Leibniz on unbaptized infant damnation


Leibniz consistently denies that unbaptized infants are condemned to hell in virtue of original sin. He is less than forthcoming, however, about where they go when they die. Scholars are divided on this issue. Some think that, according to Leibniz, they go to limbo, while others think that he is committed to the view that they go to heaven. The aim of this paper is to show that this scholarly attention is misguided and that Leibniz does not defend a position regarding the fate of unbaptized infants.

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  1. 1.

    When citing Leibniz’s works I use the following abbreviations: T = Theodicy (cited by section number); CD = Causa Dei (cited by section number); SLT = Shorter Leibniz Texts (cited by page number); LDB = The Leibniz-Des Bosses Correspondence. (cited by page number); DPG = Dissertation on Predestination and Grace (cited by page number); G = Die Philosophischen Schriften von Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, (cited by volume and section); NE = New Essays on Human Understanding (cited by page number); A = Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz: Sämtliche Schriften und Briefe (cited by series, volume, and page); LS = Leibniz and the Two Sophies (cited by page number).

  2. 2.

    For the latter position, see Krupp (2009, pp. 107–136). For the former position, see Kremer (2001, Chap. 8).

  3. 3.

    For the debate surrounding original sin, see Endres (1967, pp. 51–90).

  4. 4.

    Augsburg Confession, Article II, paragraph one.

  5. 5.

    The Council of Trent: The canons and decrees of the sacred and ecumenical Council of Trent (1848, p. 23).

  6. 6.

    Kremer (2001, pp. 118–110); for a nice overview of Augustine’s position on original sin, see Couenhoven (2005, pp. 359–396).

  7. 7.

    New American Standard Bible (1995).

  8. 8.

    Fifth Session, Decree on Original Sin (1848, p. 23).

  9. 9.

    For a nice treatment of Leibniz on the relation between faith and reason, see Antognazza (2007).

  10. 10.

    This rendering of Leibniz’s point is evidenced by an evaluation of Augustine’s arguments for unbaptized infant damnation, which all presuppose some scriptural evidence. See Kremer (2001, pp. 122–124).

  11. 11.

    Consider the following 1704 text: “The remission of sins which delivers us from the pains of Hell by virtue of the blood of Jesus Christ does not, however, prevent there from still being some punishment in this life or in the other, and the one which is in store for us in the other life serving to purge souls is called purgatory. Holy Scripture insinuates it, and reason endorses it on the grounds that according to the rules of perfect government, which is God’s government, there should be no sin left entirely unpunished” (Strickland 2010, p. 538).


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  11. Leibniz, G. W. (2007). The Leibniz-Des Bosses correspondence (B. C. Look & D. Rutherford, Trans. & Eds.). New Haven: Yale University Press.

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  15. Leibniz, G. W. (2016b). Causa Dei (R. Sleigh & S. Greenberg, Trans.). Oxford University Press (Forthcoming).

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I would like to thank Sean Greenberg, Bonnie Kent, and Lloyd Strickland for their helpful comments and suggestions on earlier drafts of this article.

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Correspondence to Christopher Bobier.

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Bobier, C. Leibniz on unbaptized infant damnation. Int J Philos Relig 80, 185–194 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11153-015-9546-x

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  • Leibniz
  • Original sin
  • Divine justice
  • Damnation