Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz.

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IN this country Leibniz has received less attention
than any other of the great philosophers. Mr. Merz
has given, in a small volume, a general outline of
Leibniz's thought and work, Professor Sorley has
written for the Encyclopaedia Britannica a remark-
ably clear, but brief, account of his philosophy, and
there are American translations of the Nouveaux
Essais and of some of his philosophical papers. That
is very nearly the whole of English writing about
him. Yet few philosophical systems stand so much
in need of exposition as that of Leibniz. His theories
have to be extracted from seven large volumes of
correspondence, criticism, magazine articles, and other
discursive writings, and it is only in recent years that
this material has been made fully available by the
publication of Gerhardt's edition. No complete and
detailed account of Leibniz's philosophy has hitherto
been published in English, and accordingly I have
written a very full Introduction to this book, with
illustrative foot-notes, consisting mainly of transla-
tions from Leibniz himself.

The endeavour of the book is to make the
Monadology clear to students. I cannot agree with
Dillmann in treating it as of little importance.

A 3


Leibniz himself expressly intended it to be a com-
pact and ordered statement of the views he had
expounded in many scattered papers and in his
somewhat desultory The'odicee, the only book he
published. There is evidence of this in his corre-
spondence and in the fact that he annotated the
Monadology with references to passages in the
Tkeodicee. My original intention was to publish
a translation of these passages along with the
Monadology, but on re-consideration it seemed better
to translate several short papers illustrating different
parts of Leibniz's system and explaining its growth.
Thus the Monadology, as being the centre of the
book, is printed first of the translations (although
in date it is last), while the other writings follow in
chronological order. The only disadvantage of this
arrangement is that it places the Principles of Nature
and of Grace, which is most akin to the Monadology,
farthest away from it.

If I might venture to suggest to the student the
way in which the book should be read, I would
recommend him first to read Part I of the Intro-
duction, then the Monadology (without the notes),
afterwards Parts II and III of the Introduction,
the Monadology again (with the notes), the other
translations, and finally Part IV of the Introduction,
in which I have endeavoured to ' place ' the philosophy
of Leibniz in relation to the systems which came
before and after his.

My indebtedness to authors is so great and varied
that I cannot acknowledge it in detail; but I may
mention as specially helpful to me the works of
Boutroux, Dillmann, Nourisson, Nolen, and Stein.
My thanks are due to Professor Jones, of Glasgow,


who read the Introduction in manuscript, for much
valuable suggestion and criticism; and I am more
than grateful to Professor Ritchie, of St. Andrews,
who read the whole book, both in manuscript and in
proof, and to whom it owes numerous improvements
as well in form as in matter.

I have adopted the spelling 'Leibniz' in place of
the traditional 'Leibnitz,' because the former was
invariably used by Leibniz in signing his own name.

It ought perhaps also to be mentioned that Parts
II and III of the Introduction were accepted by the
University of Edinburgh as a thesis for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy.


June, 1898.



PREFACE . . . . . ' v


Part I. Life and Works of Leibniz i
II. General Principles of the Philosophy of

Leibniz 21

III. Detailed Statement of the Philosophy of

Leibniz ....... 74

A. Leibniz's Mathematics in relation to his

Philosophy . . . . . 74

B. Matter . 86

C. Organism 108

D. Self-Consciousness ..... i2q
Theory of Knowledge . . . .121
Ethics . . . ' . . . .137

IV. Historical and Critical Estimate of the Phi-
losophy of Leibniz . . . .151
APPENDIX A. Explanation of the Pre-established

Harmony 200

B. Formation of the Idea of Space . . 202

C. Meaning of Cause . . . . . 204

D. Leibniz's Logic ..... 206

E. Kant on his relation to Leibniz . . 208


APPENDIX F. Leibniz and Bayle on the multiplicity

in the Monad 272

G. Proof of the Existence of God . . 274







APPENDIX H. On the Elements of Extension . . 329


APPENDIX I. Growth of Leibniz's Theories regarding

Force and Motion . . . '.351

duction . ' . 355


INDEX . ' - . . 425


E. God. Guil. Leibnitii opera philosophical quae extant latina, gallica, ger~
manica omnia, ed. J. E. Erdmann. Berlin, 1840.

