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The Cambridge Companion to Leibniz (Cambridge Companions to Philosophy)
ISBN 0521367697 / 9780521367691 / 0-521-36769-7
Publisher Cambridge Univ. Press
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Observing that Leibniz "could manage simultaneously all the sciences," Bernard de Fontenelle half-seriously proposed that the student of his work should "make several savants from only one Leibniz." Fortunately, the 13 essays contained in The Cambridge Companion to Leibniz ought to make it unnecessary to dissect the great 17th-century polymath. The contributors, all distinguished scholars of Leibniz's work (strangely, though not objectionably per se, also all English speakers), have created a guide suitable for specialists and nonspecialists alike, well worth the attention of anyone interested in Leibniz's philosophy.
Roger Ariew's biographical essay and Stuart Brown's essay on the 17th-century intellectual backdrop help to situate Leibniz in his milieu. At the center of the Companion, however, are the essays that deal with Leibniz's metaphysics. His early metaphysical work is discussed by Christina Mercer and R.C. Sleigh Jr., who reveal, surprisingly, that it was ultimately motivated by his ambitious project to reconcile Roman Catholics and Protestants. Donald Rutherford examines Leibniz's later metaphysical work, dominated by the theory of monads, which "posits that the only fully real beings are unextended, soul-like substances." David Blumenfeld explains Leibniz's ontological and cosmological arguments for the existence of God; he also discusses Leibniz's famous dictum--ridiculed by Voltaire in Candide--that this is the best of all possible worlds. Other essays deal with Leibniz's work in logic, the philosophy of language, epistemology, physics, and moral philosophy. The Companion concludes with Catherine Wilson's insightful discussion of the reception of Leibniz's philosophy, although she unfortunately ends her historical survey with Kant. --Glenn Branch [via]