Leibniz's Nominalism and the Lingua Philosophica

Benson Mates

in The Philosophy of Leibniz

Published in print June 1989 | ISBN: 9780195059465
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199833429 | DOI:
Leibniz's Nominalism and the Lingua Philosophica

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It was Leibniz's view that only individual substances exist. Accordingly, he thought that if there are meaningful sentences that include words seeming to refer to abstract entities, such sentences must be compendia loquendi for sentences not containing such terms. He devoted considerable effort to showing in particular cases how to eliminate the abstract term, e.g., “The heat of x has been doubled” is only a compendium loquendi for “x is twice as hot as it was”. More generally, Leibniz thought that, from a philosophical point of view, natural languages were unsatisfactory, in need of reform to eliminate unnecessary and confusing features such as inflections of nouns, adjectives, and verbs. He dreamed of constructing a perfect language, the Lingua Philosophica, in which sentences would perfectly mirror the propositions or thoughts they express. As examples of improved sublanguages, he mentions the languages of algebra and geometry, as well as the calculus notation he had introduced for derivatives and integrals (which, by the way, is still the notation mainly used).

Keywords: abstract entity; compendia loquendi; concrete individual; ideal language; Leibniz; natural language; nominalism; truth

Chapter.  10689 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

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