Biography of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716)

Philosopher, scientist and German historian, born in Leipzig in 1646 and died 14 November 1716 in Hanover. Leibniz seeks integration both in its philosophical works in the field of science. In philosophy tries to harmonize the philophia perennis with the needs of the moment. It is a great innovator, with the boldness and breadth of thinking of the genius.

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz.

Life and works

Philosopher, scientist and German historian. It belonged to a Protestant family, of old Slavic origin. Equipped with a precocious development mentally, paid by the cultural environment family, while still a teenager and I read Aristotle in Greek, and even before he/she had learned latin at his own expense. He/She studied philosophy and law in Leipzig, his hometown. Between the years 1672 - 76 resided in Paris, where he/she met scientists and most notable philosophers of the time: Huygens, Mariotte, Descartes, Malebranche, Arnauld. Then he/she approached also the Hague, interview with Spinoza. Throughout his life he/she served various missions and political offices. In 1670, he/she contributed to the Foundation of the Academy of Sciences in Berlin, being its first President. In 1684 published his discovery of infinitesimal calculus, with absolute independence of Newton. From 1676, he/she was in the service of the Court of Hanover, as official historian, until his death in the same town.His scientific and philosophical production consists of generally brief writings, published in magazines of that time. His vast correspondence with scientists of the time is also very important. His philosophical writings are almost all written in French. Apart from his many works on mathematics, physics, law and other subjects, works that matter most from the philosophical point of view are: art Combinatorics (1666), Discours de métaphysique (1686), système nouveau of the comunication et nature des substances (1695), Essais de Théodicée sur Bonté de Dieu, la liberté de l'homme et l'origine du mal (1710(, his unique philosophical work of large size and scope), Nouveau essais sur l'entendement humain (1704), principes Les de la Grâce et nature refun6ed in raison (1714) and Monadologie (1714).

Philosophical doctrine

Metaphysics and the Monadology

Formed in the tradition of Aristotelianism Scholastic, after knowing the new mechanistic science of nature and contemporary philosophy (Descartes, Hobbes, Spinoza), soon away from that tradition. But after a brief period of sympathy with atomism, also rejects the mechanism as a philosophical perspective, by its inability to explain the essence of the matter. You are not agree with reduce the matter to extension (res extensive, as Descartes sought to restrict body entities to geometric determinations). For Leibniz the main attribute of matter is in force (vis), and not the extension. Whereupon the Cartesian mechanism is replaced by dynamism. Matter, also claims against Descartes, cannot be infinitely divisible. Certainly Leibniz accepts the existence of atoms, but does not consider them past constituent of matter, because, as materials, they are also extensive and therefore divisible. Hence concluded that the last elements must be entitativos non-material elements, which he/she calls Monads (from the Greek ' MONAS ', unit) or formal atoms. On the other hand, Leibniz deviates also from pantheistic monism spinoziano to propose a world consisting of the multiplicity of created beings.

The Monads are simple units or simple, BOL., inextensas, substances of nature intangible and infinite in number. Every Monad is qualitatively different from the others (do not exist in nature two absolutely equal beings among themselves). They are units of force, but none can act or influence over others; the Monads only communicate "directly" with God, their creator. If apparently Queen among them some interinfluence, because that causal dependence on God - which is the most perfect and fully active Monad - which has so arranged it (principle of pre-established harmony). Here can be seen the attempt to resolve the difficult question of the intercom of the two substances of man: the harmony between the Monad of the soul and the Monads of the body. All the cuties that populate the universe were synchronized by God from the moment of its creation. It happens, in addition, each one of them reflected throughout the universe from their particular perspective, from its own point of reference. Among the Monads is given a hierarchical order, depending on the greater or lesser clarity with which each one reflects the universe, and that translates into a greater or lesser degree of internal activity. Inorganic beings, representation or perception is unconscious, they are not aware of this perception. The Monads of the plants are in a more refined level of perception, but unclear, for lack of memory. Animals already gives a clear and conscious perception (with memory). The man is in the next degree, where perception, thanks to the Monad of the soul, is self-conscious, clear and distinct (that is, rational), which is equivalent to the apperception (perception of perception) with ability to reflect. This State also shows the e (appetite for clear perceptions).Leibniz recognized a higher grade on this scale for los angeles (pure spirits), until you reach the Monad par excellence (cute monadum), quite clear and distinct perception.

