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Although Leibniz's writing forms an enormous corpus, no single work stands as a canonical expression of his whole philosophy. In addition, the wide range of Leibniz's work--letters, published papers, and fragments on a variety of philosophical, religious, mathematical, and scientific questions over a fifty-year period--heightens the challenge of preparing an edition of his Although Leibniz's writing forms an enormous corpus, no single work stands as a canonical expression of his whole philosophy. In addition, the wide range of Leibniz's work--letters, published papers, and fragments on a variety of philosophical, religious, mathematical, and scientific questions over a fifty-year period--heightens the challenge of preparing an edition of his writings in English translation from the French and Latin.


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Although Leibniz's writing forms an enormous corpus, no single work stands as a canonical expression of his whole philosophy. In addition, the wide range of Leibniz's work--letters, published papers, and fragments on a variety of philosophical, religious, mathematical, and scientific questions over a fifty-year period--heightens the challenge of preparing an edition of his Although Leibniz's writing forms an enormous corpus, no single work stands as a canonical expression of his whole philosophy. In addition, the wide range of Leibniz's work--letters, published papers, and fragments on a variety of philosophical, religious, mathematical, and scientific questions over a fifty-year period--heightens the challenge of preparing an edition of his writings in English translation from the French and Latin.

30 review for Philosophical Essays

  1. 4 out of 5

    Manny

    - According to Leibniz's Principle of Sufficient Reason, everything happens for a cause or reason. - Yes, but why? - According to Leibniz's Principle of Sufficient Reason, everything happens for a cause or reason. - Yes, but why?

  2. 5 out of 5

    Erik

    The most intelligent biped who ever lived was Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. His philosophy was impenetrable to me for years and years, but I stuck with it, considering that the guy knew no math and then, in a few short years in Paris, arrived at the calculus independent of Newton. Who else could get work done in Paris? Leibniz's philosophy of the monadology, the specimen dynamicum, the program for a metaphysical foundation for physics, the characteristica universalis, geometric algebra, the analysi The most intelligent biped who ever lived was Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. His philosophy was impenetrable to me for years and years, but I stuck with it, considering that the guy knew no math and then, in a few short years in Paris, arrived at the calculus independent of Newton. Who else could get work done in Paris? Leibniz's philosophy of the monadology, the specimen dynamicum, the program for a metaphysical foundation for physics, the characteristica universalis, geometric algebra, the analysis situs, the Leibniz-Clarke controversy, all of these things were premonitions of the course science and philosophy actually took (and has still to take). The foresight is humbling and awe inspiring to me.

