The principle of sufficient reason explains the nature of all existence. It advocates the perspective that every aspect of existence has a basis that justifies its existence. According to this philosophy, sufficient reason is inherent in all observable phenomena. The phenomena include all entities, events, and propositions whose existence in a certain form can be affirmed. For this principle to hold, the events in question must occur, propositions must be true, and all entities must exist.
According to this philosophy, the basis of existence of everything is either a reason for the particular observation or a cause justifying its present existence. Leibniz did not give a precise description of the boundary between the reasons and the causes for everything (Longuenesse 67). Thus, the principle of sufficient reason has two possible interpretations. Something can exist due to presence of one or several reasons prior to the current observation.
This is one possible interpretation of the theory. On the other hand, all things may be considered to have a future causes that require their presence at a specific time. The two interpretations may be considered complementary. In addition, the reason for everything does not need to be purely logical according to Leibniz. Sometimes, humans may not understand the reason or cause concerning a certain thing (Leibniz et al. 27).
The principle of sufficient reason provides solutions to two abstract issues that have no direct solution. Firstly, the principle of sufficient reason explains the origin of the sequence of reasons that inadequately describes the process of formation of any phenomena or proposition.
Secondly, the principle of sufficient reason explains the apparent variations in all aspects of existence, which are otherwise considered imperfect. Leibniz also uses this philosophy to explain the relationship between the physical and the metaphysical world.
One of the problems that Leibniz’s philosophy tries to solve is the inherent problem of the ultimate reason. For everything that exists, there is an immediate reason justifying the present thing (Longuenesse 75). However, there is another justification behind the reason itself.
The reasons form an infinite sequence that does not give an ultimate solution at all. This necessitates invocation of the logic that there exists another reason independent from the sequence of reasons. The special justification is what Leibniz refers to as God, who is not necessarily understood by human beings.
Thus, the universe and all existence is a sequence of states that explain each other without reaching a conclusion (Leibniz et al. 28). Thus, an ultimate reason, separate from the sequence, is necessary to justify the philosophy of sufficient reason. It is observed that the ultimate reason is not the conventional reason since it may not be understood by ordinary interpretation. The ultimate reason is metaphysically necessary, and is responsible for all existence.
Although Leibniz tries to explain the essence of the ultimate reason for existence by invocation of the presence of a metaphysical reason, he also continues to illustrate the mechanism that relates the metaphysical reason for existence and the sequential reasons found in the physical world (Longuenesse 70).
In that case, truth is fundamental in realisation of the relationship between the sequential reasons and the metaphysically essential reason. To understand this connection, one must appreciate that there is an inherent inclination towards existence. Thus, the ultimate reason for existence is inherently inclined towards unlimited existence. In turn, the sequences of reasons for existence are realised (Leibniz et al. 31).
The sequences are generated according to the degree of inclination of every reason towards existence. The more inclined a reason is towards existence, the more the number of reasons are to be found in the resulting series. Thus, the degree of inclination is the intensity of the quest for perfect inclination towards existence.
Any reason with the essence of perfect inclination is the one that persists as a physical reality. Since the ultimate reason has no other reason for its existence, it is considered the truth. This eternal truth cannot be found in the physical world that is directly observed. God, the eternal truth, must have existed before the physical world that we observe (Leibniz et al. 34).
Through God, an infinite range of possible situations is realised, and all things become reality. The possibilities with the greatest inclination towards existence become observable reality. This explains the link between the ultimate truth and observable physical phenomena.
The idea of ultimate reason and physical reasons seem to bind the essence of free will that exists in the physical world. Humans, among other living creatures, have the capability to determine the course of their action. This seems to contradict the essence of the ultimate truth and the degree of inclination of possibilities. However, Leibniz explains that free will does not interfere with the dominance of the eternal truth.
Leibniz says that free will is among the possibilities that are generated by the eternal truth. Whatever course human free will takes, events that occur have a possibility with the greatest inclination towards existence. Leibniz also seeks to counter arguments that God’s will is not perfect since conflicts often arise in the physical world, and some physical aspects of existence suffer damage.
These physical aspects of existence include humans and other living things. According to Leibniz, even those events and physical phenomena that people perceive to be negative in nature happen to perfection. Those propositions that are negative and true also exist with perfection.
Even the worst events that have already occurred in the physical realm of existence are considered metaphysically perfect (Leibniz et al. 36). Humans determine the perfectness of what they observe based on the physical reasons to which they are familiar. Their judgement is obviously flawed since their understanding of the ultimate reason is limited.
The principle of sufficient reason as presented by Leibniz seems to provide a solution to one of the problems faced by contemporary scholars of philosophy. It is undeniable that all aspects of existence have a sequence of reasons that justify their presence.
These reasons can be deduced from an analysis of immediate observation. However, only a limited number of reasons can be deduced from the analysis of the present situation and observation (Longuenesse 77). The series of reasons is infinite such that it is impossible to reach the ultimate reason using human reasoning. This fact validates the claim that humans have an impaired perspective of existence.
By accepting that things exist, one must also acknowledge that an ultimate reason for existence must exist (Leibniz et al. 37). If this reason were entirely physical, it would be possible for humans to deduce some aspects of it through human reasoning. The inability of humans to describe the ultimate reason proves that the particular reason is metaphysical in nature.
Since humans only understand metaphysics partially, it is impossible to give a physical description of the ultimate reason (Leibniz et al. 43). We then describe the ultimate reason as a metaphysical existence known as God. Apparently, this is the source of all existence, and the determinant of the course of all events in the universe.
Within the sequence of physical reasons that immediately justify any aspect of existence, individual reasons must be sufficient to justify the succeeding observation. If any of the reasons were not sufficient, the succeeding observation or event would lack a basis on which to exist.
Consequently, the principle of universal causality would be violated (Longuenesse 68). The succeeding observation would seem to have emanated fully or partially from nothing. To satisfy the laws that govern logic, all reasons within any sequence of physical reasons must be individually sufficient.
This means that a particular state must have the potential to generate the succeeding state for the sequence of reasons to progress in a particular direction. If a reason fails to be sufficient, there are only two possibilities. One possibility is that the particular reason is the end of the sequence and the final state.
However, the physical state may progress to another state for which it is sufficient as a reason. Thus, the sequence takes another direction. For every event, proposition, or physical entity, there must be a sufficient reason. This way, Leibniz provides explanation for existence of the world and the entire universe. The sequences of physical reasons are flawless.
Leibniz asserts that it is impossible for humans to understand everything since they only exist in physical form. Their understanding of the metaphysical world is obviously obscured by physical limitations.
This is why God, who is the ultimate source of all will for existence, cannot be completely understood. Leibniz’s deduction can be proven by the fact that there is no single phenomenon in the present world whose complete sequence of reasons can be described. At the end of each sequence, an enigmatic metaphysical reason is apparently present.
Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm, Roger Ariew, and Daniel Garber. Philosophical essays. Indianapolis: Hackett Pub. Co., 1989. Print.
Longuenesse, Beatrice. “Deconstruction of principle of sufficient reason.” Harvard Review of Philosophy 16.5 (2002): 67-98. Print.