Leibniz

Course description

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646, Leipzig – 1716, Hanover) was one of the last Renaissance intellectuals (‘a universal mind’). He made lasting contributions to philosophy, mathematics, theology, jurisprudence, politics, technology, and architecture. This lecture course will offer an overview of some central ideas in his philosophy. Feel free to contact me at ms2416@cam.ac.uk if you have any suggestions, questions, or comments about this course.

General reading

  • Discourse on Metaphysics
  • Monadology
  • New Essays on Human Understanding (especially books 1-2)

Online resources

Handouts will be made available on: http://msteenhagen.github.io/teaching/2017lei/

Where and when

Tuesday 9-10am. Faculty Board Room


Lecture 1: Metaphysics

Theory of Substance and the Monadology (handout)

Views of Substance Aristotle Descartes Leibniz
Subject of predication YES YES YES
Simple concept NO YES NO
True unity (‘atom’) YES NO YES
Hylomorphic YES NO ?
Suggested readings
  • Daniel Garber (2009), Leibniz: Body, Substance, Monad
  • Maria Rosa Antognazza (2008), Leibniz: An Intellectual Biography
  • Christa Mercer (2001), Leibniz’s Metaphysics: Its Origins and Development
  • Benson Mates (1986), The Philosophy of Leibniz: Metaphysics & Language
  • Bertrand Russell (1900), A Critical Exposition of the Philosophy of Leibniz

Lecture 2: Logic

The Principles of Predicate Containment, Sufficient Reason, Identity of Indiscernibles (handout)

Suggested readings
  • Christa Mercer (2001), Leibniz’s Metaphysics: Its Origins and Development, Appendix I
  • Dodie Smith (1949), I capture the castle (Apart from illustrating the idea of a first-person perspective, this book has little to do with Leibniz’s metaphysics! I do however recommend it.)

Lecture 3: Epistemology

The Response to Locke’s arguments against innate ideas and non-thinking minds (handout)


Lecture 4: Metaphysics

Pre-established Harmony, Theodicy, and the Mind-Body Problem (handout)


Extra Lecture: Activity and Passivity in Leibniz’ Metaphysics

I will give an additional lecture in Easter 2017 on Leibniz’ conception of activity and passivity. Date and time to be confirmed.