Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Criticism - Essay

Bertrand Russell (essay date 1900)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "Leibniz's Premisses" and "Leibniz's Theory of Knowledge," in A Critical Exposition of the Philosophy of Leibniz, Cambridge at the University Press, 1900, pp. 1-7, 160-71.

[In the excerpts below, Russell comments on Leibniz's influences, the major tenets of his philosophy, and his ideas on knowledge. Russell contends that Leibniz's philosophy was an "unusually complete and coherent system."]

The philosophy of Leibniz, though never presented to the world as a systematic whole, was nevertheless, as a careful examination shows, an unusually complete and coherent system. As the method of studying his views must be largely dependent upon his method of presenting...

(The entire section is 6707 words.)

Louis Couturat (essay date 1902)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "On Leibniz's Metaphysics," translated by R. Allison Ryan, in Leibniz: A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by Harry G. Frankfurt, Anchor Books, 1972, pp. 19-45.

[In the essay below, originally published in French in 1902, Couturat argues the importance of logic and reason in Leibniz's philosophy.]

In the preface to La Logique de Leibniz, we asserted that Leibniz's metaphysics rests entirely on his logic. This thesis is confirmed implicitly in our book and is evident from the texts we had occasion to cite there. Nevertheless, since it is contrary to the classical interpretations and to current opinion, it will be useful to establish it explicitly and...

(The entire section is 9332 words.)

Bertrand Russell (essay date 1945)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "Leibniz," in A History of Western Philosophy, and Its Connection with Political and Social Circumstances from the Earliest Times to the Present Day, Simon and Schuster, 1945, pp. 581-96.

[In the excerpt below, Russell provides an overview of Leibniz's major philosophical tenets.]

Leibniz (1646-1716) was one of the supreme intellects of all time, but as a human being he was not admirable. He had, it is true, the virtues that one would wish to find mentioned in a testimonial to a prospective employee: he was industrious, frugal, temperate, and financially honest. But he was wholly destitute of those higher philosophic virtues that are so notable in Spinoza. His...

(The entire section is 6760 words.)

Margaret D. Wilson (essay date 1966)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "On Leibniz's Explication of 'Necessary Truth'," in Leibniz: A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by Harry G. Frankfurt, Anchor Books, 1972, pp. 19-45.

[In the following essay, originally published in German in 1966, Wilson examines Leibniz's concepts of necessary and contingent truths.]

Leibniz's remarks on necessity are dominated by two primary themes. The first, of course, is the thesis that a necessary truth may be defined as a proposition which possesses, "implicitly" if not "expressly," a specific logical form. (This is sometimes referred to, in recent works, as the thesis that necessary truths are "analytic") The second is Leibniz's frequently...

(The entire section is 5827 words.)

Nicholas Rescher (essay date 1967)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "God and the Mind of God," in The Philosophy of Leibniz, Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1967, pp. 11-21.

[In the following excerpt, Rescher focuses on Leibniz's concept of substance and explains the centrality of God to Leibniz's philosophy.]


Leibniz, more than any other modern philosopher, took seriously the idea of a creation of the universe, giving it a centrally important place in his system. Like the theories of the medievals for whom he had such great respect, his system put God as the author of creation at the focal position in metaphysics. The concept of God provides the theoretical foundation upon which the structure of...

(The entire section is 3832 words.)

G. H. R. Parkinson (essay date 1972)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: An introduction to Leibniz: Philosophical Writings, revised edition, edited by G. H. R. Parkinson, translated by Mary Morris and G. H. R. Parkinson, Dent, 1973, pp. vii-xix.

[In the following excerpt from an essay written in 1972, Parkinson presents an overview of Leibniz's philosophical and scientific theories.]

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz was born in Leipzig on 1 July 1646. The son of a professor of moral philosophy, he studied at the Universities of Leipzig and Jena. Germany had been devastated by the Thirty Years' War, which ended in 1648, and the general cultural backwardness of the country was reflected in the German universities. It may have been this that...

(The entire section is 4997 words.)

Robert McRae (essay date 1982)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "Miracles and Laws," in The Natural Philosophy of Leibniz, edited by Kathleen Okruhlik and James Robert Brown, D. Reidel Publishing Company, 1985, pp. 171-81.

[In the essay below, first delivered as a seminar paper in 1982, McRae discusses Leibniz's ideas on the laws governing the natural world and argues that Leibniz categorized miracles as occurrences outside the understanding of human explanation.]

Leibniz makes the charge, which he constantly renewed, that the laws of nature of the Cartesians and Newton's law of gravitation were really only formulations of perpetual miracles. To make his case he had to define miracle. Because the notion of miracle involves,...

(The entire section is 4230 words.)

Donald Rutherford (essay date 1995)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "Metaphysics and Its Method," in Leibniz and the Rational Order of Nature, Cambridge University Press, 1995, pp. 71-98.

[In the following excerpt, Rutherford examines Leibniz's concept of metaphysics. The critic suggests sources for Leibniz's ideas and focuses on such concepts as substance, cause, and the interpretation of sensory phenomena.]

Leibniz offers several definitions of the science of metaphysics. In one work he describes it simply as the "science of intelligibles" (C 556).1 In another he identifies it as the "science which has being, and consequently God, the source of being, for its object" (GP VI 227/H 243-4). In a third he characterizes...

(The entire section is 15786 words.)