G. Die philosophischen Schriften von G. W. Leibniz, herausgegeben von
C. J. Gerhardt. Berlin, 1875-90.

G. Math. Leibnizens mathematische Schriften, herausgegeben von C. J.
Gerhardt. Berlin and Halle, 1850-63.

Dutens. G. G. Leibnitii opera omnia, nunc primum collecta, studio
Ludovici Dutens. Geneva, 1768.

Klopp. Die Werke von Leibniz, herausgegeben von Onno Klopp.
Hanover, 1864-77.

Foucher de Careil. (Euvres de Leibniz, publiees pour la premiere fois
d'apres les manuscrits originaux, par A. Foucher de Careil. Paris,

Mollat. Rechtsphilosophisches aus Leibnizens ungedruckten Schriften, von
Dr. Georg Mollat. Leipzig, 1885.




His Boyhood.

ON June 21, 1646, two years before the close of
the Thirty Years' War, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz was
born at Leipzig. His family was of Bohemian origin ;
but his ancestors for several generations had lived in
Saxony and Prussia, and his father was a Professor of
Philosophy in the University of Leipzig. Leibniz was
only six years of age when his father died ; and, though
in his early years he had the training of a pious mother,
she also passed away before he had completed his Univer-
sity studies. The boys of Leipzig in Leibniz's time
appear to have been brought up on ' the picture-book of
Comenius and the little Catechism ' (Luther's) ; but the
soul of Leibniz already sought stronger meat, and having
found in the house an illustrated copy of Livy, of which
he could not thoroughly understand a single line, he
managed to get a tolerable idea of its contents, supple-
menting his scanty Latin by a study of the pictures and
some judicious guessing. As an indirect result of this
precocity, his father's library was thrown open to him,
and he wandered at will from volume to volume, finding
(as was ever characteristic of him) some good in all 1 .

1 ' It is characteristic of me to hold opposition (Widerlegeri) as of



Providence or Fortune seemed to say to him, Tolle, lege ;
and it is significant for the philosophy to come that he
turned first to the Ancients, to Cicero, Quintilian, Seneca,
Pliny, Herodotus. Xenophon, Plato, the historians of the
Roman Empire, and the Fathers of the Church. Of these
he tells us that * he understood at first nothing, then
gradually something, and finally enough'; but uncon-
sciously his mind was coloured by their style and thought,
' as men walking in the sun have their faces browned
without knowing it,' and under their inspiration he made
it the rule of his life ever to seek clearness in speaking
and a useful purpose in acting (in verbis daritas, in rebus
usus). Thus at fourteen years of age he was counted by
his fellows a prodigy of learning and ability, and already
his reading of Logic and intense determination towards
clearness of thought and speech had led him to ideas
which were afterwards developed into the suggestion of
a logical Calculus and an 'Alphabet of Concepts' as
means to the discovery of truth 1 .

University Life.

At fifteen years of age Leibniz became a student at the
University of Leipzig, and about the same time he became

little account, exposition (Darlegen) as of much account, and when
a new book comes into my hands I look for what I can learn
from it, not for what I can criticize in it.' Schreiben an G. Wagner
(1696) (E. 425 b; G. vii. 526).

1 ' Before I reached the school-class in which Logic was taught,
I was deep in the historians and poets ; for I had begun to read
the historians almost as soon as I was able to read at all, and in
verse I found great pleasure and ease ; but as soon as I began to
learn Logic I found myself greatly excited by the division and
order of thoughts which I perceived therein. I immediately began
to notice, so far as a boy of thirteen could, that there must be a
great deal in it. I took the greatest pleasure in the Predicaments '
(i. e. the Categories) ' which came before me as a muster-roll of all
the things in the world, and I turned to "Logics" of all sorts to
find the best and most detailed form of this list. I often asked
myself and my schoolfellows to which Predicament and also to
which sub-class this or that thing might belong/ Schreiben an
(?. Wagner (E. 420 a ; G. vii. 516).


