A book on ethics and philosophy of values

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Eclecticism is also analogous to this kind of doctrine that is called “theodicy”. Theodicy aims at clearing God of the responsibility of the existence of evil: how to reconcile the existence, goodness and omnipotence of God with the fact that there is evil in the world? How can God claim to be honored, whereas He remains silent during wars, leaving millions of souls to perish without intervening?

Leibniz, in his famous Essays on Theodicy, accomplishes this extraordinary task: to plead the case of God.
I will not claim to explore the tremendous argumentative structure used by Leibniz -the distinctions between the different kinds of will (antecedent or consequent, permissive or productive), of evil (metaphysic, moral or physical), of science (simple intelligence, vision or middle science), his analysis of grace, etc. - however we can already understand for what reason theodicy may be related to eclecticism.
This defence of God is, in part at least, based on the idea that an apparent evil is often in reality a good, if it is considered from another point of view: 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 see what eclecticism and theodicy have in common. However, eclecticism appears on reflection to be irreducible to this related doctrine for two reasons.

Firstly, in theodicy, evil has no value in itself; its value comes from the fact that evil is a means to achieve a greater good, viz. it is, in some way, a good. Theodicies affirm the inexistence of evil, rather than its value, because they reduce it to a special kind of good; or, if they admit its existence, they never admit that it has a value in and for itself, but only because it is a sine qua non condition of the end which has really a value: the good.
But eclecticism, this doctrine which we try to apprehend, is an axiological doctrine which asserts that everything has a value in itself, not simply as a means to an end, and not relatively to this or that thing, this or that point of view; everything has an absolute value, including evil.

Secondly, the theodicy of Leibniz has a special feature: it does not hold that world is perfect, but on the contrary that there is imperfection in this world, even if God has created the world which contains the least possible imperfection. Hence his famous phrase: this world is the best of all possible worlds. More precisely: 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.

Where does the imperfection of the world come from? Evil, in all its forms: metaphysical (imperfection), physical (suffering), and moral (sin). By consequence, evil has a negative value: from it imperfection arises. The only value that on rare occasions it may acquire is to be means for an end: the realization of the good.

This allows us to distinguish theodicy from eclecticism, which attributes an absolute value to evil, and to everything else.

We may ask ourselves whether any thinker really held such an axiological position, in history. Probably not, and even we may imagine that nobody did. In fact, I do not think it is very important. The axiologist is indeed the one whose task is to consider all theories of value which may be conceived; if he finds out one of them which has never been held by anyone, it is for him a discovery of gold-digger.


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