This contribution to a volume on the“ultimate why-question” discusses ambiguities in Leibniz’s formulation of the question, “[. . . ] pourquoi il y a plus tôt quelque chose que rien”. This formulation poses two problems: Leibniz does not explain how to understand the concepts of “something” and “nothing”. And it is not clear, whether “something” and “nothing” are contradictory opposites, so that there is either nothing or something, or whether both concepts denote principles which are effective in the world at the same time. My analysis rests on the hypothesis that the relevant context for Leibniz’s question is the theology of creation.
Hence, the paper compares eight different approaches to “creation from nothing” (Thomists, Scotists, Taurellus, Lubinus, Timpler, Keckermann, Kircher, Knorr von Rosenroth, van Helmont). Candidates for the nihil the world was created from include absolute non-being, thoughts in God’s mind, unformed matter, imaginary space, or a self-contraction of the Divine spirit. These different approaches can be translated into different versions of the “ultimate why-question”. The paper concludes that Leibniz’s formulation contains a comparison between two Divine acts of creation, because not only “something”, but “nothing” as well owes its subsistence to the Divine will. This rises substantial questions: either God created first an imperfect entity in order to create the world as a whole, or Leibniz subscribes to an emanative understanding of creation that either levels the difference between creation and (natural) generation or is based on misunderstanding God as a material entity.
The article is devoted to the study of the theological article as a representative of theoretical theological discourse. In the article, the determinants of this kind of discourse are singled out, determinants viewed as its key features enhancing the argumentative effect.
Papers of XXVII Annual theological conference of St. Tikhon's University
The paper examines social differences in the understanding of the concept of ‘friendship’ in late 18th – early 19th century Russia deployed in the unpublished correspondence of Count Aleksandr Vorontsov, a member of the social elite of the Catherinean Age, and Aleksei D´iakonov, an obscure official who was Vorontsov’s client. While letter exchange was a kind of freemasonic practice, and both correspondents were members of a Masonic lodge, Vorontsov used sentimentalist language and addressed his client as “friend,” trying to erase or at least obscure the social boundaries between them. Social equality, even as a rhetorical formula, was progressively becoming possible between an aristocrat and an educated commoner such as D´iakonov, and it unfolded in rhetorical terms. D´iakonov adopted vis-à-vis his patron an attitude that reflected their respective positions on the hierarchical ladder, thus conforming to the traditional behavior of a Russian official and avoiding Western (Masonic, or sentimentalist) rhetoric of equality.