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History of Modern Philosophy
Leibnitz
by Falckenberg, Richard


In the contemporaries Spinoza and Locke, the two schools of modern philosophy, the Continental, starting from Descartes, and the English, which followed Bacon, had reached the extreme of divergence and opposition, Spinoza was a rationalistic pantheist, Locke, an empirical individualist. With Leibnitz a twofold approximation begins. As a rationalist he sides with Spinoza against Locke, as an individualist with Locke against Spinoza. But he not only separated rationalism from pantheism, but also qualified it by the recognition (which his historical tendencies had of themselves suggested to him) of a relative justification for empiricism, since he distinguished the factual truths of experience from the necessary truths of reason, gave to the former a noëtical principle of their own, the principle of sufficient reason, and made sensation an indispensable step to thought.

To the tendencies thus manifested toward a just estimation and peaceful reconciliation of opposing standpoints, Leibnitz remained true in all the fields to which he devoted his activity. Thus, in the sphere of religion, he took an active part in the negotiations looking toward the reunion of the Protestant and Catholic Churches, as well as in those concerning the union of the Lutheran and the Reformed. Himself a stimulating man, he yet needed stimulation from without. He was an astonishingly wide reader, and declared that he had never found a book that did not contain something of value. With a ready adaptability to the ideas of others he combined a remarkable power of transformative appropriation; he read into books more than stood written in them. The versatility of his genius was unlimited: jurist, historian, diplomat, mathematician, physical scientist, and philosopher, and in addition almost a theologian and a philologist--he is not only at home in all these departments, because versed in them, but everywhere contributes to their advancement by original ideas and plans. In such a combination of productive genius and wealth of knowledge Aristotle and Leibnitz are unapproached.

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibnitz was born in 1646 at Leipsic, where his father (Friederich Leibnitz, died 1652) was professor of moral philosophy; in his fifteenth year he entered the university of his native city, with law as his principal subject. Besides law, he devoted himself with quite as much of ardor to philosophy under Jacob Thomasius (died 1684, the father of Christian Thomasius), and to mathematics under E. Weigel in Jena. In 1663 (with a dissertation entitled De Principio Individui he became Bachelor, in 1664 Master of Philosophy, and in 1666, at Altdorf, Doctor of Laws, and then declined the professorship extraordinary offered him in the latter place. Having made the acquaintance of the former minister of the Elector of Mayence, Freiherr von Boineburg, in Nuremberg, he went, after a short stay at Frankfort-on-the-Main, to the court of the Elector at Mayence, at whose request he devoted himself to the reform of legal procedure, besides writing, while there, on the most diverse subjects. In 1672 he went to Paris, where he remained during four years with the exception of a short stay in London. The special purpose of the journey to Paris--to persuade Louis XIV to undertake a campaign in Egypt, in order to divert him from his designs upon Germany--was not successful; but Leibnitz was captivated by the society of the Parisian scholars, among them the mathematician, Huygens. From the end of 1676 until his death in 1716 Leibnitz lived in Hanover, whither he had been called by Johann Friedrich, as court councillor and librarian. The successor of this prince, Ernst August, who, with his wife Sophie, and his daughter Sophie Charlotte, showed great kindness to the philosopher, wished him to write a history of the princely house of Brunswick; and a journey which he made in order to study for this purpose was extended as far as Vienna and Rome. Upon his return he took charge of the Wolfenbüttel library in addition to his other engagements.

The marriage of the Princess Sophie Charlotte with Frederick of Brandenburg, the first king of Prussia, brought Leibnitz into close relations with Berlin. At his suggestion the Academy (Society) of Sciences was founded there in 1700, and he himself became its first president. In Charlottenburg he worked on his principal work, the New Essays concerning the Human Understanding which was aimed at Locke, but the publication of which was deferred on account of the death of the latter in the interim (1704), and did not take place until 1765, in Raspe's collective edition. The death of the Prussian queen in 1705 interrupted for several years the Theodicy which had been undertaken at her request, and which did not appear until 1710. In Vienna, where he resided in 1713-14, Leibnitz composed a short statement of his system for Prince Eugen; this, according to Gerhardt, was not the sketch in ninety paragraphs, familiar under the title Monadology which was first published in the original by J.E. Erdmann in his excellent Complete Edition of the Philosophical Works of Leibnitz 1840, but the Principles of Nature and of Grace which appeared two years after the author's death in L'Europe Savante While Ernst August, as well as the German emperor and Peter the Great, distinguished the philosopher, who was not indifferent to such honors, by the bestowal of titles and preferments, his relations with the Hanoverian court, which until then had been so cordial, grew cold after the Elector Georg Ludwig ascended the English throne as George I. The letters which Leibnitz interchanged with his daughter-in-law, gave rise to the correspondence, continued to his death, with Clarke, who defended the theology of Newton against him. The contest for priority between Leibnitz and Newton concerning the invention of the differential calculus was later settled by the decision that Newton invented his method of fluxions first, but that Leibnitz published his differential calculus earlier and in a more perfect form. The variety of pursuits in which Leibnitz was engaged was unfavorable to the development and influence of his philosophy, in that it hindered him from working out his original ideas in systematic form, and left him leisure only for the composition of shorter essays. Besides the two larger works mentioned above, the New Essays And the Theodicy we have of philosophical works by Leibnitz only a series of private letters, and articles for the scientific journals (the Journal des Savants in Paris, and the Acta Eruditorum in Leipsic, etc.), among which may be mentioned as specially important the New System of Nature, and of the Interaction of Substances as well as of the Union which exists between the Soul and the Body 1695, which was followed during the next year by three explanations of it, and the paper De Ipsa Natura 1698. Previous to Erdmann (1840) the following had deserved credit for their editions of Leibnitz: Feller, Kortholt, Gruber, Raspe, Dutens, Feder, Guhrauer (the German works), and since Erdmann, Pertz, Foucher de Careil, Onno Klopp, and especially J.C. Gerhardt. The last named published the mathematical works in seven volumes in 1849-63, and recently, Berlin, 1875-90, the philosophical treatises, also in seven volumes.[1] In our account of the philosophy of Leibnitz we begin with the fundamental metaphysical concepts, pass next to his theory of living beings and of man (theory of knowledge and ethics), and close with his inquiries into the philosophy of religion.

[Footnote 1: We have a life of Leibnitz by G.E. Guhrauer, jubilee edition, Breslau, 1846 [Mackie's Life Boston, 1845 is based on Guhrauer]. Among recent works on Leibnitz, we note the little work by Merz, Blackwood's Philosophical Classics, 1884, and Ludwig Stein's Leibniz und Spinoza Berlin, 1890, in which with the aid of previously unedited material the relations of Leibnitz to Spinoza (whom he visited at The Hague on his return journey from Paris) are discussed, and the attempt is made to trace the development of the theory of monads, down to 1697. The new exposition of the Leibnitzian monadology by Ed. Dillman, which has just appeared, we have not yet been able to examine [The English reader may be referred further to Dewey's Leibniz in Griggs's Philosophical Classics, 1888, and Duncan's Philosophical Works of Leibnitz (selections translated, with notes), New Haven, 1890, as well as to the work of Merz already mentioned.--TR.]]

Metaphysics: the Monads, Representation, the Pre-established Harmony; the Laws of Thought and of the World
The Organic World
Man: Cognition and Volition
Theology and Theodicy
Personae

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