Talk:Principle of sufficient reason

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
WikiProject Philosophy (Rated Start-class, Mid-importance)
WikiProject icon This article is within the scope of WikiProject Philosophy, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of content related to philosophy on Wikipedia. If you would like to support the project, please visit the project page, where you can get more details on how you can help, and where you can join the general discussion about philosophy content on Wikipedia.
Start-Class article Start  This article has been rated as Start-Class on the project's quality scale.
 Mid  This article has been rated as Mid-importance on the project's importance scale.

What controversy?[edit]

The introduction claims the principle to be "controversial" but does not say how. There is nothing further on this. What are the criticisms of the principle?

Delunaluno (talk) 08:39, 18 June 2015 (UTC)

Principle of Sufficient Reason[edit]

I substantially changed the formulation section. Although the previous version contained a scholarly reference, it seemed both overly opaque and wandering. I also think the reasons/causes distinction is important. Perhaps the formulation section does not fit as well now with the rest of the article, but maybe someone else can help with that.Pascal's Revenge 03:58, 24 March 2007 (UTC)

<Comment on Principle of Sufficient Reason (first paragraph)—The principle of sufficient reason, usually attributed to Gottfried Leibniz, states in rough terms that anything that happens, does so for a definite reason. In other words, it denies that contingent events are really so, rather than a description of our ignorance of their detailed causes.>


It is a scholarly esoteric thingy. The opening sentence would lead one to believe that everything is because of Gottfried Leibniz. Now I know he was a bright lad but that seems to be giving him a bit too much credit. -- 23:48, 1 April 2007 (UTC)

From The Teaching Company's Tapes; "Philosophy of Religion"; by Professor James H. Hall;

Lecture 12:TB1:143Chain of Natural Events:

.... a very ancient and honorable principle. It goes back as far as I have read in the history of philosophy, the philosophy of science, the history of anything. It is called the Principle of Sufficient Reason. I need to take a moment to explain to you what the principle of sufficient reason is because everything in cosmological and teleological argument is going to stand or fall on whether the principle of sufficient reason "a" is a legitimate principle and "b" has been carefully and properly followed.

Let me state the principle of reason in a different jargony fashion. Here is what the principle of reason amounts to. Nothing just happens. Things don't just come down. Whatever happens is connected and it is connected to other things that have happened and connected to other things that are going to happen. For people in our era, 20th and 21st centuries, the principle of sufficient reason is largely a principle of causation {chain of natural events}, that if something happens, it happens coming out of something that caused it, something that brought it about. Things just don't happen; they don't just come down.

The world is not, according to the principle of sufficient reasoning, booming and buzzing confusion. The world is an ordered place in which every event has a cause. I did not say every effect has a cause. If I said to you every effect has a cause and tried to present that as a great principle of reasoning, you would have every reason to be severely annoyed with me. That would be circular and question begging. Of course every effect has a cause. That is what an effect is. An effect is a product of a cause. I said every event has a cause, or, if you like, every cause is an effect. That is what the notion of sufficient reason amounts to, articulate {clear, distinct, and precise in relation to other parts, modes} in terms of causes. If something happens in the world which is the visible outcome of some kind of history, that is, at least in principle, traceable.

Principle of sufficient reason—The notion that "nothing just happens"; that in order for anything to occur, the adequate causes of its occurrence must have themselves already occurred. Defining a term or phrase in terms of the "essence" of its referents, that is, the universal necessary (need be an American citizen in good standing to get an American passport) and sufficient conditions (need pay $75 to get the passport) of its use.

Yesselman 21:07, 18 January 2006 (UTC)

Things Happen Necessarily[edit]

<From Principle of Sufficient Reason"Thus the sufficient reason, which needs no other reason, must be outside this series of contingent things, and must be found in a substance which is its cause, and which is a necessary being, carrying the reason of its existence with itself. Otherwise, we would not yet have a sufficient reason where one could end the series.]"

