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What Did Gottfried Leibniz Believe?

Updated on April 11, 2013
Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz (1646-1716)
Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz (1646-1716) | Source
  • Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716) was a firm believer of the Christian God.
  • Leibniz invented differential and integral calculus separately from Sir Isaac Newton (who also invented it).
  • He believed everything was made out small units called "monads" which he stated had no "windows" for anything to come in and out of them. What he meant by this is that nothing can effect these monads and these monads cannot effect anything else.
  • Leibniz believed that each monad had different properties and that no two monads were exactly the same.
  • He believed that each monad was like an unconscious soul, each with its own idea and perception of the universe.

Leibniz's Fundamental Principles of Philosophy

He created fundamental principles of philosophy for himself and others to follow. They are as follows:

  1. The Principle of the Best or Principle of Optimism - God always acts for the best (and if it seems like he doesn't it's because of human limitations that we can't understand why God acted the way he did).
  2. The Principle of Contraction/The Principle of Identification - If a statement is true then the reverse must be false.
  3. The Principle of Sufficient Reason - Everything must have a cause before it, except for the first cause: the sufficient reason (God). This started the chain of events that we see today.
  4. The Principle of Pre-Established Harmony - No substance interacts with anything else at all. Instead, substances act upon themselves in a manner that we observe to be causation when in actual fact it is the substances changing themselves in a pre-planned (by God) manner. When an apple falls to the ground and breaks into two, it is not the ground that causes the apple to break but rather the substances in the apple 'knowing' (according to God's plan) that they should act accordingly.
  5. Predicate-in-Notion Principle- In order for something to be true, it must contain the predicate in the subject. This is difficult to understand but is actually a very simple concept. In the sentence "the triangle has three sides" the predicate (having 3 sides) is contained in the subject "triangle" because a triangle is defined as having 3 sides. The statement "a triangle is blue" however, is not true because the predicate "is blue" is not included in the subject (since triangles are not defined as being blue).
  6. Identity of Indiscernables - Two objects cannot have exactly the same properties (no object can be identical to another) since then that would mean two objects having only one definition. Leibniz also argues this point like this, basing his argument on his "God acts best" principle:
  1. Suppose there were two identical objects, a and b, in our world, W.
  2. If this were the case, then there must also be a possible world, W*, in which a and b are switched around in each others place (Leibniz does not consider an object's place as part of its properties).
  3. But if this were the case, then God could have had no reason for choosing W over W* because the two objects are after all identical.
  4. But God must have a reason for acting as he does since he created the best world (and in order for it to be the best all of his decisions must have been based on the best reasoning).
  5. Therefore, two objects cannot be identical. There are not two identical objects in our world.

7. The Principle of continuity - Nothing happens immediately, there are an infinite amount of intermediate steps in between each action. Leibniz extends this principle and attempts to prove that no stationary object can be put into motion.

Leibniz's Works

  • De Arte Combinatoria (‘On the Art of Combination’), 1666
  • Hypothesis Physica Nova (‘New Physical Hypothesis’), 1671
  • Discours de métaphysique (‘Discourse on Metphysics’), 1686
  • unpublished manuscripts on the calculus of concepts, c. 1690
  • Nouveaux Essais sur L'entendement humaine (‘New Essays on Human Understanding’), 1705
  • Théodicée (‘Theodicy’), 1710
  • Monadologia (‘The Monadology’), 1714

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