Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716) was hailed by Bertrand Russell as 'one of the supreme intellects of all time'. A towering figure in seventeenth-century philosophy, his complex thought has been championed and satirized in equal measure, most famously in Voltaire's Candide. In this outstanding introduction to his philosophy, Nicholas Jolley introduces and assesses theGottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716) was hailed by Bertrand Russell as 'one of the supreme intellects of all time'. A towering figure in seventeenth-century philosophy, his complex thought has been championed and satirized in equal measure, most famously in Voltaire's Candide. In this outstanding introduction to his philosophy, Nicholas Jolley introduces and assesses the whole of Leibniz's philosophy. Beginning with an introduction to Leibniz's life and work, he carefully introduces the core elements of Leibniz's metaphysics: his theories of substance, identity and individuation; monads and space and time; and his important debate over the nature of space and time with Newton's champion, Samuel Clarke. He then introduces Leibniz's theories of mind, knowledge, and innate ideas, showing how Leibniz anticipated the distinction between conscious and unconscious states, before examining his theory of free will and the problem of evil. An important feature of the book is its introduction to Leibniz's moral and political philosophy, an overlooked aspect of his work. The final chapter assesses legacy and the impact of his philosophy on philosophy as a whole, particularly on the work of Immanuel Kant. Throughout, Nicholas Jolley places Leibniz in relation to some of the other great philosophers, such as Descartes, Spinoza and Locke, and discusses Leibniz's key works, such as the Monadology and Discourse on Metaphysics....
|Number of Pages||:||400 Pages|
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Perhaps the best accessible and short introduction to Leibniz currently in print. Although Jolley gives his own interpretations, the book is fairly neutral and includes references to different kind of views. The general argument of harmony as an unifying force in Leibniz's philosophy is acceptable. The chapter of Leibniz's ethical and political thought is better than usually in these kind of introductions.
A mixed bag, that tries to cover almost all of Leibniz' philosophically relevant arguments in about 200 pages, so needless to say the arguments are not always that elaborated. Obviously this is a general flaw of Leibniz' oeuvre, the fact that most of it is apparently quite scattered, so Jolley is not entirely to blame. In fact he's an astute navagater, and I enjoyed several of his references (Rembrandt, Tolstoy and he also alludes to classical atonal music in order to explain a key-concept of Leibniz'), but the work does suffer from being a bit too superficial and in trying to cover too much ground in too little time. Sometimes I even feel that Jolley might be a victim of his own (if not eloquence, then:) navigational skills when he too often tries to connect the same themes, concepts and arguments with each other sometimes resulting in a rather lackluster and opaque feeling as a reader. In the end, I'm not sure who's to blame for this. I guess I can recommend this book as a very brief introduction to Leibniz, which does shed some light on his theory of truth, concept-containment, petites perceptions and innate ideas/dispositions (all of these are especially interesting if you want to track Leibniz' direct influence on Kant). However, my overall opinion of this book is that it lacked direction. And personally I was dissapointed that it did not include even the slightest mention of Leibniz' "De Arte Combinatoria" and his attempted universal language, dissapointed because his attempt at such a project (like Descartes and Ramon Llull before him) was such a idiosyncratic trait for the last pure (the purity of which this book doesn't help to elucidate, but I'll use the adjective for historical emphasis) rationalist.
This is a solid introduction to the systematic philosophy of Leibniz. I don't know enough about Leibniz to speak to the strength of Jolley's interpretation, but he's a good historian of philosophy and writes in a style that is both precise and accessible, which is rare. He presupposes some working knowledge of the intellectual climate, which is, I think necessary for a successful overview of such a major figure. If, however, you're not familiar with early modern philosophy already, you may consider brushing up on the intellectual climate, and some of the other key players of the period before you approach this text. This is, of course, not Jolley's fault, but more a symptom of the nature of early modern philosophy.
The strength of the book was its ease of understanding. The narrative style allowed me to follow the text and react to the ideas of Liebniz being discussed. However, then the dust settles, the final, global positions of Leibniz just do not seem plausible. Also, I read Candide in undergraduate school and still enjoy reliving its satire. That is a big hurdle for Leibniz to overcome.Also, the book was read as back fill as I try to read enough to understand my son who is getting a philosophy degree.Youth will be served.
Am I a monad?Kurt Godel once sagely remarked that no one ever became wise from reading Voltaire. So then how does one gain wisdom? The great logician recommended Leibniz.Voltaire was a spokesman for the very modern idea that we just need to be sensible and put our trust in the progress of science. By contrast Leibniz will likely seem hideous and baroque to the modern reader. Indeed I myself - modern reader par excellence - find monads really fucking weird. I'm alternately attracted and repelled. This book is an excellent introduction, but it doesn't make things simple and clear. How could it? It's more like an entrance to the labyrinth.