  3. 4 out of 5

    IWB

    This is a collection of the important shorter works of Leibniz's philosophical corpus, which are edited and translated by Garber and Ariew. Some of the more important works featured in this collection are the "Monadology," and "Discourse on Metaphysics," and "On Nature Itself". (So some of the works concern Leibniz's theoretical physics and theology, not just philosophy proper [whatever that is:]) Additionally included are some of Leibniz's correspondence letters, which serve to further buttress This is a collection of the important shorter works of Leibniz's philosophical corpus, which are edited and translated by Garber and Ariew. Some of the more important works featured in this collection are the "Monadology," and "Discourse on Metaphysics," and "On Nature Itself". (So some of the works concern Leibniz's theoretical physics and theology, not just philosophy proper [whatever that is:]) Additionally included are some of Leibniz's correspondence letters, which serve to further buttress the arguments of certain essays. There is a short preface to each essay or letter in which the editor's provide relevant contextual information; moreover, the editors provide footnotes of relevent historical and philosophical, and terminological points that bring out various nuances that might otherwise have been missed entirely. This work is intended to be a reference work--it's not meant to be read from page one to the end; rather, it is ideal for research, classroom instruction, or for on the go reading when you just need a quick Leibniz fix in a portable format. As an introduction to Leibniz' thought, it's hard to go wrong with this edition. While using this book in a grad seminar, it was brought to my attention that there are some questionable aspects to the translation. Some of the works in this volume are translated from the Latin, others from the French. Either way, some of the word choices lend themselves to serious misinterpretation in the English. Having said that, while my Latin is better than my French, I don't think my understanding of Leibniz's complicated metaphysics was tainted anymore than it would have been had I been reading from the original languages. Is I mentioned above, some of the inclusions concern theorectical aspects of various scientific problems, some of which are problems bequethed to Leibniz from previous thinkers, such as Descartes. But some of the selections have prefaces that do not fully bring out the way in which Leibniz' arguments are responses to certain historical problems. For instance, in section 13 of On Nature Itself, Leibniz raises a number of objections to a view of motion that is compatible with Cartesian physics. The editors, however, do not make clear to which arguments Leibniz was responding. Here is one of these objections, as it relates to Descartes’ view of motion, in a more succinct form than as it occurs in section 13. The Cartesian view of motion consists in geometrical bodies acting on each other within a plenum. Descartes’ definition of motion is as follows: "The translation of a piece of matter from the neighborhood of bodies immediately touching it, these being regarded as being at rest, to the neighborhood of others. " Principle of Philosophy. Sec. II, P25. It is only possible, furthermore, according to Descartes, for the movement of bodies to be circular. Principles II, p33. Leibniz presents the following argument against this Cartesian view. (P1) The criterion for distinguishing a uniform mass of matter is motion. (P2) If motion is transference, then a change of state from one place to another must occur. (P3) It is not the case that a uniform mass of matter can be distinguished by means of a change of state from one place to another. (P4) If (P3), then it is not the case that the criterion for distinguishing a uniform mass of matter is motion. (C1) It is not the case that the criterion for distinguishing a uniform mass of matter is motion. Leibniz presumably intends this argument to be a reductio of Descartes's view since, if Descartes’s view of motion were true, then we would not be able to distinguish between individual objects; but we do distinguish between individual objects. Descartes’ view, therefore, must be false. Leibniz gives an argument for (P3), which is reformulated as follows. (P3a) One part of matter is distinguished from another by means of an extrinsic denomination. [Roughly speaking, an extrinsic denomination is a relational property that does not refer back to the subject:] (P3b) It is not the case that at present there is a distinguishing criterion. (P3c) If (P3b), then it is not the case that there is an extrinsic denomination. (P3d) It is not the case that there is an extrinsic denomination. (P3e) If (P3d), then it is not the case that one part of matter is distinguished from another. (C2) It is not the case that one part of matter is distinguished from another. Leibniz also argues against shape, instead of motion, being the criterion for distinguishing one piece of matter from another. According to Leibniz, a uniform mass of matter, which is infinite (i.e., Cartesian extension)has no boundary. Shape, however, entails a boundary. For that reason, the Cartesians cannot construe a uniform mass of matter as having shape; and hence, shape cannot be a means for distinguishing one piece of matter from another.

  4. 4 out of 5

    David Haines

    It is a lot of fun reading Leibniz. He defines his terms well, and is very clear when he speak. His humility and desire to seek truth are evident in the way he writes. This book is well worth the time it takes to not just read it, but examine it and work to understand his philosophy.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Liedzeit Liedzeit

    If there is only one book on philosophy to read, this is it. If there was one Genius in the world it was Leibniz. No one ever had the imagination to explain the world. To give just one example. Everyone knows that he said that this is the best of possible worlds. (And most people have trouble believing it). But it is not that he looked around and found everything pleasing but he had logical reasons to come to the conclusion. God could not have created a world without a sufficient reason. Therefor If there is only one book on philosophy to read, this is it. If there was one Genius in the world it was Leibniz. No one ever had the imagination to explain the world. To give just one example. Everyone knows that he said that this is the best of possible worlds. (And most people have trouble believing it). But it is not that he looked around and found everything pleasing but he had logical reasons to come to the conclusion. God could not have created a world without a sufficient reason. Therefore this must be the one that stands out. And he had to pick it! Amazing.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Zack2

    Leibniz is an uneven reading experience for me. His principle of sufficient reason, effusive piety, and faith in compossibility are unfashionable at the least. His long digressions into subtle epistemological distinctions are completely uninteresting to me. BUT, Leibniz's exposition of the nature of monads is absolutely fascinating. Getting a view of this beautiful, multi-faceted concept was totally worth skipping around all the other stuff I found to be chaff. Leibniz is an uneven reading experience for me. His principle of sufficient reason, effusive piety, and faith in compossibility are unfashionable at the least. His long digressions into subtle epistemological distinctions are completely uninteresting to me. BUT, Leibniz's exposition of the nature of monads is absolutely fascinating. Getting a view of this beautiful, multi-faceted concept was totally worth skipping around all the other stuff I found to be chaff.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Bob Nichols

