Grounding the Principle of Sufficient Reason: Leibnizian Rationalism and the Humean Challenge

  • Brandon C. Look
Part of the The New Synthese Historical Library book series (SYNL, volume 65)


This paper concerns the philosophical justifications of the Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR) and the main challenge to the PSR. Leibniz is most often associated with the PSR, and it is usually assumed that Leibniz accepts the PSR as simply an obvious principle of all our reasoning, one that requires no justification. This paper, however, reveals and analyzes two arguments that Leibniz gives purporting to justify or establish the truth of the Principle of Sufficient Reason: the first from one of his earliest pieces; the second from his work in the 1680s, principally from the Primary Truths. It then treats arguments given by his rationalist successors Wolff and Baumgarten—arguments that have generally been considered abject failures. Finally, the paper examines Hume’s challenge to the Universal Causal Principle. It is shown that Hume’s argument does not rule out all of the rationalist arguments for the PSR. Ultimately, it is argued that the acceptance of “brute facts” (other than in perhaps matters of quantum physics) is due mainly to a faux metaphysical machismo that even Hume rejected. If the results of this paper are correct, then the PSR has more going for it than is usually suggested in contemporary discussions.


Sufficient Reason Brute Fact Identical Proposition Contradictory Proposition Great Principle 
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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of KentuckyLexingtonUSA

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