Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz

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Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716) was, with Descartes and Spinoza, one of the leading rationalists,[1] [2] and among philosophers perhaps best known for his view that the universe is ultimately composed of "simple souls" called monads. Among students of mathematics Leibniz is celebrated for his discovery of the infinitesimal calculus made at about the same time as Newton (in the 1670s). Leibniz devised a notation for derivatives of functions which is more convenient and more widely applied than Newton's fluxion notation. Newton, Leibniz, and above all their followers, had a famous and unpleasant priority dispute about the discovery of calculus.[3] Leibniz is also well known for his view, expressed for example in his Theodicy, that "this is the best of all possible worlds"--which was lampooned by Voltaire in the character of Dr. Pangloss in his Candide.

Leibniz was also virtually unique among pre-20th century philosophers in that he wrote mostly short essays and letters, and only one book-length work. Perhaps his best-known essays are "Discourse on Metaphysics" and "Monadology."


  1. Dascal M. (ed.) (2008) Leibniz: What Kind of Rationalist? New York: Springer. ISBN 9781402086670. | Google Books preview.
    • From Google Book annotation: "The [n=32] chapters of the book are the result of intense discussion in the course of an international conference focused on the title question of this book, and were selected in view of their contribution to this topic. They are clustered in thematically organized parts. No effort has been made to hide the controversies underlying the different interpretations of Leibniz's "rationalism" - in each particular domain and as a whole. On the contrary, the editor firmly believes that only through a variety of conflicting interpretive perspectives can the multi-faceted nature of an oeuvre of such a magnitude and variety as Leibniz's be brought to light and understood..."
  2. Antognazza MR. (2009) Leibniz: An Intellectual biography. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521806190.
    • From British Journal for the History of Philosophy. 19:561-563. "We expect of any biography that it will be full of accurate and illuminating detail about its subject duly presented in a proper sequence. Even those who think they know the Leibniz story will find Antognazza's book full of additional information and insight. She is not content just to narrate the familiar tales and her own painstaking research adds value at every point. For this reason, hers is a book that all serious students of Leibniz should have in their possession. As a work of reference it will rarely be disappointing or unreliable."
  3. Bardi JS. (2006) The Calculus Wars: Newton, Leibniz, and the Greatest Mathematical Clash of All Time. New York: Thunder's Mouth Press. ISBN 1560257067.
    • From Google Book annotation: "As early as 1665, Newton composed a manuscript detailing his method of calculus with examples, but after his unpleasant experience with a 1672 paper on optics that aroused the ire of Robert Hooke, an eminent member of the Royal Society who accused the younger man of plagiarism, Newton became shy of publishing. Between 1672 and 1676, Leibniz independently discovered calculus, using notation that has since become standard. When Leibniz published his results, Newton's allies rushed to discredit Leibniz in what developed, in Bardi's words, into "the greatest intellectual property debate of all time."