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The Leibniz Review

Volume 26, December 2016

Dedicated to G. W. Leibniz

Gregory Brown
Pages 11-62

Leibniz on the Ground of Moral Normativity and Obligation

My aim in this paper is to elucidate Leibniz’s account of moral normativity and the relation between motivation and obligation. I argue against the recent interpretation of Christopher Johns, according to which Leibniz’s moral theory is actually a deontological theory, having more in common with Kantian moral theory than with any form of consequentialism. I argue that for Leibniz reason is not itself the source of practical normativity and real obligation; the source of that is rather the agent’s desire for his own happiness or perfection. For Leibniz, reason in its practical role functions instrumentally: the desire for one’s own happiness is the source of practical normativity, and reason functions only to transfer that normativity from the end that it does not determine to the means to those ends that it does determine.

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