Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm


Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm
(1646-1716)
   A German polymath, Leibniz made original contributions to mathematics (co-inventing the differential calculus), jurisprudence, theology and philosophy. While he interacted with leading philosophers such as Samuel Clarke, Malebranche, Arnauld and Spinoza, he published little of his philosophy during his lifetime, having been occupied with other pursuits, including his duties as librarian to the Duke of Brunswick. Among his philosophical works are New Essays on Human Understanding (a response to Locke's Essay), Essays on Theodicy and the compact Monadology (1714), a systematic attempt to discern the basic metaphysical structure of the universe. The foundation of Leibniz's rational system is the principle of sufficient reason, which insists on a necessary criterion of explanation for every event. Leibniz appeals to a cosmological argument to explain the ground of all existence. In response to the question of why God created this world rather than another, Leibniz asserts that God, by his nature, must of rational necessity create the best of all possible worlds. Hence, it follows that this is the best of all possible worlds, a claim that Voltaire would ridicule in Candide. Leibniz and his disciple Christian Wolff would become the main targets of Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, and would be further marginalised by the strong empiricism among English-speaking philosophers. Indeed, Leibniz's philosophical influence would remain slight until the twentieth century. Since then, his philosophy has elicited great interest, especially his treatment of possible worlds, which provides the framework for current work in modality.
   Further reading: Adams, Robert Merrihew 1994; Hooker 1982; Jolley 1994 and 2005; Leibniz 1923-, 1965, 1969, 1985 and 1998; Woolhouse 1994

Christian Philosophy . . 2015.

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