acquainted with the works of some of the modern philo-
sophers, beginning with Bacon's De Augmentis Scientiarum.
At this time also, as he himself tells us, he read with
interest the works of Cardan and Campanella and the
suggestions of a better philosophy in Kepler, Galileo, and
Descartes. But he was no l read ing-machine, all wound
up and going/ He thought for himself : he read in order
to ' weigh and consider. ' And thus in after-years he re-
calls how, when he was fifteen years of age, he walked
alone in a wood near Leipzig, called the Rosenthal, to
consider whether or not he should retain in his philo-
sophy the 'Substantial Forms' of the Scholastics 1 .
Although his favourite teacher at Leipzig was Jacob
Thomasius, a Professor of Philosophy, deeply versed in
ancient and scholastic learning, the private reading of
Leibniz at first prevailed in his thought and he turned
from the older philosophies to * mechanism ' and mathe-
matics. The ' Substantial Forms * were for the time set
aside, to reappear, transmuted, in later years. His
scholastic studies, however, bore fruit in the earliest of
his published writings, a graduation thesis with the
significant title De principle individui, in which he de-
fended the Nominalist position. Intending to devote him-
self to the profession of law, he went for a year (in 1663)
to Jena, where the mathematician, Erhard Weigel, was
lecturing on 'the Law of Nature,' or what we should now
call Jurisprudence in general. Doubtless the influence
of Weigel tended to confirm Leibniz's mathematical
bent, and he still continued his study of history. In
1666 the University of Leipzig, ostensibly on the ground
of his youth, refused to give him the Doctorate in Law ;
but his thesis, De casibus perplexis in jure, was immediately
accepted by the University of Altdorf (near Niirnberg),
where he declined the offer of a professorship. Thus
ended his connexion with Leipzig.

1 Lettre a M. Remond (1714) (E. 7028 ; G. iii. 606).
B 2


Boineburg and the Elector of Mainz.
In Niirnberg, at that time the capital of a small
republic, which had suffered less than many other
German States from the Thirty Years' War, Leibniz spent
a year, in the course of which his extensive curiosity led
him to become a member of a secret society of the
Rosicrucians, who were trying to find the philosopher's
stone. Fontenelle tells us that Leibniz's method of
gaining admission to the society was to collect from
books on alchemy all the most obscure phrases he could
find and to make of them an unintelligible letter, which
he produced as evidence of his fitness for membership.
The society was so impressed that it immediately ap-
pointed him to be its secretary. The chief gain to Leibniz
appears to have been that through this society he became
acquainted with Baron von Boineburg, ' one of the most
celebrated diplomatists of his age/ who had formerly
been minister to the Elector and Archbishop of Mainz,
the most powerful man in the Empire. With Boineburg
Leibniz went to Frankfort, where he wrote and pub-
lished a paper on legal education, which was the means
of introducing him to the archbishop, in whose service
he remained for some time. This was the beginning of
his career as a diplomatist. The long war had left
Germany in ruins, and, ere there was time to rebuild,
the whole empire was threatened by the immense power
of Louis XIV, who was dreaming of world-wide sway.
The Elector of Mainz, says Leibniz, 'had seen the miseries
of Germany, whose ruins were still smoking : he was one
of those who had laboured most to bring back rest to the
land, from which life seemed almost to have gone. The
country was (as one might hardly say) " peopled " with
little children, and if war were to break out again (as
might be expected when Sweden was irritated and France
threatening) there was every reason to fear that this seed
of a new population would be destroyed and a great part


of poor Germany left almost without inhabitant V The
treaty of Westphalia had secured peace and some measure
of political unity, but it pointed also to an ecclesiastical
reunion, yet to be realized, which to men like the Elector
of Mainz and Boineburg seemed the best means of re-
storing power and happiness to the country. Negotiations
for the reunion of Eoman Catholics and Protestants had
already been begun, and thus early in his diplomatic
career Leibniz took part in the work of conciliation
which in various ways he continued throughout his life.
At the suggestion of Boineburg he made a special study
of the doctrine of transubstantiation, with the result
(expressed in a letter to Arnauld in 1671) that he found
it impossible to reconcile the Cartesian view of material
substance as pure extension either with the Roman
Catholic or with the Lutheran doctrine. He accord-
ingly formed the purpose of discovering a theory of
substance which should satisfy both, and should thus
become a philosophical basis for the reconciliation of the

Paris and London.

