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The Best of All Possible Worlds: A Story of Philosophers, God, and Evil in the Age of Reason Paperback – April 4, 2010


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; 1 edition (April 4, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691145318
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691145310
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.4 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,540,444 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"The centerpiece of this intellectual history is a vicious late 17th-century debate between three unlikely combatants. . . . Nadler's superb study makes for a larger space for Leibniz, Malebranche, and Arnauld alongside such giants of the period as Descartes and Spinoza."--Publishers Weekly

"I can't imagine a better guide to 17th-century philosophical thought."--Michael Dirda, Washington Post Book World

"Why did a loving God create a world marred by so much evil? In three seventeenth-century intellectuals who wrestled with this question, Nadler recognizes how a single inquiry can profoundly engage markedly different minds."--Bryce Christensen, Booklist

"Nadler knows as much about Spinoza and Malebranche as any man alive, and enough about Arnauld and Leibniz to engage at need with detailed issues of scholarship. He is a serious scholar at the peak of his powers. . . . What he has given us here is a wonderfully vivid and lifelike portrait of one of the great debates that dominate Early Modern Philosophy, the echoes of which continue to reverberate down the ages."--Andrew Pyle, Metascience

"Nadler's remarkably accessible comparative analysis of these difficult seventeenth-century concepts and flights of theological speculation shows us the deep grammar of our times."--Jeffrey T. Zalar, European Legacy

"[I]f you want to know about pictures of Descartes, this is the place to look. The colour plates in themselves are a justification for having the book to hand, (let alone the many black and white images including one of Descartes in a baseball cap)."--Martin Cohen, Philosopher

From the Back Cover

"The Best of All Possible Worlds is a wonderfully engaging book. Nadler, with his characteristic clarity, has produced a true and rare philosophical page-turner."--Michael Della Rocca, Yale University

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Sam Adams on December 18, 2011
Format: Paperback
The three philosophers who are the focus of this book are Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716), Nicolas Malebranche (1638-1715), and Antoine Arnauld (1612-1694). The discussion and disagreements among these men took place within a philosophical world impacted by the views of Rene Descartes (1596-1650), who had come to controversial disagreement with the Church-sanctioned views of Aristotle (384-322 BCE). Matter, mind, soul, motion, space, causality, will, reason, and the involvement of God in their connections and interaction, were fundamental concepts these philosophers sought to understand.

Nadler sketches the biographies of Leibniz, Malebranche, and Arnauld and summarizes the theological controversies of the eucharist and transsubstantiation in relation to matter and substance, and divine grace in relation to human will and action in our salvation.

"Leibniz, Arnauld, and Malebranche constitute the Great Triumvirate of Continental intellectual life in the second half of the seventeenth century, matched perhaps only by Hobbes, Locke, and Newton in England. And what they have to say to and about each other on the problem of God and evil - something on which all three have very much to say, first in person and later in writing - touches on some of the most important and disputed questions of philosophy and religion in the period, and indeed, in all time." (77)

Leibniz believed this was the best of all possible worlds. His reasoning follows the syllogism: God would not create any world unless it were the best of all possible worlds. This world is a world God created. Therefore this world is the best of all possible worlds. (Nadler doesn't present this syllogism but it is implicit in his discussion.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Winston D. Jen on July 14, 2013
Format: Paperback
Since theologians have had no original arguments in decades, I will post my review of CS Lewis' The Problem of Pain here.

CS Lewis is held by many to be the premier Christian apologist of the 20th century. Unless one is morbidly naive, or has yet to encounter the counterarguments to Christianity in particular and theism in general, I honestly cannot see where his appeal lies.

The Problem of Evil is an insurmountable one for Christians (and all other theists who believe in a perfectly loving, all-powerful and all-knowing god). There have been intense and motivated efforts over the past two millennia to defend such a position rationally, and they have all failed. Miserably. Utterly. And in many cases, dishonestly.

Some approached involve invoking an unknown "greater good" defense (which throws god's omnipotence under the bus. An omnipotent deity could simply actualise a desired goal without needing to use suffering as a "middle man"). Attempts to shift the problem by asserting that human happiness is not the goal of life (but knowing god is) removes the omnibenevolence and omnipotence of god (if you love someone, you don't want them to suffer. It really is that simple). On page 104, Lewis concedes that not everyone suffers equally. He does not give a reason for this, and indeed, admits that our puny human minds cannot understand why god would allow some to live decades in comfort and luxury while others suffer for months or years on end. To quote Lewis himself: "The causes of this distribution I do not know; but from our present point of view it ought to be clear that the real problem is not why some humble, pious, believing people suffer, but why some do NOT (emphasis Lewis', in italics).
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By Avinesh on October 28, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A bit long winded but still a good introduction to mostly Leibniz and rather little on Voltaire or others.
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