Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm (1646–1716)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-DA052-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved January 23, 2019, from

13. The Leibnizian tradition

It is important to remember when considering Leibniz’s influence that much of what we now know of Leibniz’s writings was unknown to his readers for many years after his death. The full dimensions of Leibniz’s thought emerged only slowly, as new texts came to light. Indeed, there is still no complete edition of his work.

At the time of his death, and in the decade afterwards, only a small selection of Leibniz’s texts was available. There were a fair number of publications in mathematics and physics, some legal writings and some documents collected in connection with his unfinished history of the house of Hanover. In philosophy, however, there were only a few essays. During his lifetime, Leibniz had published Meditations on Knowledge, Truth, and Ideas (1684a), the New System (1695b), On Nature Itself (1698) and the Theodicy (1710). The Leibniz–Clarke correspondence was published soon after his death, and a Latin version of the Monadology appeared in 1721. On the other hand, the New Essays did not appear until 1765, and works that we now consider central, such as the Discourse on metaphysics, did not appear until 1846. Many of his philosophical writings and correspondence had to await the monumental edition of C.I. Gerhardt, which appeared between 1875 and 1890. Many texts have yet to appear.

Despite the relative paucity of his available writings, Leibniz was much read and debated in the eighteenth century. One of his early supporters was the German professor Christian Wolff who had corresponded with Leibniz during his life. He composed numerous volumes expounding a Leibnizian philosophy in an ordered and orderly way. Wolff’s systematic philosophy made it ideal for the academy, and his ideas were widely influential. But there were opponents, particularly a group of pietist theologians at the University of Halle, but others as well, including Maupertuis, Crusius, Condillac and, most famously, Voltaire, who made Leibniz into the comical Dr Pangloss of his Candide. Kant received his philosophical education in the atmosphere of this debate between the Leibnizians and the anti-Leibnizians in the German intellectual world. His philosophy, both pre-critical and critical, shows the marks of his knowledge of Leibniz’s writings.

Citing this article:
Garber, Daniel. The Leibnizian tradition. Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm (1646–1716), 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-DA052-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2019 Routledge.

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