Volume 14, December 2004
Michael J. Murray
Pre-Leibnizian Moral Necessity
The mature Leibniz frequently uses the phrase “moral necessity” in the context of discussing free choice. In this essay I provide a seventeenth century geneology of the phrase. I show that the doctrine of moral necessity was developed by scholastic philosophers who sought to retain a robust notion of freedom while purging bruteness from their systems. Two sorts of bruteness were special targets. The first is metaphysical bruteness, according to which contingent events or states of affairs occur without a sufficient explanation. The second is semantic bruteness according to which a proposition can be true without a truth maker. Denying either
sort of bruteness was thought by some to raise problems for freedom. Defenders of moral necessity thought the notion solved these problems without having to invoke bruteness.