Gottfried Leibniz

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Gottfried Leibniz

Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz (1646-1716) was a Christian, or, perhaps more accurately, Neo-Gnostic German polymath famous for his contributions to mathematics and philosophy. He was a major intellectual force in the 17th and 18th centuries, and is known as the last "universal genius." Leibniz is also referred to as pantheist.[1]

Leibniz created the elongated version of "S", for sum, as the symbol for an integral:


In mathematics his greatest achievement was his independent discovery of differential and integral calculus, also simultaneously invented by Isaac Newton. Modern calculus follows the notations and conventions of Leibniz, not Newton. An ugly dispute developed between Newton and Leibniz over who discovered calculus first. Most British historians gave the credit to Newton, while the continental historians credited Leibniz. Both deserve credit: while Newton was the superior mathematician, Leibniz provided the more intuitive notation.


In physics, Leibniz proposed the use of "dynamics" or kinetic energy to explain motion, rather than "mechanics" that is based on Cartesian coordinates. Leibniz held the view that light always traveled the path of least resistance.

Philosophical views

In philosophy, Leibniz disagreed with Descartes' "I think therefore I am" and he instead thought that neither form alone (the mind) or matter alone (the body) could explain the existence of an individual. Instead, Leibniz created a philosophy known as "monadology", which holds that souls are all there are in the universe. Even a table, according to Leibniz, is nothing other than a collection of "windowless monads" which cannot interact. However, already in the third and fourth centuries A.D., the Monad(s) were part of Mediterian gnostic cultures that Christian scholars harshly opposed until the battle against gnosticism was won by 325, the date of Council of Nicea. From this perspective, Leibniz was doing nothing more than reformulating an old heretical etnotheology widespread during the era of Arianism.[2]

Between 18–21 November 1676, Leibniz met personally with Benedict de Spinoza discussing various philosophical topics, including the ontological argument for the existence of God.[3]

The Best of all Possible Worlds Theory

See also: Optimism

In The Monadology, Gottfried Leibniz wrote a small piece that now connects to contemporary interests known now as “the best of all possible worlds”. In sections 53-55 he covers this topic. In section 53 Leibniz embraces that in, “the idea of God” (Leibniz 53), there is room for an infinite amount of universes. But unlike the contemporary topic of conversation over the concept an infinite number of parallel universes, Leibniz rejects that there is more than one universe at any given time. Leibniz says that God must have some reason to pick one universe over another. In section 54 Leibniz goes on to explain why God would choose one universe in preference to another. In section 54, Leibniz uses very specific language, “suitability or degrees of perfection” (54) to describe the qualities of this universe which is the best out of all other imaginable universes. Suitability or degrees of perfection describes God’s reason for choosing is based not just a total amount of goodness in the universe, but also in the suitability of it; presumably the suitability of the particular world/ universe to be able to enact His plan. Leibniz sums up God’s reason choosing a certain world as, “with each possible world’s right to claim existence being proportional to the perfection it contains” (54). Lastly, in section 55, Leibniz credits God’s ability to select a universe that is the most suitable and has the highest degree of perfection to God’s wisdom. This wisdom gives Him the ability to know which universe to choose, God’s goodness giving Him the ability to choose, and God’s infinite power lets Him create the universe. Later, in section 59, Leibniz says, “This theory (which I venture to say I have now demonstrated) is the only one that properly displays God’s greatness” (59). While it may be a stretch to say that this theory is the only one that shows God’s goodness, from a Christian perspective, it is amazing to think that God can not only conceive of an infinite number of universes, but also know the qualities of each and constantly pick the best universe possible. Leibniz’s “the best of all possible worlds” theory within The Monadology is not only an incredible concept, but one that holds weight from a Christian worldview.

Encyclopedia Britannica's article Best of all possible worlds states:

Best of all possible worlds, in the philosophy of the early modern philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646–1716), the thesis that the existing world is the best world that God could have created.

Leibniz’s argument for the doctrine of the best of all possible worlds, now commonly called Leibnizian optimism, is presented in its fullest form in his work Théodicée (1710; Theodicy), which was devoted to defending the justness of God..

In rough outline, the argument proceeds as follows:

1. God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent;

2. God created the existing world;

3. God could have created a different world or none at all (i.e., there are other possible worlds);

4. Because God is omnipotent and omniscient, he knew which possible world was the best and was able to create it, and, because he is omnibenevolent, he chose to create that world;

5. Therefore, the existing world, the one that God created, is the best of all possible worlds.[4]

Denominational background

Leibniz was a Lutheran who dreamed of reuniting the Lutheran faith with the Roman Catholic Church, and also of reconciling modern thinkers like Hobbes and Descartes with the Scholastics, or even with the earlier Greek philosopher Aristotle. Such striving to reconcile various schools of thought is known as syncretism and was native to gnostic heresy.

Legacy and impact

In 1725, Louis Bourget, professor of philosophy and mathematics at the University of Neufchatel, was urged by one of his correspondents to abandon incomprehensible metaphysical ideas including Leibnizian monads.[5] Walter Benjamin, one of the leading exponents of the Frankfurt School, a Marxist splinter group trying to advance so called Cultural Marxism, has been called the heir of Leibniz.[6]

See also


  • Ball, W. W. Rouse. "Gottfried Wilhelm Leibnitz (1646 - 1716)," in Ball, A Short Account of the History of Mathematics (4th edition, 1908) online edition
  • Broad, C. D. Leibniz: An Introduction. Cambridge University Press, 1975.
  • Brown, Stuart. Leibniz. University of Minnesota Press, 1984.
  • Jolley, Nicholas, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Leibniz. Cambridge University Press. 1995.
  • Jolley, Nicholas. Leibniz. Routledge, 2005.
  • Look, Brandon C. "Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz" in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2007) online edition


  1. (2015) in Rudolf Chmel: Ľudovít Štúr: štúdie a eseje (in Slovak). Kalligram &LIC, 117. ISBN 978-80-8101-914-2. “Hegel bol panteista, ale svojrázny, ako každý panteista. Iným panteistom bol napríklad pred Hegelom Leibniz.” 
  2. Donald A. MC Gavran (1975). "2:The Biblical Base from Which Adjustments Are Made", Christopaganism or Indigenous Christianity?. South Pasadena, California: William-Carey Library, 49–51. ISBN 0-87808-423-1. “My third illustration of the way in which Christian should and should not make adjustments to culture goes back to the third and fourth centuries A.D. A Christianity spread around Mediterian, it encountered many cultures, many philosophies and many religions in which incarnations, saviors and god-men of various sorts were worshipped. …Be that as it may, the cultures of that day (except for the growing Christian culture) were generally friendly to the idea of incarnations and saviors and salvific rites and ceremonies. Saviors were conceived as emanations of the One, the Supreme, the Monad, the Unknowable. A characteristic feature of Gnosticism was that of the Primal Man, who existed before the world, a prophet who went through the world in various forms and finally revealed himself in Christ and other saviors.” 
  4. Best of all possible worlds, Encyclopedia Britannica
  5. Rhoda Rappaport (1997). When Geologists Where Historians, 1665-1750. Cornell University Press, 133. ISBN 978-0801-433863. 
  6. Michael Minnicino (1992). The New Dark Age: The Frankfurt School and 'Political Corectness'. FIDELIO Magazine. Retrieved on 31 Jan 2016. “Benjamin has actually been called the heir of Leibniz and of Wilhelm von Humboldt, the philologist collaborator of Schiller whose educational reforms engendered the tremendous development of Germany in the nineteenth century.”