Routledge – 2005 – 256 pages
Series: The Routledge Philosophers
Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716) was hailed by Bertrand Russell as 'one of the supreme intellects of all time'. A towering figure in seventeenth-century philosophy, his complex thought has been championed and satirized in equal measure, most famously in Voltaire's Candide.
In this outstanding introduction to his philosophy, Nicholas Jolley introduces and assesses the whole of Leibniz's philosophy. Beginning with an introduction to Leibniz's life and work, he carefully introduces the core elements of Leibniz's metaphysics: his theories of substance, identity and individuation; monads and space and time; and his important debate over the nature of space and time with Newton's champion, Samuel Clarke.
He then introduces Leibniz's theories of mind, knowledge, and innate ideas, showing how Leibniz anticipated the distinction between conscious and unconscious states, before examining his theory of free will and the problem of evil. An important feature of the book is its introduction to Leibniz's moral and political philosophy, an overlooked aspect of his work.
The final chapter assesses legacy and the impact of his philosophy on philosophy as a whole, particularly on the work of Immanuel Kant. Throughout, Nicholas Jolley places Leibniz in relation to some of the other great philosophers, such as Descartes, Spinoza and Locke, and discusses Leibniz's key works, such as the Monadology and Discourse on Metaphysics.
'Nicholas Jolley's Leibniz is an excellent volume in the new Routledge Philosophers series. High marks are in order for its clarity, accessibility and acumen, as well as for the pace and style of its prose…a serious, freestanding study of the philosopher for the non-specialist and a stimulating, enjoyable read for the specialist--in a word, recommended reading. And highly recommended at that.' - Samuel Levey, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews
'…full, thoughtful, lucid and interesting, and it can be recommended without hesitation both to those who are new to Leibniz's philosophy and to those who are well acquainted with it. ' G.H.R Parkinson, British Journal for the History of Philosophy
'Jolley has done a fabulous job, and the result is perfectly suited for its intended purpose and audience. The work is very clearly written; the organization is excellent; and the coverage comprehensive. The needs of students and beginners are indeed well-served here, but the result is not bland.' - Vere Chappell, University of Massachusetts
'The best introduction available.' - Glenn Hartz, Ohio State University
'Reading this gave me great pleasure - it is interesting, illuminating, systematic, thorough and above all pleasantly, smoothly and accessibly written. A splendid book.' - Roger Woolhouse, University of York, UK
'An excellent work. It will clearly establish itself as the best introduction to the thought of Leibniz, and I would recommend it to students wrestling with this difficult philosopher for the first time.' - Brandon C. Look, University of Kentucky
Nicholas Jolley teaches philosophy at the University of California, Irvine. He is author of Locke: His Philosophical Thought and editor of The Cambridge Companion to Leibniz.