Geography and Philosophy: Leibniz’s Theodicy and the 1755 Lisbon Earthquake

The Carmo Convent was destroyed in 1755 and is now preserved as an outdoor museum.

Post by Rev. Dr David Chester

I recently attended a conference in Lisbon entitled, Leibniz’s Theodicy: Reception and Relevance. In the past I have written papers on the cause, course and impact of the 1755 Lisbon earthquake (see also here) an event which was not only one of the most serious natural disasters to have affected western Europe, but also sent shock waves through the European intellectual elite of the time. Written in the early eighteenth century, Leibniz’s Theodicy argued that that the world is the best possible world that could have been created, a position which was challenged in the aftermath of the earthquake. My role as the one of only two non-philosophers at the conference was to provide an introduction to the earthquake and chart recovery from it.

Following the eruption the Marquês de Pombal, the King’s chief minister of the time, was a pioneer in reconstructing Lisbon using earthquake-proofing initiatives which included: wide streets; fire-breaks between buildings; restrictions on building height and, most innovative of all, the construction of a timber-framed structure within buildings to absorb shocks and so allow people to survive future events.

The so called ‘Pombaline Quarter’ of Lisbon. These building were constructed following the disaster to what were then pioneering standards of earthquake proofing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s