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Leibniz on Divine Concurrence



In this paper I examine G. W. Leibniz’s view on the debate between occasionalists, mere conservationists, and concurrentists. Although commentators agree that Leibniz wants to reject occasionalism and mere conservationism, there is considerable disagreement about whether Leibniz is committed to a theory of divine concurrence that differs from occasionalism and mere conservationism in principled ways. I critically assess three interpretations of Leibniz’s theory in this paper. The first two (those of Robert Adams and Sukjae Lee) differ with respect to important details, but they both assume that Leibniz straightforwardly affirms the continual creation doctrine. I argue that a coherent Leibnizian theory of divine concurrence cannot be constructed on the ontological framework that the continual creation doctrine provides. The third interpretation that I consider holds that Leibniz is willing to affirm the continual creation doctrine only to the extent that it provides an acceptable way of characterizing the dependence of finite substances on God at the level of appearances. It is suggested that Leibniz’s deep metaphysical view of creation and conservation is that in a single act God creates and conserves substances that are non-spatial and atemporal at the deepest level of metaphysical rigor. I argue that this alternative account of creation and conservation provides a promising ontological framework that can support a coherent theory of creaturely activity that does not collapse into occasionalism or mere conservationism.