Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
The Best of All Possible Worlds

The Best of All Possible Worlds

A Story of Philosophers, God, and Evil

Steven Nadler

Farrar, Straus and Giroux




In the spring of 1672, the German philosopher and mathematician Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz arrived in Paris on a furtive diplomatic mission. That project was abandoned quickly, but Leibniz remained in Paris with a singular goal: to get the most out of the city's intellectual and cultural riches. He benefited, above all, from his friendships with France's two greatest philosopher-theologians of the period, Antoine Arnauld and Nicolas de Malebranche. The interactions of these three men would prove of great consequence not only for Leibniz's own philosophy but for the development of modern philosophical and religious thought.

Despite their wildly different views and personalities, the three philosophers shared a single, passionate concern: resolving the problem of evil. Why is it that, in a world created by an allpowerful, all-wise, and infinitely just God, there is sin and suffering? Why do bad things happen to good people, and good things to bad people?

This is the story of a clash between radically divergent worldviews. But it is also a very personal story. At its heart are the dramatic—and often turbulent—relationships between three brilliant and resolute individuals. In this lively and engaging book, Steven Nadler brings to life a debate that obsessed its participants, captivated European intellectuals, and continues to inform our ways of thinking about God, morality, and the world.


Best of All Possible Worlds

Leibniz in Paris
In the early spring of 1672, a German secret agent arrived in Paris. He carried with him a plan that he and his patrons believed could pave the way to peace among...


Praise for The Best of All Possible Worlds

“Nadler has written a most interesting book. With a rather novelistic flow, it engages the personal circumstances and concepts of three Cartesians.” —M. A. Bertman, Choice

“I can't imagine a better guide to 17th-century philosophical thought. Aimed at the general public, The Best of All Possible Worlds is written simply and clearly, without condescension, flashiness or over-simplification. But it's a demanding book nonetheless, and you need to pay attention. You'll be amply rewarded if you do.” —Michael Dirda, The Washington Post

“Nadler's superb study makes for a larger space for Leibniz, Malebranche and Arnauld alongside such giants of the period as Descartes and Spinoza.” —Publisher's Weekly

“In a quietly elegant way, Nadler brings to life three remarkable philosophers and an intellectual world that vanished long ago but whose concerns continue to resonate. Why do good things happen to bad people? Why is the world the way it is? What or who is God? Leibniz, Arnauld, and Malebranche pursued these questions with a passion and intensity that Nadler nimbly captures.” —Matthew Stewart, author of The Courtier and the Heretic: Leibniz, Spinoza, and the Fate of God in the Modern World

Reviews from Goodreads

About the author

Steven Nadler

Steven Nadler is the William H. Hay II Professor of Philosophy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he has been teaching since 1988. His books include Spinoza: A Life, winner of the Koret Jewish Book Award in 2000, and Rembrandt's Jews, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2004.

Steven Nadler

From the Publisher

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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