Leibniz: An Intellectual Biography
Maria Rosa Antognazza
Of all the thinkers of the century of genius that inaugurated modern philosophy, none lived an intellectual life more rich and varied than Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716). Trained as a jurist and employed as a counsellor, librarian, and historian, he made famous contributions to logic, mathematics, physics, and metaphysics, yet viewed his own aspirations as ultimately ethical and theological, and married these theoretical concerns with politics, diplomacy, and an equally broad range of practical reforms: juridical, economic, administrative, technological, medical, and ecclesiastical. Maria Rosa Antognazza's pioneering biography not only surveys the full breadth and depth of these theoretical interests and practical activities, it also weaves them together for the first time into a unified portrait of this unique thinker and the world from which he came. At the centre of the huge range of Leibniz's apparently miscellaneous endeavours, Antognazza reveals a single master project lending unity to his extraordinarily multifaceted life's work. Throughout the vicissitudes of his long life, Leibniz tenaciously pursued the dream of a systematic reform and advancement of all the sciences, to be undertaken as a collaborative enterprise supported by an enlightened ruler; these theoretical pursuits were in turn ultimately grounded in a practical goal: the improvement of the human condition and thereby the celebration of the glory of God in His creation. As well as tracing the threads of continuity that bound these theoretical and practical activities to this all-embracing plan, this illuminating study also traces these threads back into the intellectual traditions of the Holy Roman Empire in which Leibniz lived and throughout the broader intellectual networks that linked him to patrons in countries as distant as Russia and to correspondents as far afield as China.
well-rounded in scope, useful in content, and efficient and therefore cost-effective in method. The resulting formula – clear, readily intelligible introductions to useful learning in a broad range of disciplines – was uniquely well adapted to the needs of a young ‘autodidact’ exploring the middle ranges of an encyclopaedic curriculum on his own, far in advance of his formal education. Moreover, this strictly Ramist tradition had given rise to a series of subsequent pedagogical and philosophical
treatment of the syllogism which would remain a central feature of other logical writings, and its formulation of correct rules of combinatorial calculus regarding the number of combinations. Last but not least, central to the entire work was the idea of universal harmony, which Leibniz expressed by referring to Bisterfeld’s doctrine of “the universal immeatio and perich¯or¯esis of all things in all things . . . the similitude and dissimilitude of all things with all things, the principle of
identified Youthful Vocations (–) by Aristotle: commutative justice. The second degree was expressed by the maxim “give to everybody his own” (suum cuique tribuere) and corresponded to the aequitas which grounded the second kind of justice identified by Aristotle: distributive justice. Finally, the third degree was the pietas which grounded universal justice and was expressed by the maxim “live honestly” (honeste vivere). This was the supreme degree of justice which perfected and
skilfully isolated Dutch. Defeated once again, yet undiscouraged, the young Leibniz did what he could to preserve a fragile peace. This time he sought to appeal directly to the king of France and to convince Louis XIV that it was in his interest to invade Egypt instead of Holland. Although traditionally disparaged as a lapse of judgement on Leibniz’s part, in the political circumstances of the time this proposal had a certain logic to recommend it. If France had emerged as the Holy Roman
(), pp. – and Antognazza, Leibniz on the Trinity and the Incarnation, pp. –. For discussions of the nature of the copula in syllogistic propositions in seventeenth-century German philosophy, see the outstanding study by Gino Roncaglia, Palaestra Rationis. Discussioni su natura della copula e modalit`a nella filosofia ‘scolastica’ tedesca del XVII secolo. Florence: Olschki, . See A VI, , N. and A II, , N. . On both texts see above. See A VI, , . See A VI, , . See