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Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm

Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm (1646–1716). German philosopher and mathematician. He studied law initially (at Leipzig), but turned to philosophy and mathematics, making an independent discovery of the infinitesimal calculus. From a Protestant background, he espoused the cause of reconciliation between Protestants and Roman Catholics—and was invited to supervise the Vatican Library. In Essays on Theodicy (1710), he argued that the law of continuity (based on the consistency of the universe) points to a perfect Being (i.e. God), who would necessarily create the best of all possible worlds (a view satirized by Voltaire, especially in Candide). In The Monadology (1714) he advanced the view that everything is made up of simple monads. Arranged hierarchically, the soul is the ruling entechy of the body—offering an analogy of the relation of God to the world.

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Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm

Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm (1646–1716) German philosopher and mathematician. Leibniz made many practical inventions, including a calculating machine (1671). His discovery of differential and integral calculus was made independently of Sir Isaac Newton. Leibniz created a rationalist form of metaphysics, according to which the universe comprises a hierarchy of constituents (monads) with God at the top asserting a divine plan. This belief led him to argue that evil is divinely motivated. His major works include New Essays Concerning Human Understanding (1765) and Monadology (1898).

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