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Leibniz and the Square: A Deontic Logic for the Vir Bonus

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Seventeenth century philosopher Gottfried Leibniz's contributions to metaphysics, mathematics, and logic are well known. Lesser known is his ‘invention’ of deontic logic, and that his invention derives from the alethic logic of the Aristotelian square of opposition. In this paper, I show how Leibniz developed this ‘logic of duties’, which designates actions as ‘possible, necessary, impossible, and omissible’ for a ‘vir bonus’ (good person). I show that for Leibniz, deontic logic can determine whether a given action, e.g. as permitted, is therefore obligatory or prohibited (impossible). Secondly, since the deontic modes are derived from what is possible, necessary, etc., for a good person to do, and that ‘right and obligation’ are the ‘moral qualities’ of a good person, we can see how Leibniz derives deontic logic from these moral qualities. Finally, I show how Leibniz grounds a central deontic concept, namely obligation, in the human capacity for freedom.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Philosophy, American University of Beirut, Fisk 151, Bliss Street, Beirut, 1107 2020, Lebanon

Publication date: October 2, 2014

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