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Leibniz and the Science of Happiness

April 27, 2010

Roger Caldwell in Philosophy Now:

For Bertrand Russell, Leibniz was something of an enigma. Although Russell thought he could see how Leibniz’s logical principles entailed his grand metaphysical system, he was unable to square this with the doctrines outlined in many of Leibniz’s published writings. His Theodicy of 1708, for example, whilst bland enough to be acceptable to nearly all, made no mention of doctrines such as that of contingency requiring an infinite analysis – that is, what appears contingent to us is logically necessary to the mind of God. Accordingly, Russell distinguished between ‘secret’ doctrines which Leibniz largely kept to himself as being unacceptable to the religious age in which he lived, and his ‘public’ philosophy, in which he dissembled and fudged for his own self-protection. One can understand Russell’s suspicions: after all, Leibniz himself once stated that “He who knows me only by my published writings does not know me at all.” It is certainly true that Leibniz had a tendency to adjust his published works to his audience: he put forward those theses which he hoped his public would accept, and held back his most counterintuitive ideas. An example of his caution is seen in his correspondence with the Dutch scientist Burchard de Volder. Only five years into this communication did it finally dawn on the astonished De Volder that “you now seem to me to eliminate bodies completely, inasmuch as you consider them merely appearances.” [More]

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