Discourse on Metaphysics

In Paul Lodge & Lloyd Strickland (eds.), Leibniz's Key Philosophical Writings: A Guide. Oxford, UK: pp. 56-79 (2020)
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The “Discourse on Metaphysics” is widely considered to be Leibniz’s most important philosophical work from his so-called “middle period”. Written early in 1686, when Leibniz was 39 years old, it consolidates a number of philosophical ideas that he had developed and sketched out in the years beforehand in a host of short private essays, fragments, and letters. This chapter guides the reader through the key themes of the “Discourse”, such as God’s choice of the best, the nature of substance, final causes, and the relationship between soul and body. The essay concludes with a consideration of what prompted Leibniz to write the “Discourse”; I suggest that the “Discourse” is likely to have been conceived as an attempt to reach supporters of Descartes and Malebranche, not only to challenge key tenets of their respective philosophies but also to present a viable alternative.
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