Steven Nadler

 

On his book The Best of All Possible Worlds: A Story of Philosophers, God, and Evil

Cover Interview of January 29, 2009

A close-up

The opening of chapter one introduces the reader to Leibniz as he arrives in Paris, ostensibly on a secret mission to establish world peace – or at least to persuade the French king not to attack the German lands – but also (and more importantly to him) to immerse himself in the city’s cultural and intellectual riches.  This chapter also presents the immediate historical and political context of the philosophical debate, as well as its ramifications for the deep differences that had been violently tearing Europe apart ever since the wars of religion of the sixteenth century.  The subsequent chapters introduce the other players in the debate, Arnauld and Malebranche, and a later chapter is on Spinoza, the radical Jewish atheist whose audacious ideas on God, the human being, and society are lurking in the shadows.  (Spinoza insisted that the whole project of theodicy is based on an anthropomorphization of God – God, he insisted, just is Nature, nothing more – and is a project of folly and superstition.)  The epilogue indicates why all of this matters, why we should care about what a trio of thinkers from three hundred years ago had to say about the nature of God and of the world.