Gottfried Leibniz’s Theory of Knowledge

Gottfried Leibniz’s Theory of Knowledge

June 27, 2021 Off By Felso

Leibniz’s views on knowledge are largely based on propositional analysis: he also showed his logician personality in this area. According to him, every proposition shows a subject-predicate structure or can be resolved into a proposition or propositions of this structure. The subject-predicate form of the proposition is then essential. However, not all propositions are of the same nature in terms of truth conditions. In this context, Leibniz speaks of truths of reason and truths of fact. Leibniz reveals this distinction in his Monadology.

Truths of reason are necessary truths; they are eternally true; They are inherent in the human mind as a predisposition, and when a certain level of maturity is reached, the rational individual becomes conscious of them. Leibniz introduced their presence in the mind as a polemical to Locke. Because Locke, in his Essay on the Human Understanding, opposed Descartes’ doctrine of innate ideas (ideae innatae), arguing that there is nothing in the human mind that has not previously passed through the senses. Leibniz answered Locke in his New Essays on the Human Understanding. According to him, there are some fundamental truths that we are born with in our minds: These are what Leibniz calls truths of reason. Among the truths of reason are the idea of ​​God, basic logic and mathematical principles and propositions. Leibniz says that these propositions are necessarily and eternally true, and that thinking otherwise would contradict our minds. For they derive their truth from the fact that they are based on the principle of non-contradiction. For example, after saying “a triangle is a shape with three sides”, thinking otherwise leads the mind to contradiction. Their correctness is seen intuitively, that is, in the mind at a glance. This comes from the structure of this information or proposition.

Leibniz generally characterizes them as identical. Because their structure is in the form of “A is A”. That is, the term in the predicate state of the proposition either has the same meaning as the term in the subject state, or is included by it. For example, “a quadrilateral is a shape with four sides” is an example of the first case. The proposition “A rhombus is a quadrilateral” is an example of the latter case. Those of the kind we have cited are examples of positive identities. There are also negative identities. For example, the saying “A- cannot be non-A” is an example of negative identity. Leibniz says that these identicals generally do not give us new information, they just seem to repeat what is known. These are generally in the analytic, that is, analytic propositional structure. Analytical propositions do not provide new information; are propositions in which the subject is repeated in the verb. A proposition such as “all singles are unmarried” does not give us any new information. Being single means being an unmarried person. Such propositions are definition propositions or propositions of the kind we call generalizations today. There is no need to go to fact for the truth of such propositions. They are true a priori, that is, true before experience. As we said at the beginning, their correctness comes from the propositional structure they carry.

What Leibniz calls factual truths are truths discovered based on experience in the Phenomenon world. Their accuracy is known as a posteriori. So we must see in experience that it is so. Their correctness is not based on the law of contradiction. Because thinking the opposite of factual truths does not contradict the mind. For example, the proposition “all cats meow” is indeed universally true, but this truth is not necessary as in mathematical propositions, it is merely contingent, so it was, it could have been otherwise; cats could make other sounds or not at all. All these possibilities do not contradict the mind. However, if we say that two times two is five, our mind will immediately fall into contradiction. As the truth condition of factual truths, Leibniz put forward the principle of sufficient reason. Everything in the phenomenal world has a good enough reason for it to happen. This is God’s choice to be that way. After all, God has chosen this world of ours as the most suitable and the most beautiful of all possible worlds. Therefore, the reason for everything that happens in the outer world is the choice of God, who wants it to be so. As can be seen, Leibniz is based on the theological basis in this field.

According to Leibniz, the truths of reason are necessary truths inherent in the human mind, and thinking the opposite of them leads the mind to contradiction. On the other hand, factual truths obtained through experience display a contingent appearance.

Let us dwell on an example to see more closely the propositional nature of truths in this field: “Paris is the capital of France.” The truth here is contingent. Paris might not have been the capital of France. There is no contradiction in thinking about it. The fact that Paris became the capital was based on a sufficient reason. And again, the fact that Paris is the capital of France enriches the idea of ​​”Paris” in meaning. As can be seen, the case