Leibniz, Acosmism, and Incompossibility





Document Type

Book Chapter


actual world, individual essence, divine power, multiple world, secondary matter




Leibniz claims that God acts in the best possible way, and that this includes creating exactly one world. But worlds are aggregates, and aggregates have a low degree of reality or metaphysical perfection, perhaps none at all. This is Leibniz’s tendency toward acosmism, or the view that there this no such thing as creation-as-a-whole. Many interpreters reconcile Leibniz’s acosmist tendency with the high value of worlds by proposing that God sums the value of each substance created, so that the best world is just the world with the most substances. I call this way of determining the value of a world the Additive Theory of Value (ATV), and argue that it leads to the current and insoluble form of the problem of incompossibility. To avoid the problem, I read “possible worlds” in “God chooses the best of all possible worlds” as referring to God’s ideas of worlds. These ideas, though built up from essences, are themselves unities and so well suited to be the value bearers that Leibniz’s theodicy requires. They have their own value, thanks to their unity, and that unity is not preserved when more essences are added.

Published in

Leibniz on Compossibility and Possible Worlds

Citation/Other Information

Thomas Feeney. "Leibniz, Acosmism, and Incompossibility." In Leibniz on Compossibility and Possible Worlds, 145-74, 2016. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-42695-2_7.