[Philosophers]


Picture of LeibnizGottfried Wilhelm, Baron von Leibniz


German Philosopher and Mathematician

1646-1716


Leibniz' career as a scholar embraced the physical sciences, law, history, diplomacy, and logic, and he held diplomatic posts (from 1666) under various German princes. Leibniz also invented the Calculus shortly before Netwon but his work was published after. His philosophical writings, including Theodicy (1710) and Monadology (1714), popularized by the philosopher Christian von Wolff, were orthodox and optimistic, claiming that a divine plan made this the best of all possible worlds.

According to Leibniz, the basic constituents of the universe are simple substances he called monads, infinite in number, nonmaterial, and hierarchically arranged. His major work, New Essays on Human Understanding, a treatise on John Locke's Essay concerning Human Understanding, was written in 1704 but because of Locke's death published only in 1765. A critique of Locke's theory that the mind is a blank at birth, it exerted great influence on Kant and the German enlightenment. Modern studies have tended to focus on Leibniz's contributions to mathematics and logic; manuscripts published in the 20th cent. show him to be the founder of symbolic logic.

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