Presently events occurred which led him away from
Mainz and gave him new opportunities of study and of
intercourse with learned men. Leibniz and his friends
felt strongly the necessity of drawing into safe channels
the military ambitions of Louis XIV, and accordingly
Leibniz prepared a most elaborate work in which he
suggested to the King of France the advantages that
would arise from a conquest of Egypt, and tried to con-
vince him that it was more worthy of a Christian king
to fight the unchristian Turks than to harass a poor
little people like the Dutch 2 . This book was never

1 From a letter of Leibniz, quoted by Foucher de Careil, vol. iv.
Introduction, p. xx.

2 This Projet de Conquete de I'figypte was published by Foucher de
Careil, vol. v. It shows a most remarkable knowledge regarding
the state of the country and its possibilities, and so clever are the


actually presented to King Louis, but Leibniz in 1672
went by invitation to Paris to explain his project. His
advice was not taken ; but he remained in Paris for
four years, during which he devoted himself to the study
of the higher mathematics l and to the discussion of the
Cartesian philosophy. He had already corresponded with
Arnauld, and he now met also Huygens and Male-
branche. At this time, says Leibniz himself, 'law and
history were my forte V But intercourse with Huygens
and the study of the mathematical works of Pascal intro-
duced him to the problems of modern mathematics.
Huygens, he tells us 3 , 'had no taste for metaphysics,'
but Leibniz learned from him mathematical methods
and principles which influenced the growth of his philo-
sophy, and which set him on the way to the discovery of
the Differential Calculus. At this time also Leibniz in-
vented a calculating machine, superior to that of Pascal,
which could only add and subtract, while his own machine
could also multiply, divide, and extract roots. And in
other ways the residence of Leibniz in Paris greatly
affected his life-work. For instance, it probably led to
his writing so much in French. He had already, in his
essay on the philosophical style of Nizolius (1670), advo-
cated the use of the German language for philosophical
and other works. But in the time of Louis XIV Paris
was the intellectual centre of Europe, and to write for
the world was to write in French. While, therefore,

plans which it suggests that Napoleon was at one time supposed
to have borrowed its ideas for his campaign. Though this has
been shown to be a mistake, the coincidence between the suggested
expedition of Louis XIV and the actual expedition of Napoleon is
sufficiently noteworthy.

1 * The merit of an author in mathematics cannot be disputed, as
it can in other subjects. This is the reason why I remained some
time in France, in order to perfect myself .in mathematics, and
I gave my time to these sciences not on their own account, but in
order to make them contribute to the advancement of piety.' Lettre
au Due Jean Frederic (undated) (Klopp, iv. 450).

2 Lettre a la Comtesse de Kilmansegg (1716) (Dutens, iii. 456).
* E. 702 b ; G. iii. 607.


Leibniz has rightly been called 'the father of German
philosophy,' he is only to a very small extent a German

The four years' residence of Leibniz in Paris was
broken by a brief visit to England in the early months
of 1673. Leibniz had already sought the favour of Eng-
lish learning by dedicating one of his publications to the
Koyal Society, and he had also been greatly interested in
the philosophy of Hobbes, with which to a great extent
he found himself in agreement, especially as regards
questions of physics, although he was strongly opposed
to his political theories. In 1670 he wrote a letter
to Hobbes, to which he received no answer, and after-
wards he began another letter, but left it unfinished. It
has recently been maintained that, up to the year 1670,
Leibniz was 'more deeply affected by Hobbes than by
any other of the leading spirits of the new time V When
Leibniz visited London, Hobbes was still living there,
but he was eighty-five years of age, and some years
earlier Leibniz had heard from his countryman Olden-
burg, who was secretary of the Koyal Society, that
Hobbes was in his dotage. Accordingly it is not sur-
prising that they did not meet. Apart from Oldenburg,
the man with whom Leibniz seems to have had most
intercourse during this visit to London wasKobert Boyle,
the famous physicist ; but there is no reason to suppose
that Leibniz gained much from his stay in England,
except an additional stimulus to the study of the higher
mathematics, which he carried on more systematically
after his return to Paris. As a fitting conclusion of his
Parisian period came the discovery of the Differential
Calculus, which was practically accomplished by Leibniz

1 See Tonnies in Philos. Monatshefte, vol. xxiii. pp. 557-573. Cf.
Leibniz's Letter to Holies (1670) (G. i. 85): 'I constantly maintain
among my friends, and, with the help of God, I will always publicly
maintain also, that I know no writer who has philosophized more
accurately, more clearly, and more elegantly than you, not even
excepting a man of such excellent genius as Descartes himself.'


