How Leibniz would have responded to the Lisbon earthquake

In Julia Weckend, Erik Vynckier & Lloyd Strickland (eds.), Tercentenary Essays in the Philosophy and Science of Leibniz. Basingstoke: Palgrave. pp. 257-278 (2017)
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On 1 November 1755, the city of Lisbon in Portugal was virtually destroyed by the largest documented seismic event ever to hit Europe. It is often claimed that the catastrophe severely damaged the plausibility of Leibniz’s optimism, and even the wider project of theodicy. Leibniz died several decades before the Lisbon earthquake struck, and so was unable to address it and the challenges thrown up by it, which would have included an account of how the event was consistent with God’s providence. Contemporary scholars are of the view that Leibniz explained natural disasters like earthquakes as nothing more than the unfortunate consequences of the normal workings of simple laws of nature, and that God permits such disasters to happen because it would be unworthy of him to overrule the laws he has established. There certainly is this line of thinking in Leibniz’s writings, but it is far from being the whole story, as we shall see. The aim of this paper is to determine what Leibniz’s response to the Lisbon earthquake would have been, had he lived to know about the event.
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