A book on ethics and philosophy of values

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Eclecticism could also be linked to the type of doctrine known as theodicy. Theodicy, or the justification of God, aims to exonerate God from the evil that exists in the world: how can the existence, goodness and omnipotence of God be reconciled with the fact that evil reigns in the world? How can a God claim to be honoured when he remains silent in wars, allowing millions of souls to perish without intervening?

In his famous Essays on Theodicy, Leibniz embarks on the extraordinary task of arguing the case for God.
Without wishing to go into the formidable argumentative scheme that Leibniz puts in place - the distinctions between the different kinds of will (antecedent and consequent, permissive and productive), the different kinds of evil (metaphysical, moral and physical), science (simple intelligence, vision or average), his analysis of Grace, etc. - we can nevertheless understand how theodicy can be compared to eclecticism.

This justification of God is based, in part, on the idea that what seems to us to be an evil is often in fact a good, if we look at it from another perspective: Sometimes evils [...] are to be considered as some subsidiary goods, as means for greater goods 1. Consequently, Every time a thing seems to be reprehensible in the works of God, we are to think that we do not know enough about it, and that a wise man, understanding it, would judge that one could wish for nothing better 2.

Here again, we can see what seems to bring the theodicies closer to eclecticism. Nevertheless, eclecticism appears to be irreducible to these neighbouring doctrines for two reasons.

First of all, in theodicies, evil has no value in itself; its value comes from the fact that it is a means to a greater good, i.e. it is ultimately, in a way, a good in itself. Theodicies rather assert the non-existence of evil than its value in itself, because they reduce it to a special kind of good; or else, if they admit its existence, they never admit that it has a value in itself and by itself, but only because it is a condition of the goal which really has a value for it: the good.
Now eclecticism, the doctrine we are trying to understand, is an axiological doctrine that asserts that everything has value in itself, not in relation to this or that other thing, this or that perspective; everything has absolute value, including evil.

On the other hand, Leibniz's theodicy has the peculiarity that it does not assert that the world is perfect; on the contrary, it maintains that there is imperfection in this world, but that God has created the world that contains the least imperfection possible; hence his famous formula according to which the world is the best of all possible worlds: Between the possible sequences of things, infinite in number, God chose the best, and consequently, the best is the one which exists in act 3.

What is the source of this imperfection that still resides in the world? Evil, in each of its three forms: metaphysical evil (imperfection), physical evil (suffering), and moral evil (sin). As a result, evil has a negative value; it is a source of imperfection, not perfection. The only value it can acquire on rare occasions is that of being a means to a higher end: the realisation of good.

This concludes the distinction between theodicy and Eclecticism, which attributes an absolute value to evil, as it does to everything else.

This raises the question of whether we could find any thinker who supported such an axiological position; probably not. And we can even imagine that no one has ever shared this doctrine. In reality, it seems to us that it does not really matter. The axiologist is the person whose task it is to examine the various doctrines of value that are conceivable; if he unearths one that has never been lived, it is a gold digger's triumph for him.

1. Essays on theodicy, Causa dei asserta, §35
2. Ibid., §47
3. Ibid., §41