Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz  

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The statement that "we live in the best of all possible worlds" drew scorn, most notably from Voltaire, who lampooned it in his comic novel Candide by having the character Dr. Pangloss (a parody of Leibniz) repeat it like a mantra. Thus the adjective "panglossian", describing one so naive as to believe that the world about us is the best possible one.


"Why is there anything at all rather than nothing whatsoever?"

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz (July 1, 1646 in Leipzig - November 14, 1716 in Hanover) was a German philosopher and polymath. Voltaire lampooned Leibniz's optimism in his comic novel Candide.

Contents

Theodicy and optimism

The Théodicée tries to justify the apparent imperfections of the world by claiming that it is optimal among all possible worlds. It must be the best possible and most balanced world, because it was created by a perfect God.

The statement that "we live in the best of all possible worlds" drew scorn, most notably from Voltaire, who lampooned it in his comic novel Candide by having the character Dr. Pangloss (a parody of Leibniz) repeat it like a mantra. Thus the adjective "panglossian", describing one so naive as to believe that the world about us is the best possible one.

Overview

He occupies a prominent place in the history of mathematics and the history of philosophy. Most scholars believe Leibniz developed calculus independently of Isaac Newton, and Leibniz's notation has been widely used ever since it was published. It was only in the 20th century that his Law of Continuity and Transcendental Law of Homogeneity found mathematical implementation (by means of non-standard analysis). He became one of the most prolific inventors in the field of mechanical calculators. While working on adding automatic multiplication and division to Pascal's calculator, he was the first to describe a pinwheel calculator in 1685 and invented the Leibniz wheel, used in the arithmometer, the first mass-produced mechanical calculator. He also refined the binary number system, which is the foundation of virtually all digital computers.

In philosophy, Leibniz is most noted for his optimism, i.e., his conclusion that our Universe is, in a restricted sense, the best possible one that God could have created, an idea that was often lampooned by others such as Voltaire. Leibniz, along with René Descartes and Baruch Spinoza, was one of the three great 17th century advocates of rationalism. The work of Leibniz anticipated modern logic and analytic philosophy, but his philosophy also looks back to the scholastic tradition, in which conclusions are produced by applying reason of first principles or prior definitions rather than to empirical evidence.

Leibniz made major contributions to physics and technology, and anticipated notions that surfaced much later in philosophy, probability theory, biology, medicine, geology, psychology, linguistics, and computer science. He wrote works on philosophy, politics, law, ethics, theology, history, and philology. Leibniz's contributions to this vast array of subjects were scattered in various learned journals, in tens of thousands of letters, and in unpublished manuscripts. He wrote in several languages, but primarily in Latin, French, and German. There is no complete gathering of the writings of Leibniz.

See also

Further reading




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