We can formalize the argument in this way:

  1. There is good and evil.
  2. The good tries with all its power to prevent the evil from doing more evil (otherwise the good wouldn't be the good).
  3. A possible world is the best world if it contains a maximum distribution of good and minimum distribution of evil among all other possible worlds.
  4. Therefore we constantly live in the best of all possible worlds.

Question for those who are "beyond good and evil": If there's no good and evil, how can we still argue that we live in the best of all possible worlds? Does it make sense?

Question for those who believe in good and evil but reject the argument: How is it possible to criticize the above argument and deny that we live in the best of all possible worlds?

Question for those who accept the argument: Are there any practical consequences for believing in this argument? Can this argument profoundly change a person's worldview or is it a merely formal logical proposition? If I say such things, won't I sound stupid or childish?

  • Q1) If there are no good and evil, the statement 3, that is the def of "possible world" based on good and evil is not usefuel. Jul 7 '17 at 6:06
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    Q2) Of course, statement 2 is debatable. Jul 7 '17 at 6:07
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    Can you justify why you are wording claim 2 as you do from Leibniz's text? This is not the most normal formulation of what makes something good and doesn't agree with my (distant) memory of Leibniz.
    – virmaior
    Jul 7 '17 at 6:26
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    @a_z_s then We can formalize Leibniz' argument in this way is not the way to start an argument that you don't think Leibniz makes....
    – virmaior
    Jul 7 '17 at 13:24
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    An old joke: Optimists believe we live in the best of all possible worlds. Pessimists know we do.
    – gnasher729
    Jul 8 '17 at 23:23

The problem is that you have defined in 1) that there is good and evil and in 2) you have defined the characteristics of each, but you have not specified that either of these things are the case in all possible worlds. If you do, then such a situation as you describe in 3) exists in all possible worlds, so your conclusion at 4) is wrong, we do not live in the best (superlative) of all possible worlds, we live in one of an infinite number of possible worlds all of which are identical in this one respect.

If, on the other hand, you are suggesting that Good and Evil might not exist in some possible world, or they might not have the characteristics you've specified, then your definition at 3) does not apply to the other possible worlds and so again your conclusion at 4) is wrong because it is not possible to judge the value of other worlds by the measure on which ours is "the best".

  • Great point. You showed that my argument is not valid. Thank you. I will try to rewrite the argument from scratch.
    – a_z_s
    Jul 9 '17 at 9:03

I believe in good and evil but reject the argument, so will address this part as requested:

how is it possible to criticize above argument and deny that we live in the best possible world?

The argument hinges on the existence of 'good' that suppresses evil to the greatest extent. However, even if we accept for the sake of argument that there are other worlds, the argument doesn't prove that those other worlds each has a less effective 'good' than ours.

Hence Statement #3 is unproven, making statement #4 groundless. While this doesn't outright deny that we live in the best possible world, it doesn't confirm that assertion either.

  • Interesting, both pointed out that #2 is debatable.
    – a_z_s
    Jul 7 '17 at 6:22
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    @a_z_s Statement #2 can be allowed; the argument is that statement #2 only speaks about effort, not effectiveness.
    – Lawrence
    Jul 7 '17 at 9:02

Whether there are or not "other worlds" is irrelevant, since we have "access" only to one.
At any instant of time, we live in "The best possible world," because even though the ratio of Good/Evil can change, it is the best it can be, at that instant of time!
The reason it matters, is that if we are not happy with the current ratio, we can take actions, individually and collectively, to "improve" the ratio.


Assuming that there are many worlds, or that we could change the quality of our world, saying "we live in the best of all possible worlds" means all over worlds are worse than ours, and there is no way to improve our world. That's pessimistic to the extreme.

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