Does Leibniz disallow freedom?
One of the first objections of Arnauld upon reading Leibniz's philosophy was his worry that it disallowed freedom, both for man and God. Leibniz claimed that freedom was consistent with his philosophy, and did so vehemently till his death. This question raises fundamental questions concerning Leibniz's philosophy, and in this investigation it shall be seen if it is somehow possible to arrive at a form of compromise between traditional views of freedom, and Leibniz's philosophy. The structure of this examination of Leibniz will take this form - Firstly a brief outline of Leibniz's argument concerning pre-determination, then an analysis of the objections at each point, starting with objections against Leibniz's apparent contradictions with freedom, and then back through his arguments until the fundamental problems surface.
Leibniz's philosophy centres around the idea of the monad - self-contained subjects, which contain within them all of their predicates. If a subject contains within it all of it relational qualities with other subjects - past, present and future - then the entire universe is 'mirrored' in one subject. This seems to imply that everything is prewritten - from creation, the very first subject all of the future universe was mirrored, therefore the entire universe as we know it was pre-destined. Pre-destination disallows freedom, therefore Leibniz's philosophy disallows freedom. This is a simplification of his arguments, and much was ignored in the passage above. One main consideration when examining this topic is Leibniz's idea of the role of God. Leibniz was of the opinion that any universe was possible, but that God chose the best world for existence. The first objection that will be examined is the apparent contradiction between Leibniz's opinions on determinism and freedom.
It can be found that at many points throughout his writing, that Leibniz seems to show clear belief in man's free will, yet at other points claim that the pattern of the universe is pre-destined. The fact that this is seen as a contradiction is obvious - how can we be said to choose our actions, if they have already been chosen for us? Upon closer scrutiny, however, this contradiction is not as clear as it may seem. Firstly, it can not be denied that we do consciously choose our actions. This does not mean, however, that our actions are not pre-determined. In any case of a choice made, there are reasons for choosing one course of action as opposed to another. Even in the case of being deliberately arbitrary, there will be reasons for the choice to act in an apparently random fashion, and the final choice of so-called random action, will be caused by many subtle factors, such as situation, frame of mind etc. Another way of explaining this idea is over a time scale. For example, the decision to attempt to cross a road at a certain place at a certain time. A decision made many times a day. The exact decision at any one time will be governed by the road situation, whether or not there is a better place to cross nearby, and the urgency of the journey, etc. If it were possible to go back in time, and to see that decision made again, it would be made at exactly the same time and place, even though the person making the decision is, in fact, free to choose. This indicates that at any one moment, the causes for the next decision we make are already in place, and although we feel we are making a choice, the outcome of the decision is already predestined. An interesting point here is that if we somehow truly knew our destiny, then by definition there would be no way of avoiding that destiny. The knowledge of destiny becomes another link in the causal chain towards that destiny.
This point is relevant to the freedom of God. As God is omnipotent, there should be no limitations on His power whatsoever. If, however, God is bound by his omnipotence, omniscience and benevolence to create the best possible world, then there is only one possible world that could be created, and therefore God is not free. An interesting point from the discussion above is that, as God is aware of every effect of every cause, and is therefore able to create the 'best' world directly by creation, then God would know that his choice was restricted, as well as knowing what the best world was, and how to form it. It could be said, however, that God is not restricted in the sense that He has the power to create any other universe, but has not the desire, as these other worlds are somehow less good than ours.
This raises the more fundamental question of, as everything is predetermined, is everything therefore necessary. Leibniz claims that even in this pre-destined universe there can still be made the distinction between necessary and contingent truths, and defines them thus - necessary truths are those for which the opposite is impossible, and that contingent truths are those which are true only because God created the universe this particular way, in other words, they are possible in another universe created by God. Critics point out that, due to the restrictions on God and the pre-determined nature of the universe, that another universe is impossible, which rules out the possibility of contingent truths. Leibniz could be defended against this attack by saying that a contingent truth is one which could not be stated until the subject of the proposition was observed. For example, it would be a contingent truth that the bird is blue - contingent on the fact that the bird has the property blue, and this could only be known once the bird is observed. A necessary truth would be that the bird has wings - this could be said if the bird had not yet been observed.
Closely related to this criticism is that critics belief Leibniz to deny the distinction between property and accident. This is explained along similar lines of the previous criticism. If a subject has an 'accidental' predicate, then that property is not one which is necessary in its classification. The blueness of the bird in the example above is an example of an 'accident'. Critics state that there can be no accidents in Leibniz's world as every subject already contains every attribute, then any apparent 'accident' is necessary, and therefore a property. The key to solving this problem lies in the fundamental difference between an accident and a property, and shall be seen to be a similar solution to the one above concerning necessary and contingent truths. The problem here is confusion over the idea of classification. A property is an attribute, which is necessary for any one example of a certain class of subject, for example, for a bird to be a bird, it must have wings. An accident is an attribute not necessary for any one example to fall into a particular category, such as the blueness of the bird - not all birds must be blue. The critics are confusing the category of bird with a particular bird. Although it is predestined for a particular example to have particular accidental attributes, again, these cannot be known until the particular subject is observed, whereas properties can be predicted.
At this stage we must examine the basis of Leibniz's argument, and one of the most contentious points in his entire philosophy - that predicates are contained within the subject of a proposition. This quote illustrated this belief, '...the subject term must always include the predicate term in such a way that anyone who understands perfectly the concept of the subject will also know that the predicate pertains to it.' The main objection to this is that is rules out any relation that involves more than one subject, for example A is larger than B. It is not possible to understand this proposition, and only under stand one of the subjects, A. It may seem that it is possible to shrink this proposition down so that 'is larger than B' is a predicate. This predicate, however, makes so sense if the subject B is not referred to, and so this attempt to reduce this relation into a 'relational quality' is not sufficient. It seems it is not possible to reduce relations so that this claim of Leibniz can be made sound.
This question of relational propositions threatens to undermine Leibniz's argument. If, however, Leibniz incorporates relations into his philosophy, it becomes possible to substantiate his claims to a predetermined universe. This means a complete reversal of some of his more fundamental claims, and therefore is unlikely to please proponents of Leibniz. If this problem of the awkwardness of relations under Leibniz's system were solved, then Leibniz's philosophy becomes one of a far higher degree of credibility.