in 1676. There can be no doubt that Newton was in
possession of a similar method as early as 1665. He at
first made known only some of the results of the method,
and not the method itself. Hence an attempt has been
made to show that Leibniz got hints of the method
during his first visit to England, and that he was thus
more or less a plagiarist of Newton. But there is nothing
to confirm this, and a full consideration makes it much
more likely that each discovered the method indepen-
dently. Leibniz published his account of the method in
1684 : Newton's was first published in 1693. To Newton
belongs the glory of priority, whatever that may be
worth ; while the form which Leibniz gave to the Cal-
culus, the names and the signs which he used, have come
to be universally employed in preference to those of
Newton l .

Visit to Spinoza.

Shortly before Leibniz went to London, Boineburg
died ; and the visit to London was unexpectedly brought
to an end in March, 1673, by the death of the Archbishop
of Mainz. Leibniz was now without an official position,
and during the next few years he made various unsuc-
cessful attempts to obtain a diplomatic appointment. At
last, in 1676, he somewhat reluctantly accepted the post
of librarian to the Duke of Brunswick at Hanover, which
was to be his home during the remainder of his life.
During the earlier years of his residence in Paris, Leibniz
had given much attention to the philosophy of Descartes
and the Cartesians, with the result that he became more
and more convinced of its insufficiency 2 . In his en-

1 See Merz, Leibniz (Blackwood's Philosophical Classics), ch. iii.
and v. Cf. Guhrauer's Leibnitz, i. 170 sqq.

2 A few years after (in 1679) Leibniz writes to Philipp : 'As to
the philosophy of Descartes I have no hesitation in saying abso-
lutely that it leads to atheism' (G. iv. 281). And in the same
year he writes to Malebranche that, while in many respects he
admires Descartes, he is * convinced that his mechanics is full of


deavour after a more satisfactory metaphysic he after-
wards made a considerabl_e_jjtady_ ofJPlato, and in 1676
he translated the Phaedo and the Theactetus. Towards
the end of 1675 Leibniz became acquainted with the
young Bohemian nobleman, Tschirnhausen, Spinoza's
acute critic and correspondent, who was at that time in
Paris, and who had earlier in the same year written
some of the remarkable letters on account of which his
name will always be associated with that of Spinoza 1 .
Leibniz had already (in 1671) written to Spinoza from
Frankfort about a question of optics ; but now Tschirn-
hausen seems to have aroused in him the hope that
a solution of the difficulties of Cartesianism might be
found in the unpublished system of Spinoza. In
November, 1675, a medical friend of Spinoza in Amster-
dam (G. H. Schuller) wrote to him: * Von Tschirnhausen
further mentions that he has found at Paris a man called
Leibniz, remarkably learned and most skilled in various
sciences, as also free from the vulgar prejudices of
theology. With him he has formed an intimate acquain-
tance, founded on the fact that Leibniz labours with him
to pursue the perfection of the intellect, and, in fact,
reckons nothing better or more useful. Von Tschirnhausen
says that he is most practised in ethics, and speaks with-
out any impulse derived from the passions, but by the
sole dictate of reason. He adds that he is most skilled in
physics, and also in metaphysical studies concerning God
and the soul. Finally, he concludes that he is most
worthy of having communicated to him the master's
writings, if you will first give your permission, for he
believes that the author will thence gain a great ad-
vantage, as he promises to show at length, if the master
be so pleased. But if not, do not doubt in the least that

errors, his physics is too hasty, his geometry is too limited, and
his metaphysics has all these faults combined' (G. i. 328).

1 Letters, 57 sqq. Van Vloten and Land, vol. ii. p. 204 ; Bruder,
vol. ii. p. 321 (Letters, 61 sqq.).


he will honourably keep them concealed as he has
promised, as in fact he has not made the slightest men-
tion of them. Leibniz also highly values the Theologico-
Political Treatise, on the subject of which he once wrote
the master a letter, if he is not mistaken V Spinoza, in
reply, recollects having some correspondence with Leibniz,
but Leibniz was at that time a counsellor at Frankfort,

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