    Faced with the laws of Newton and the strength of his religious perspective, Leibniz's philosophical writings, taken collectively, constitute a comprehensive attempt to interpret reality in a systematic, consistent and credible way. There's an underlying harmony to the world. Man and animal are pre-formed, individualized units (monads) of this overall perfection, filled with its energy and expressing its purpose. Both animal and man have soul but only man has a rational soul and is able to under Faced with the laws of Newton and the strength of his religious perspective, Leibniz's philosophical writings, taken collectively, constitute a comprehensive attempt to interpret reality in a systematic, consistent and credible way. There's an underlying harmony to the world. Man and animal are pre-formed, individualized units (monads) of this overall perfection, filled with its energy and expressing its purpose. Both animal and man have soul but only man has a rational soul and is able to understand, appreciate and reflect the world's underlying perfection. Man's happiness lies in his progress toward degrees of perfection, though Leibniz spins a bit regarding his argument that, in a pre-established, harmonious world consisting of self-contained ("windowless") monads (beings with energy/soul), individuals have free will. Like Hegel's Absolute Freedom, Leibniz has a capstone to his system and this is God. God is the pervasive presence throughout the world and is the pervasive presence in Leibniz's philosophy. God is the final cause that draws the whole world onto Himself so that everything fits together and has a place, even evil (leads to a higher good). It is quite a system that Leibniz has constructed and, reflective of his time, it perhaps seemed reasonable enough. Pull God from the capstone position, however, and Leibniz's thought is philosophical and scientific theology. Substitute Schopehauer's Will (Energy) or Darwin's evolution for Leibniz's God, and much of Leibniz's harmonious worldview would rest on a firmer foundation except that, rather than a pre-established harmony, such perfection would be (and is) continuously created through (godless) force and counter force acting on and reacting to each other, providing ever changing states of equilibrium from states of disequilibrium.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jibran

    important shorter works of Leibniz's philosophical corpus, which are edited and translated by Garber and Ariew. Some of the more important works featured in this collection are the "Monadology," and "Discourse on Metaphysics," and "On Nature Itself". important shorter works of Leibniz's philosophical corpus, which are edited and translated by Garber and Ariew. Some of the more important works featured in this collection are the "Monadology," and "Discourse on Metaphysics," and "On Nature Itself".

  9. 5 out of 5

    sologdin

    famous for the bizarre 'windowless monad' argument, contained herein. author is otherwise brilliant, independently deriving the calculus. monads are still demerits, though. famous for the bizarre 'windowless monad' argument, contained herein. author is otherwise brilliant, independently deriving the calculus. monads are still demerits, though.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    All hail the monad!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Zo

    Going to read his responses to Locke and Berkeley after I read them, but read pretty much all the other sections other than skimming some of the more purely physics parts. Leibniz's integration of physics/metaphysics and belief in the necessity of both is compelling, but I'm not sure his fundamental metaphysical theories of monads, forces, etc seems like a persuasive vision compatible with modern science (unless I'm misunderstanding, which is certainly possible because it is fairly difficult to Going to read his responses to Locke and Berkeley after I read them, but read pretty much all the other sections other than skimming some of the more purely physics parts. Leibniz's integration of physics/metaphysics and belief in the necessity of both is compelling, but I'm not sure his fundamental metaphysical theories of monads, forces, etc seems like a persuasive vision compatible with modern science (unless I'm misunderstanding, which is certainly possible because it is fairly difficult to follow). I enjoy seeing the way he brings mathematical rigor to his philosophy, and some of the more linguistic/semiotic musings are brilliant. I found his thoughts on free will hard to parse but they seemed possibly more sophisticated and compelling than pretty much anyone else I've encountered. My biggest problem was anthropomorphized his God was, and I tend to side with Spinoza/Descartes on the notion of final causes (that they don't exist). His critique of Descartes' mind/body dualism seemed pretty spot on, and his concept of "synchronization" is well articulated and fits within modern science. Also some interesting reflections on the origins of creation which I thought were interesting even if not apparently applicable. His breadth and rigor of thought is amazing, but I enjoyed him less than others because he is a bit denser (more purely mathematical), didn't have as fun a moral vision as Spinoza (or as sensible a metaphysics in my opinion), and while I agree with many of his critiques of Descartes I enjoyed Descartes' writing about philosophy more and could more easily see its historical significance. Interested to read more about contentions with his thought / what is generally considered to be most significant.

