My rating: 3 of 5 stars
First an explanation of what it means to "read" 500 pages of old philosophical prose--you skim through sections looking for the good, engaging material, the new idea, the argument you really want to focus on. You don't always painstakingly read every word.
For a while I was overwhelmed by the thoroughness of this book, so unlike Leibniz's Discourse and Monadology which are short and succinct. But eventually I grew deep admiration for Leibniz.
For one, he may have been one of the most well-read intellectuals ever. The sheer breadth and diversity of figures he sites is incredible, some of them now minor or forgotten folk (like his detailed discussion of the supralapsarian theologians). This contrasts with what I read about Descartes last year in a biography, that he didn't like reading other people's books.
Also, Leibniz will spend pages and pages trying to fully grasp another authors arguments, sometimes presenting it in a better light than the author themselves did, before then refuting it with objections.
So, a monumental intellectual achievement . . . but I still disagree with him about most of his conclusions. I am not persuaded that this is the best of all possible worlds, that pre-established harmony is the solution to the mind-body problem, and more.
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