand and communicate thoughts on topics pertinent to Theology, Philosophy, philosophical theology, Catholic (Christian) Apologetics, philosophy of religion and textual criticism.
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