Kant and Leibniz on the Ontological Argument

It is our pleasure to invite you to the 12th edition of the St Andrews Kant Reading Party to be held from the 30th of July – 2nd of August at The Burn in Angus, and to a follow-up workshop at the University of St Andrews on the 3rd of August.

The St Andrews Kant Reading Party is an annual academic retreat in the Scottish Highlands aimed at bringing together scholars of various career stages to discuss the works of Immanuel Kant and another prominent philosopher. The theme of this year’s edition is Kant and Leibniz on the Ontological Argument, the argument to the conclusion that God exists. We will focus on the relation between Leibniz’ and Kant’s treatments of the ontological argument, with an eye towards a better understanding of their modal commitments as being central to their general metaphysics.

The concept of metaphysical modality (i.e. what is really possible, actual, or necessary) and the puzzle of our knowledge of it are traditional topics in philosophy that have recently experienced a resurgence of interest. The Leibnizian treatment of modal notions is usually understood as grounded in logic, while Kant’s novel notion of real modality is taken to be grounded in extra-logical “transcendental” metaphysics. However, it is far from settled how radical the differences between the two thinkers are. The innovative ideas of Kant and Leibniz on matters modal are best exhibited through their respective treatments of the ontological argument. Does Kant’s view on existence constitute an essential break with the rationalist position embodied by Leibniz, or is it rather a development thereof? Is there a more nuanced position in Leibniz that introduces a notion of existence closer to Kant’s? What grounds Kant’s real modality and supports the rejection of the ontological argument in his mature philosophy? Our aim is to provide a forum for the discussion and debate on a range of issues related to the ontological argument as it was understood by Leibniz and Kant. We invite paper presentations that are by no means restricted to a historical perspective. Kant’s objection to the ontological argument draws attention to a major theme discussed in contemporary (post-Kripkean) epistemology of metaphysical possibility, namely, the unreliable connection between conceivability and real possibility. We encourage contributions that make progress in integrating aspects of the modal theories of Kant and Leibniz with contemporary sub-disciplines, such as metaphysics and epistemology.

The Reading Party at The Burn (30.07 – 02.08)

The event involves a combination of group discussion sessions based on pre-circulated key readings from Kant and Leibniz chaired by faculty members, paper sessions in which graduate students and early-career researches have the opportunity to present their work on the topic of the Reading Party, and, for those who are interested, there will be organised a half-day hike in the Scottish Highlands.

Workshop at the University of St Andrews (3.08)

On the day following the Reading Party at the Burn, there will be a one-day workshop at the University of St Andrews, which gives all participants of the Reading Party the opportunity to present on their work-in-progress.

We will open the workshop with Dr Uygar Abaci (Penn State) presenting on his most up to date take on Kant’s refutation of the ontological argument, which provides the core of his reading of Kantian modality offered in his new book Kant’s Revolutionary Theory of Modality (Oxford UP, 2019).


We invite registration for participation, with or without abstract submission, from all interested parties. Topics for group discussion sessions and for paper presentations include, but are not limited to:

  1. The classical version of the ontological argument and its restatement in the early modern period by Descartes; Leibniz’ modal criticism of the Cartesian ontological argument;
  2. Leibniz’ ontological arguments; Ontological arguments in Wolff and Baumgarten;
  3. Leibniz’ multiple conceptions of existence: Is there a transitional position towards Kant’s modal theory and Kant’s views on existence in Leibniz?
  4. Kant’s pre-Critical vs. Critical treatment of the ontological argument in light of his general theory of modality;
  5. Kant’s mature modal theory in the Critique of Pure Reason and his rejection of the ontological argument: What account of synthetic judgment a priori supports and explains Kant’s notion of real modality?
  6. Kant’s moral proof of God’s existence: What is its metaphysical and epistemic status?
  7. The discussion of Kant’s and/or Leibniz’ theory of modality as being central to their general metaphysics and philosophical projects;
  8. The work of another philosopher on the ontological argument in relation to Kant and/or Leibniz;
  9. The relation between Kant’s theory of real modality and contemporary treatments of metaphysical modalities and the epistemology thereof.

Abstract Submission

Abstracts, max. 500 words in length and formatted for blind review (including the title of the paper but excluding any identifying information), should be emailed to Janis Schaab <janis.d.schaab@gmail.com> by the 14th of June. Authors will be notified by the 21th of June.


The (estimate) costs for students/early career researches are £75 and for faculty members £150. The fee covers accommodation and full board at The Burn for three nights, as well as transportation from St Andrews to The Burn and back. We aim to make participation fully free to students and early career researches whose papers are selected for the presentation at The Burn.

Please register with us your intent to participate as early as possible by sending an e-mail including your name and institutional affiliation to Kristina Kersa <kk203@st-andrews.ac.uk>, at the latest by the 25th of June.

If you would like to attend but child care duties make it difficult, please don’t hesitate to contact us about it, as may be able to provide assistance.

Also, the event is fully accessible (e.g., wheelchair access).


For further inquiries about the Reading Party, please contact Kristina Kersa <kk203@st-andrews.ac.uk> or Geertje Bol <gjb8@st-andrews.ac.uk>.

Also, check out our St Andrews Kant Colloquium webpage.

With best wishes,

The organisers: Kristina Kersa, Geertje Bol, and Prof. Jens Timmermann


We are thankful to our external organisers Prof. Franz Berto and Dr Alex Douglas for offering helpful advice regarding the selection of readings for the discussion sessions at this year’s Reading Party, to Alessandro Rossi for directing us to little known Latin texts of Leibniz, and to Janis Schaab for overall organisational advice.

The St Andrews Kant Reading Party 2019 is brought to you with financial support from the Department of Philosophy at the University of St Andrews; the St Leonard’s Doctoral and Postgraduate College Community Fund; the Centre for Academic, Professional and Organisational Development at the University of St Andrews; the Scots Philosophical Association; the Society for Women in Philosophy; and the UK Kant Society.