Volume 18, December 2008
Mark A. Kulstad
Newton, Spinoza, Stoics and Others
A Battle Line in Leibniz’s Wars of (Natural) Religion
Starting from Leibniz’s complaint that Newton’s views seem to make God the soul of the world, this paper examines Leibniz’s critical stance more generally towards God as the soul of the world and related theses. A preliminary task is determining what the related theses are. There are more of these than might have been thought. Once the relations are established, it becomes clear how pervasive the various guises of the issue of God as the soul of the world are in Leibniz’s thought and how central they are in his debates with contemporaries about the truths of natural religion and even more strictly philosophical issues. Leibniz’s arguments against God as the soul of the world are reconstructed and evaluated, and the difficult question of the exact meaning, or meanings, that Leibniz ascribes to the thesis that God is the soul of the world is taken up. The clearest core of meaning discussed in this paper is most directly relevant to Leibniz’s criticisms of Spinoza and the Stoics, as well as of Descartes. Less clear, but obviously important, are meanings relevant to Leibniz’s debates with the occasionalists and Newtonians.