Leibniz's metaphysics as an epistemological obstacle to the mathematization of nature
the view of a late 19th century neo-Kantian, Kurd Lasswitz
Among the neo-Kantians of the late 19th century, we find a few figures who are less well known than the renowned Cohen, Natorp, Windelband, Rickert, and Cassirer. One of these is Kurd Lasswitz (1848–1910), physicist by education and author of Geschichte der Atomistik vom Mittelalter bis Newton, a history of atomism published for the first time in 1890, reprinted in 1984 and again very recently in 2010. In the last part of this history, Lasswitz devotes about forty pages to the complexity of the position held by Leibniz, who, in his mind was deterred, by his metaphysical bent, from the path his mathematical genius should have led him to take. So rather than pursuing the work of Huygens – which Lasswitz sees as the culmination point of his history – Leibniz (like Newton for that matter) is thought to have contributed to a genuine epistemological regression. We shall see that, as an overt partisan of a kinetic atomism, Lasswitz looks essentially at the phase of Leibniz's work during which he moved away from the atomism to which he had adhered in his youth. In regards to this phase, Lasswitz strives to uncover the reasons why Leibniz had such difficulty conceptualizing bodies and motion, relying mainly on the Hypothesis Physica Nova, but also on his correspondence and more generally his theoretical dialogues with other thinkers. In addition to understanding the Leibnizian stances, Lasswitz's goal was also to defend his own theoretical position by bringing its legitimacy to the fore, precisely by examining the difficulties encountered by Leibniz.
Willmann, F. (2012)., Leibniz's metaphysics as an epistemological obstacle to the mathematization of nature: the view of a late 19th century neo-Kantian, Kurd Lasswitz, in Y. Chin Drian & R. Krömer (eds.), New essays on Leibniz reception, Dordrecht, Springer, pp. 25-39.
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