Leibniz new essays concerning human understanding
The latter, in particular, gave Leibniz every encouragement. His efforts in the religions direction were twofold.
But his Leipzig studies did not take him very far in this new direction. As a philosopher he could not.
An essay concerning human understanding
The first was to end the theological and political controversies of the time by the reunion of the Protestant and Roman Catholic Churches. Then I fell in with the writings of modern philosophy, and I recall the time when, a boy of fifteen years, I went walking in a little wood near Leipzig, the Rosenthal, in order to consider whether I should hold to the doctrine of substantial forms. Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz was born in Leipzig June 21, In the applicability of the calculus to the discussion of physical facts, Leibniz saw two truths reflected,—that everything that occurs has its reason, its dependent connection upon something else, and that all is continuous and without breaks. Get clearness; get distinctness. Leibniz had seen too much of the world, too much of courts, for his thoughts to take the rigid and unbending form of geometrical exposition suited to the lonely student of the Hague. The principles of his times were not separate forces acting upon him, they were the foods of which he selected and assimilated such as were fitted to nourish his one great conception. For a while, then, Leibniz was a Cartesian; and he never ceased to call the doctrine of Descartes the antechamber of truth. The higher analysis sets before us the results which inevitably follow if we suppose a moving point or any system of movements. But there is a spiritual line of descent and a spiritual atmosphere; and in speaking of a philosopher, it is with this intellectual heredity and environment, rather than with the physical, that we are concerned. It cannot be said that from this time till his death in Hanover in Leibniz had much joy or satisfaction. And so to Leibniz, extension and the spatial aspects of physical existence were only secondary, they were phenomenal. His best friends were dead; his political ambitions were disappointed; he was suspected of coldness and unfriendliness by the courts both of Berlin and Hanover; Paris and Vienna were closed to him, so far as any wide influence was concerned, by his religious faith; the controversy with the friends of Newton still followed him. To us it seems easy because we have bodily incorporated into our thinking the results of both the realistic and the nominalistic doctrines, without attempting to reconcile them, or even being conscious of the necessity of reconciliation. I do not think, however, that it can truly be said that he was led to the idea simply from the state of physiological investigation at that time.
It forgets itself; it forgets its own, unless foreigners make it mindful of its own treasures. It must also know something about the meaning, the significance, in short the ideal bearing, of facts. As in so many cases, it is the inherited moral characteristics which form the basis of the intellectual nature.
An essay concerning human understanding
In the first place, a connection of the same order as the facts observed. The Academy at Berlin was founded, and Leibniz was its first, and indeed life-long, president. Then I fell in with the writings of modern philosophy, and I recall the time when, a boy of fifteen years, I went walking in a little wood near Leipzig, the Rosenthal, in order to consider whether I should hold to the doctrine of substantial forms. If we are explaining corporeal phenomena, we must find a corporeal link; if we are explaining phenomena of motion, we must find a connection of motion. Leibniz accepts this mechanical view without reserve. But this does not say very much. In Leibniz should have received his double doctorate of philosophy and of law; but petty jealousies and personal fears prevented his presenting himself for the examination. Cartesianism as a system, with its scientific basis and its speculative consequences, thus first became to him an intellectual reality. Both sides made concessions,—more concessions than we of to-day should believe possible. This way of stating it was developed, though apparently without adequate realization of its meaning, by the philosophy of scholasticism. In some ways, the "New Essays" has an ease about it, compared to Leibniz's professional articles, that makes his philosophy a bit clearer at times. To Descartes it was useless rubbish to be cleared away, that we might get a tabula rasa upon which to make a fresh start. It is convenient, indeed, to isolate various phases of truth, and consider them as distinct forces working to shape one final product, and as a convenient artifice it is legitimate. The mechanical explanation of Nature not only requires such a development of mathematics as will make it applicable to the interpretation of physical facts, but the employment of mathematics is necessary for the very discovery of these facts.
His father, who died when Leibniz was only six years old, was a professor in the university and a notary of considerable practice. At one moment we say that universals are creations of the individual mind, and at the next pass on to talk of laws of nature, or even of a reign of law.
Descartes was profoundly convinced that past thought had gone wrong, and that its results were worthless.
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