  12. 5 out of 5

    M Brt

    it was really nice, amazing to see how leibniz had an intuitive premonition about later findings in physics (quantum and cosmology), cybernetics, phenomenology/epistemology and how close some of his conceptions are to core buddhist ideas. but not worth 5 stars because there was a lot of repetition and i know it's almost inescapable when the works are posthumously selected but still, quite annoying. the debate with clark is a nice sum-up, while the de bosses correspondence left me confused (it beg it was really nice, amazing to see how leibniz had an intuitive premonition about later findings in physics (quantum and cosmology), cybernetics, phenomenology/epistemology and how close some of his conceptions are to core buddhist ideas. but not worth 5 stars because there was a lot of repetition and i know it's almost inescapable when the works are posthumously selected but still, quite annoying. the debate with clark is a nice sum-up, while the de bosses correspondence left me confused (it begins in medias res with regards to the terms used so i would advise preperation or skipping it entirely). look up julian barbour for more ideas on the mathematical/metaphysical discourse

  13. 5 out of 5

    Sahand Moezi

    I have started reading this about a week ago in order to prepare myself for Kant. It's an interesting read if you are into metaphysics and a new definition for how to-day human percieves concept of God. I also loved his essay on Monads. However, the only caveat are the letters. If you want to have a full experience, read them by all means, but they are merely commentary on his main phisolophical points and dont contain any additional value considering they comprise about half of the book. I have started reading this about a week ago in order to prepare myself for Kant. It's an interesting read if you are into metaphysics and a new definition for how to-day human percieves concept of God. I also loved his essay on Monads. However, the only caveat are the letters. If you want to have a full experience, read them by all means, but they are merely commentary on his main phisolophical points and dont contain any additional value considering they comprise about half of the book.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Ray

    3/5 There's not much to say about Leibniz, other than that I hardly understood him. There's just something about Rationalist thinkers that I can't resonate with, excluding Descartes' Discourse and Meditations. I can read Leibniz, and this applies to Spinoza as well, but I can never grasp it. In class, we would go over specific sections of his argument, literally a single sentence. We would finally understand it but lose it when moving to the next. I really can't wait for how Philosophers after Le 3/5 There's not much to say about Leibniz, other than that I hardly understood him. There's just something about Rationalist thinkers that I can't resonate with, excluding Descartes' Discourse and Meditations. I can read Leibniz, and this applies to Spinoza as well, but I can never grasp it. In class, we would go over specific sections of his argument, literally a single sentence. We would finally understand it but lose it when moving to the next. I really can't wait for how Philosophers after Leibniz interpret and criticize his work because maybe that might help me finally get what he's doing.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Nick

    It was alright back in college. It never gelled with me due to his abundant optimism and faith in the unknown reaches of the world's "design." What's the point in philosophizing if all is as it should be? Perhaps reading Voltaire's "Candide" prior has skewed my view...no, it's Leibniz that is silly. If only he'd met Nietzsche. It was alright back in college. It never gelled with me due to his abundant optimism and faith in the unknown reaches of the world's "design." What's the point in philosophizing if all is as it should be? Perhaps reading Voltaire's "Candide" prior has skewed my view...no, it's Leibniz that is silly. If only he'd met Nietzsche.

  16. 5 out of 5

    E.

    I first read most of this volume while in a graduate school class on the Rationalists a quarter century ago. This time I re-read the Discourse on Metaphysics, the Monadology, and a some other essays. I wasn't quite as intrigued by Leibniz this time around as last time. The Monadology is far more interesting than the Discourse. I first read most of this volume while in a graduate school class on the Rationalists a quarter century ago. This time I re-read the Discourse on Metaphysics, the Monadology, and a some other essays. I wasn't quite as intrigued by Leibniz this time around as last time. The Monadology is far more interesting than the Discourse.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Isaac Price-Kelly

    A pretty interesting book overall. The arguments, partly because of how old they are, can be easy to misinterpret, and I can imagine some people dismissing them out of hand simply because he talks about God, but they’re worth considering

  18. 4 out of 5

    Hunter

    Read "Primary Truths," "Letters to Arnauld," and "A New System of the Nature and Communication of Substances." Read "Primary Truths," "Letters to Arnauld," and "A New System of the Nature and Communication of Substances."

