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Friday, 2 October 2015

More on contingency as plurality

Been discussing, in my Leibniz & Whitehead course, Leibniz distinction between determination and necessity (or hypothetical necessity and absolute necessity) in the Theodicy. Hypothetical necessity and determination have to do with the possible world chosen - they have to do with compossibility. The world can be determined - so that it is clear that I will buy the bicycle and not get married - but this is not by (absolute) necessity, it is so because the world is the way it is. The world is determined, it is not necessarily so, it could be different because there are many possible worlds, but it is determined because the world is determinately the way it is. I am the one who buys the bicycle but, to be sure, I don't know who I am because I don't know in which world I am (there is another suitably close possible world where my counterpart gets married). Still, my ignorance is not an ignorance of a necessity, it is an ignorance of a contingent matter of fact - this is the world that was chosen among the many possible ones. My contingent options ahead of me reflect the two worlds where I could be - nothing necessary attaches me to this world in particular. God chose it out of His free will, informed by his sense of justice and wisdom. It was a choice out of infinite alternatives. A choice - albeit a supposedly (very) well-informed choice.

This can be seen more clearly if we put aside for a moment the idea that this is the best possible world and was chosen by an all-just and all-wise God. Suppose this world was chosen by the throw of a die. The contingent element would be there, the choice of world would have been up for grabs before the die was thrown. It would be contingent that I am the one that buys the bicycle, but well determined at the moment of my choice. Contingency is not necessarily about individual actions, in fact contingency builds on contingency just as plurality builds on plurality. But a random starting point makes the whole course of actions that follow ungoverned - even though it is fully determined.

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