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The Good Life in the Scientific RevolutionDescartes, Pascal, Leibniz, and the Cultivation of Virtue$
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Matthew L. Jones

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780226409542

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226409566.001.0001

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Forms of Expression

Forms of Expression

(p.169) Chapter Five Forms of Expression
The Good Life in the Scientific Revolution
University of Chicago Press

This chapter considers how Leibniz came to maintain that symbolic expression could constitute legitimate knowledge. It discusses how he produced his quadrature of the circle, the terms in which he defended his solution as legitimate knowledge, and some of the considerations about many larger philosophical and practical questions that he drew from it. The chapter suggests that Leibniz's great mathematical discovery of the quadrature and his defense of symbolic expression as legitimate mathematical knowledge became possible in part because of his practical attempts to create new symbolic and optical technologies that would permit human beings to see many things all at once. By tracking Leibniz's interest in these concrete techniques, we can better reconstruct how he developed some central concepts and practices in his mathematics and early philosophy, and we can understand less anachronistically the importance he attached to them. Drawing in part upon his mathematical solution of the quadrature and his arguments that this solution really was mathematical knowledge, Leibniz came to argue that bringing the soul and mind closer to God required a sophisticated deployment and involvement in the material processes of notation.

Keywords:   Leibniz, symbolic expression, mathematical knowledge, quadrature, circle

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