tiistai 12. tammikuuta 2016

Baumgarten: Metaphysics – Such a perfect world

The account of world in general and its parts completes the independent part of Baumgarten's cosmology. There is still one section of cosmology we haven't dealt with, but it still requires to be fulfilled by an important proposition, proven only in theology. The section concerns the perfection of the world and the proposition to be proven states that the world is perfect, because it is created by God.

We have already seen that the notion of perfection in Baumgarten is quite aesthetical – the more things we have following the same laws, the more perfect world we have. This notion by itself rules out certain worldviews as being clearly imperfect. We already know that Baumgarten holds materialistic world to be an impossibility. Furthermore, egoistic world is clearly not perfect, because in such a world exists only one entity. Similarly, a dualistic world is more perfect than idealistic, because idealism allows only the existence of spirits, while dualism accepts also the existence of matter and its simple parts – that is, if matter and spirits are just something that can exist in the same world.

One part of the notion of perfection rules then that there should be as much entities in the world as possible, while the other part states that these entities should be governed by same laws. An interesting question is whether the other part speaks against the possibility of events happening against natural laws, that is, miracles. One thing is certain – the inclusion of spirits in Baumgarten's world does not violate natural laws, but instead just extends the notion of natural from mere material universe to spiritual entities. Thus, whatever spirits do, it is not in any way miraculous. Indeed, it is only God who could act in any way against the laws of nature.

We might think that as an avid Leibnizian Baumgarten would be quite against the notion of miracles – in a perfect world God needs not wind the clock from time to time. Yet, as a Wolffian, Baumgarten is still willing to leave the possibility of miracles open. Supernatural events might be possible even in the perfect world, if they just somehow improved the world. If some perfections could not be achieved through mere natural means or if they could not be achieved as perfectly, then miracles might be in order.

Interestingly, Baumgarten uses the notion of perfect world to decide the topical question of interaction between substances. If we begin from the least acceptable alternative, occasionalism would state that no finite substances would actually act, but everything would be done by infinite substance or God. This view would contradict a proposition Baumgarten takes to be self-evident, that is, that when a thing is in some respect passive toward another thing, it must be in another respect active. Hence, occasionalism would fall to a contradiction and would be unacceptable even on that account.

The decision between causal influx, Leibnizian pre-established harmony and some mixture of the two is not as simple. Before Baumgarten can decide between these alternatives, he must obviously explain what they all mean. Causal influx, Baumgarten says, means that all interactions are real, that is, when substance A is active in respect to a change in passive substance B, B is in no respect active in respect to this same change. Then again, pre-established harmony states that all interactions are ideal, that is, when substance A is active in respect to a change in passive substance B, B is also active in respect to that same change – in other words, it is just a matter of perspective, whether A has caused something in B or whether B has caused it in itself. In mixed positions, some interactions are real, some ideal.

Now, Baumgarten insists that the system of pre-established harmony does not deny that causal interactions do occur between different substances – it just states that at the same time these substances, in a sense, act for themselves. Similarly, a system of universal causal influx does not deny that world would contain universal harmony, and indeed, causal influx would glue all the parts of the world as well together as pre-established harmony. Then again, causal influx does have its problems. Particularly, since an activity of a thing must always be derived from some other substance, eventually no finite substance would be active in the sense that its activity would be consequence of its own nature.

But the final proof Baumgarten accepts is based on the notion perfect world. If the world would be glued by a universal causal influx, all the reasons for some event would be external to the things involved in the event. Then again, in pre-established harmony, all events have two different types of influence – the events are really caused by the things themselves and ideally by other things. Because of this consideration, Baumgarten is willing to accept pre-established harmony, except in case of God, who obviously is a real cause of the whole world.

So much for cosmology! Next time I will turn to questions of psychology.

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