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jack Walton

    Boring

  20. 4 out of 5

    James

    monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad mo monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad monad

  21. 4 out of 5

    Amanda L

    With his science being uncannily similar to Newton's Principia, his philosophy renders a more cohesive picture, as his convention(s) do not contradict definitions and the findings of modern science with any statement(s) regarding atoms [falsely] being deemed the smallest indivisible unit of matter. Both Newton and Leibniz independently and simultaneously developed multi-variate calculus, but that Leibniz is rarely given due credit is unnerving. His notation has even proved better, as it is certa With his science being uncannily similar to Newton's Principia, his philosophy renders a more cohesive picture, as his convention(s) do not contradict definitions and the findings of modern science with any statement(s) regarding atoms [falsely] being deemed the smallest indivisible unit of matter. Both Newton and Leibniz independently and simultaneously developed multi-variate calculus, but that Leibniz is rarely given due credit is unnerving. His notation has even proved better, as it is certainly the preferred convention for sophisticated computation. This work evolves as a series of written letters between Leibniz and a female (!) Newtonian apologist. For that it is also a historical snapshot. Most of his letters take on an essay form. Sometimes dragging, it typically kept my interest since, by and large, each of the responses could be individually digested within a single reading session. Also, LOOK at the man. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Got...

  22. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    Halfway through, book seems pretty even, that is, useful, but not worth dropping other philosophers to read. His proposition of monads which operate independently, yet in harmony with perceived reality seems implausible. However, it may be no more difficult a concept than distinguishing first cause and second cause. His proposition that easy books to read are useful because it allows time to meditate, rather than to try to understand difficult arguments. He thus appears to give primacy to his ow Halfway through, book seems pretty even, that is, useful, but not worth dropping other philosophers to read. His proposition of monads which operate independently, yet in harmony with perceived reality seems implausible. However, it may be no more difficult a concept than distinguishing first cause and second cause. His proposition that easy books to read are useful because it allows time to meditate, rather than to try to understand difficult arguments. He thus appears to give primacy to his own thoughts, using another author as mainly input. There are advantages to this approach, except when the goal is to understand what was said, not how what was said is to be used. Miscellaneous writings constituted last half of book. Most interesting was his views on the relativity of space and time, not from physics viewpoint, but from metaphysical view. Ironic that he ended up closer to Einstein than Newton did on this issue.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Rob

    An excellent, comprehensive anthology of Leibniz's essays and letters, as well as his comments on his contemporaries like Locke, Berkeley, Newton, and others. Leibniz was brilliant but unsystematic, so understanding him takes a lot of careful reading of his diverse works. But he's well worth studying as one major critic of the Cartesians. One may find a wealth of philosophical theology in these pages as Leibniz was pressed to argue that this is the best of all possible worlds, that occasionalism An excellent, comprehensive anthology of Leibniz's essays and letters, as well as his comments on his contemporaries like Locke, Berkeley, Newton, and others. Leibniz was brilliant but unsystematic, so understanding him takes a lot of careful reading of his diverse works. But he's well worth studying as one major critic of the Cartesians. One may find a wealth of philosophical theology in these pages as Leibniz was pressed to argue that this is the best of all possible worlds, that occasionalism is false, that the ontological argument can work with the right adjustment, that God is the necessary being whose existence is the reason why our contingent world exists, and so on.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Samantha Puc

    My rating is based more on the fact that I think Leibniz's theory of monadism is fascinating than anything else. It seems so simple - and so crazy - on the surface, yet some of the complexities of it make me wonder a little. I still don't subscribe to it, even after several weeks of discussion (really, professor?) on it in my modern philosophy course, but it provokes some interesting thought experiments. My rating is based more on the fact that I think Leibniz's theory of monadism is fascinating than anything else. It seems so simple - and so crazy - on the surface, yet some of the complexities of it make me wonder a little. I still don't subscribe to it, even after several weeks of discussion (really, professor?) on it in my modern philosophy course, but it provokes some interesting thought experiments.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Vova Ivlev

    No matter how backwards and unnecessary his theories are, Leibniz's philosophy are revolutionary for his time. When everybody thought about the man in the sky, he though about the universal foundations named monads that made the world (also being controlled by the man in the sky) No matter how backwards and unnecessary his theories are, Leibniz's philosophy are revolutionary for his time. When everybody thought about the man in the sky, he though about the universal foundations named monads that made the world (also being controlled by the man in the sky)

  26. 5 out of 5

    Lane Wilkinson

    How I learned about Leibniz.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    Read Discourses on Metaphysics, Primary Truths, and Monadology.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Greg Meyer

    this is merely the closest thing to what I have read on this site currently.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Petronius Jablonski

  30. 5 out of 5

    Attila

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