God and the world

As Descartes and Malebranche, Leibniz also goes the existence of God to substantiate his metaphysics. It is God who makes it possible to our communication with the outside world, thanks to our exclusive communication with him by means of the Monad of our soul. The possibility of the existence of God will based it on classical proofs, while adding some qualifications.

Leibniz intends to demonstrate that this world, created by God, is the best of all possible infinite worlds. Not should be attributed to God, as it sought to Descartes, a free creation of the eternal truths, because also Dios should follow the principle of non-contradiction. Against Spinoza, says that it is not a relationship needed between God and creation, but of free choice. Now, God not chooses randomly but prefer unfailingly the best order. Leibniz comes to assert: "the world could have been without sin and suffering, but I deny that in that case it would have been better". This is the so-called "optimism" of Leibniz (on which Voltaire quipped in Candide). It is not a psychological attitude, a way of feeling, but only of a metaphysical thesis. Holding the distinction in God between intellect and will, and the priority of him with respect to this, the main attribute of God is not omnipotence, but wisdom and goodness. Regarding the objections of men motivated by the evils that exist in the world, Leibniz uses the Augustinian argument, in the sense that men, not knowing that parts limited of the created world (that for Leibniz extends to infinity), can not understand that what appears alone as a default, helps actually harmony and perfection at all, as well as a dissonance on the set of a music snippet.

Human knowledge

The battle against materialism and the irreligiosidad, Leibniz added the criticism of empiricism. It supports the need to experience to acquire knowledge, but to the Aristotelian assertion that "there is nothing in the understanding that before was not in the senses", must add "unless the same mind". There is an innate knowledge of man, but it's potential ("virtual innatism"), which only develops with the activity of the mind. The human mind is in continuous activity, although this activity does not always manifest itself on the surface: are many, which we are not aware at the time of, and insights that emerge later, little by little, in the consciousness.Consistent with the foregoing, Leibniz conceives of two kinds of truths: truths of reason, innate, and truths that in fact, come from the experience. The first are those in whose formulation that is said in the predicate is implicit in the subject. Truths are not in fact, on the contrary, analytical. I.e. the predicate analysis is not that this is implicit in the subject. The truths of reason are founded on the principle of contradiction: incurred in contradiction to deny them. Not so in the truths of fact, which are founded on the principle of sufficient reason. This principle means that everything has its reason for being. The truths of reason are given only in the male, because our mind is limited, but for God all truths are reason because he/she knows everything at present. In addition, the truths of reason refers to essences and based on divine knowledge; While the indeed relate to contingent objects and are founded on the will of God. Among the truths of reason: the idea of God, logical principles, mathematical principles and the practical principles of morality. Although these truths are innate, they are not always obvious. Often one gets to them through much reflection and effort.

The logic

Recently it has been discovered the importance of Leibniz in the field of logistics, almost ignored by their own contemporary appearance. He, indeed, had felt already since his youth concern with find a formal language that follow the same laws as the calculation. In his speech on the combinatorial art, Leibniz establishes a systematization of syllogisms, online of what is later called godelizacion (or Gödel tests): as well as a whole number can be decomposed into the product of its prime factors, so also a concept can be decomposed in previous concepts that compose it. If they are made correspond primes with the primitive concepts, it will be possible to find out if a subject can be attributed him or not a given predicate. Leibniz noted that, for reasoning, instead of designations given to things, it would order primitive concepts in an alphabet, in which signs represent a particular concept; Thus, with a simple combination of signs, could be automatically confirmed truths already known and even discover truths which had not repaired the philosophers. With such instrument hoped Leibniz put an end to ineffective and sterile disputes among philosophers and schools.

Morals and law

The conception of the universe created for autoperfeccionarse in harmony, Leibnizian flows into a morality that tends to find precisely that harmony among all beings, particularly among men. The activity of the man will tend not only to their particular development, since it is part of a universe, exemplified by his fellows. It is a be in unavoidable interrelation with other people and with God. The Supreme harmony will be achieved with the acceptance of more universal law, greater range and greater similarity with God: the law of love.


HALBWACHS, M., Leibniz, life, doctrine and works, Mexico, 1945.

HOLZ, H, Leibniz, Madrid, 1970.

VALENTIÉ, M.E., a metaphysics of the man. Essay on the philosophy of Leibniz, University of Tucumán, 1956.

ORTEGA and GASSET, j., the idea of beginning of Leibniz and the evolution of deductive theory, Madrid, 1967.