Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Possible worlds

I'm usually the person who notices anniversaries when nobody else does. Long before New School at Ninety and Lang @ 25 I embarrassed the folks at the Ethics Department of Tokyo University by showing up there in 1992 saying, "I'm so excited to be here during your centenary year!" (They weren't really all that keen to remember the first half of that history.) So it's interesting when I forget an anniversary. The bicentenary of Kant's Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone passed me by entirely in 1993-4, which was sort of a relief. It's a little more awkward to realize that I've not noticed that this year is the tercentenary of Leibniz' Essais de Théodicée, the book on which I wrote my dissertation! Turns out the sneaky Templeton Foundation is making a big deal of it, sponsoring several conferences (here's one), and a new translation - I learned about it when one of the translators came to see me in New York last month, telling me he'd found my work valuable. My work on Leibniz? I could hardly remember it! Indeed, I can't imagine what would make all these people interested in Theodicy in 2010. I've lost the philosophical habit - though not so much of Leibniz that I can't concede there's a possible world in which I'd be all over this anniversary, but still be sure it would not have been as good a world as this one, in which I've moved on.

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