Gottfried Wilhelm LEIBNIZ :

Translated, with an Introduction, Notes, and Commentaries by Daniel J. Cook and Henry Rosemont Jr.

Publication Information : Book Title : Writings on China. Contributors : Daniel J. Cook – author, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz – author, Henry Rosemont Jr. – author. Publisher : Open Court. Place of Publication : Chicago. Publication Year : 1994.


Although Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz is best known as a metaphysician, mathematician, and logician, he arguably used the word « China » in his voluminous writings and correspondence more often than those terms usually associated with him : « entelechies, » « monads, » « pre-established harmony, » and so forth. If so, then his sustained writings on things Chinese–especially on Chinese philosophy and religion–should take their place alongside his other major works such as the Theodicy, Discourse on Metaphysics, Monadology, and the New Essays Concerning Human Understanding.

His more detailed writings on China (as opposed to brief references to it, which he regularly made in his correspondence) can be roughly divided into two categories. The first is the letters he wrote to European–usually Jesuit–missionaries in China, or their peers in Europe. Especially is this true of his correspondence with Joachim Bouvet, one of the first French Jesuits to live in China, and whose letters to Leibniz clearly influenced the philosopher. (For more on Bouvet, see below, p. 16 ). All of these letters have now been published–although not translated–by Dr. Rita Widmaier in Leibniz Korrespondiert mit China,and it is our hope that this entire correspondence will soon be presented in an English edition (particularly the Leibniz-Bouvet letters, which are philosophically the most significant).

The second category of Leibniz’s sustained writings on sinological topics are the four texts presented herein. The first was written expressly for publication, which Leibniz seldom did ; the second and third were written as brief essays on Chinese thought, and then sent as appendices to letters to a few among his numerous correspondents. And the fourth is a lengthy treatise on Chinese natural theology, which he wrote the year he died, to be sent as a letter to the same correspondent to whom he had addressed the Monadology two years earlier.

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