From Matthew Stewart's The Courier and the Heretic 2006; 0393058980; p.160—Things Happen Necessarily:

[1] Spinoza deduces many things from his concept of G-D, but one in particilar deserves mention for its central role in subsequent controversies. In Spinoza's world, everything that happens, happens necessarily. One of the most notorious propositions of the Ethics is 1P3: "Things could not have been produced by G-D in any manner or in any order different from that which in fact exists". This is a logical inference from the proposition that the relation of G-D to the world is something like that of an essence to its properties {circle to roundness}: G-D cannot one day decide to do things differently any more than a circle can choose not to be round, or a mountain can forswear the valley that forms on its side. The view that there is a "necessary" aspect of things may be referred to by the sometimes inappropriate name of "determinism:"
[2] Of course, Spinoza acknowledges, in the world we see around us, many things seem to be contingent—or merely possible, and not necessary. That is, it seems that things don't have to be the way that they are: the earth might never have formed; this book might never have been published; and so on. In fact, Spinoza goes on to say, every particular thing in the world is contingent when considered solely with respect to its own nature. In technical terms, he says that "existence" pertains to the essence of nothing—save G-D. Thus, at some level, Spinoza stands for the opposite of the usual caricature of the determinist as reductivist, for, according to his line of thinking, we humans are never in a position to understand the complete and specific

chain of causality that gives any individual thing its necessary character; consequently, we will never be in a position to reduce all phenomena to a finite set of intelligible causes, and all things must always appear to us to be at some level radically free. (In this sense, incidentally, he should count as a radical empiricist.) In somewhat less technical terms, we could say that, from a human point of view, everything must always seem contingent; even though from a divine or philosophical point of view, everything is nonetheless necessary. From the philosophical point of view—and only from the philosophical point of view—the distinction between possibility and actuality vanishes: if something may be, it is; if it may not be, it is not.

Yesselman 16:49, 20 January 2006 (UTC)

Quote needs citation[edit]

The first quote needs to be cited, was it by Leibniz?

Peter Vasiljev: According to, the quote is from Principles of Nature and Grace, §8, Die Philosophischen Schriften von Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. Edited by C.I. Gerhardt. Berlin: Weidman, 1875-1890. I was unable to locate the book in question.


How about tossing us a source or two? Alcmaeonid 14:04, 12 October 2007 (UTC)

Continuum Hypothesis, etc.[edit]

Would the fact that the continuum hypothesis is provably untrue not be an argument against the principle of sufficient reason (namely point 3 in the article). Surely, there must be this countering viewpoint in the logic/mathematics community. — metaprimer (talk) 21:22, 19 October 2007 (UTC)

I'm by no means an expert in set theory, but I do know the impossibility of proof and disproof of CH in ZFC (which is the "standard" set of axioms of set-theory. But anyways, your argument still applies: If one can't prove or disprove CH, then doesn't that violate the principle of sufficient reason? I think we need to have in mind here that principle of sufficient is concerned with physical phenomena, and not mathematical constructs. For example, Gödel's incompleteness theoremss, namely the first, show that a statement formulated with some theory can be true, yet unprovable using the axioms from that theory. Goldencako 00:08, 14 November 2008 (UTC)
The continuum hypothesis is not provably untrue, so your proposition has no bearing on the principle. See the CH article. (talk) 19:08, 30 April 2012 (UTC)


According to the article, Anaximander was the originator of the principle. This should be explained because Leucippus is a very strong candidate to be the first to publicly state the principle of sufficient reason. Leucippus wrote: "Nothing happens at random, but everything from reason and by necessity." What were Anaximander's words regarding this topic?Lestrade (talk) 19:30, 2 June 2010 (UTC)Lestrade


The article doesn't contain any hint about critiques of PSR, which are quite widespread in contemporary philosophy. See here: [1] The article is from the Metaphilosophy Journal, which is scholarly and renowned in the branch of metaphilosophy and philosophy. It criticises and tries to defend various versions of PSR, using extensive quotations from other scholarly sources. In my view, it should be mentioned here. Kind Regards, Critto (talk) 00:08, 17 January 2013 (UTC)

Text taken from the SEP[edit]

The sentence "[The Principle of Sufficient Reason] is a powerful and controversial philosophical principle stipulating that everything must have a reason or cause" is taken verbatim from [ The SEP entry on the principle of sufficient reason]. Is this acceptable? SchipholAirport (talk) 14:00, 28 October 2015 (UTC)

It's not acceptable. I don't like the "powerful and controversial" part, so I'll take that out, and I don't like the definition as it starts out with a double negative, so I'll keep just the end of the sentence as it states the "principle" in the affirmative. The other alternative is to footnote it. Bill Wvbailey (talk) 14:19, 30 October 2015 (UTC)