Leibniz (Classic Thinkers)
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
Few philosophers have left a legacy like that of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. He has been credited not only with inventing the differential calculus, but also with anticipating the basic ideas of modern logic, information science, and fractal geometry. He made important contributions to such diverse fields as jurisprudence, geology and etymology, while sketching designs for calculating machines, wind pumps, and submarines. But the common presentation of his philosophy as a kind of unworldly idealism is at odds with all this bustling practical activity.
In this book Richard. T. W. Arthur offers a fresh reading of Leibniz’s philosophy, clearly situating it in its scientific, political and theological contexts. He argues that Leibniz aimed to provide an improved foundation for the mechanical philosophy based on a new kind of universal language. His contributions to natural philosophy are an integral part of this programme, which his metaphysics, dynamics and organic philosophy were designed to support. Rather than denying that substances really exist in space and time, as the idealist reading proposes, Leibniz sought to provide a deeper understanding of substance and body, and a correct understanding of space as an order of situations and time as an order of successive things.
This lively and approachable book will appeal to students of philosophy, as well as anyone seeking a stimulating introduction to Leibniz's thought and its continuing relevance.
‘except for their initial formation . . . and I do not approve of recourse to the soul when it is a matter of explaining the details of the phenomena of plants and animals’ (NE 139). Thus while he can agree with Cudworth that ‘matter arranged by divine wisdom must be essentially organized throughout’, for him this means that ‘there are machines in the parts of a natural machine to infinity, so many envelopes and organic bodies enveloped one within another, that one can never produce any organic
expenditure of force (energy) to achieve a certain effect in a given time, and is thus proportional to energy and time. The Principle of Perfection applied to individuals seeking to achieve a given end, therefore, will involve this action’s being optimally determined. From the fact that ‘action is either minimized or maximized’, Leibniz writes in 1707, ‘one can derive several important results, such as the paths followed by bodies attracted to one or several centers of force’.9 This is the gist
interposed constituents, but he gave no account of how a simplest path in time could be determined. In order for this to work, the ‘like states interposed’ would have to be the durations of similar The Philosophy of Space and Time 165 phenomena, such as the uniform motions used for clocks (GM vii 18/L 666–7).5 But the comparison of motions will necessarily involve change of place through time, that is, the determination of a simplest path or a straight line in spacetime, which Leibniz did
Hobbes maintained, one has the right to do whatever one thinks necessary for self-preservation irrespective of the effect that action has on others, in a political state self-protection is best achieved by entering into a contract with others in which the right is transferred to the sovereign. Laws are part of such a contract, and justice is the obligation to keep contracts. Moral obligations, on the other hand, are only binding in the context of the security and assurance that the state
nature, and not by appeal to divine revelation. Second, in its Platonism: if God wills justly, then He wills according to the same standard of justice as do we, one based in reason, not in an arbitrary will. Moral norms and the nature of justice, Leibniz concludes, ‘do not depend on God’s free decree, but rather on eternal truths, objects of the divine intellect, which constitute, so to speak, the essence of divinity itself’ (D iv 280/PW 71). All of which brings us back to Leibniz’s letter to