Juan Garcia defends dissertation

June 7, 2018
Picture of Juan Garcia Defense Committee

On June 6th, 2018 Juan Garcia successfully defended his dissertation "Leibniz on Contingency and Freedom: A Molinism Friendly Account.” Congrats, Dr. Garcia!

The dissertation committee consisted of Tamar Rudavsky, Julia Jorati, Lisa Downing, and William Taschek. 

Here’s Juan’s description of his project: "The first major goal of my dissertation is to show that Leibniz has remarkable affinities with the Molinist tradition – something that is commonly overlooked and misunderstood in the secondary literature. I identify two substantive tenets of Molinism and argue that Leibniz endorses a version of each; in fact, he utilizes them for the same theoretical purposes as Molinists. These two substantive Molinist tenets are: 1) free actions follow contingently from their sufficient conditions; and 2) God’s knowledge of what creatures would freely do in different possible circumstances is prevolitional (i.e., prior to God decreeing or willing anything). In Leibniz’s hands, these tenets are significantly molded by his other philosophical commitments, most notably a strong version of the principle of sufficient reason. Importantly, Leibniz rejects a libertarian account of freedom and the kind of contingency that it requires, and instead adopts a more traditional Thomistic account of the will, as a rational inclination towards apprehended goodness, whose acts are contingently moved and ultimately explained by the apprehended goodness of the object of choice. From this I conclude that Leibniz is much closer to Molinism than is typically acknowledged. Leibniz is best characterized as a friend – rather than a foe – of Molinism. The second major goal of my dissertation is to defend Leibniz’s views from a traditional challenge that threatens to undermine his ability to retain an intelligible sense of contingency, and thus threatens to undermine to success of the first part of the dissertation. This traditional challenge comes from Leibniz’s notorious thesis that every substance has an individual concept that includes predicates denoting everything that will ever happen to it. The challenge is that it appears that if everything that will ever happen to a substance is included in its individual concept, then it is not possible for the substance to be different from the way that its individual concept has it as being.  In response to this traditional challenge, I introduce a novel way of reading Leibniz’s account of individual concepts. I argue that an agent’s essence grounds her modal profile – what is possible, impossible, necessary, or contingent for her – and that this gives rise to a cluster of individual concepts which describe this modal profile. I argue that how an agent would utilize her powers to act settles which individual concept describes everything that will ever happen to her and which individual concepts only describe non-actualized alternative possibilities for her. The kind of contingency accommodated by this model is analogous to the kind of contingency accommodated by contemporary accounts that involve transworld identity – the thesis that individuals exist in more than one possible world. My account, I argue, makes intelligible Leibniz’s otherwise obscure claim that individual concepts include contingent truths as contingent, and, importantly, it enables us to see how things could have been different for an agent even given Leibniz’s commitment to individual concepts."

Starting this Fall, Juan will be working as a post-doctoral fellow at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, CA.