Kant on the Existence and Uniqueness of the Best Possible World

In: History of Philosophy & Logical Analysis
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  • 1 Oriel College, University of Oxford

In the 1750s Optimism, the Leibnizian doctrine that the actual world is the best possible world, popularized by Pope in 1733 in his Essay on Man, was a hot topic. In 1759 Kant wrote and published a brief essay defending Optimism, Attempt at some Reflections on Optimism. Kant’s aim in this essay is to establish that there is one and only one best possible world. In particular, he argues against the claim that, for every possible world, there is a possible world better than it and against the claim that there are two or more equally good possible worlds that are better than all the rest. Although it is not clear why, Kant was later dissatisfied with his essay. In this article I shall reconstruct, discuss, and evaluate Kant’s arguments. My evaluation will be negative, and so I think Kant had reasons to be dissatisfied with his essay.

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