Leibniz's Cosmology: Transcendental Rationalism and Kabbalistic Symbolism

Fox, Nicholas James (2003). Leibniz's Cosmology: Transcendental Rationalism and Kabbalistic Symbolism. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000e816

Abstract

This thesis is a special investigation of Leibniz's cosmology as it can be determined both from his writings and by means of a comparison of it with the mystical philosophy of Christian Lurianic Kabbalah. The chief protagonists of this latter were Christian Knorr von Rosenroth, Francis Mercury van Helmont and Anne Conway. They will be discussed, along with Leibniz's acquaintance with them and his involvement in the kabbalistic text Thoughts on Genesis. The comparison, which includes examinations of Leibniz's critical remarks on their writings, as well as his work on Thoughts on Genesis, highlights Christian Platonic elements in Leibniz (which are often overlooked) and seeks to yield an improved interpretation of his cosmology, free of the apparent paradoxes and vacillations that some other interpretations have been prone to attribute to him. It is argued that certain consequences are implied by Leibnizian principles, some of which he sought to obscure on account of their latent unorthodoxy, and others which he seems not to have fully been aware of. The comparison shows that the two doctrines are actually rather close on account of their shared Platonic principles. This should not be taken as evidence that Leibniz was influenced by the kabbalists, for these principles were established in his philosophy before he had any significant contact with them. However, there is evidence that Leibniz may have adopted some of their metaphors. In this thesis Leibniz's interest in Christian Lurianic Kabbalah is interpreted in terms of his greater goal to effect social peace, an aspiration shared by them too. This goal was to be realized by harmonizing the different religious traditions through the common base of his own metaphysics: Leibniz wanted to see whether the exoteric writings of Christian Lurianic Kabbalah could be grounded in his rational metaphysics. The thesis proposes that the proximity of these two doctrines is such that Christian Lurianic Kabbalah can be regarded, in many ways, as a mystical exoteric parallel to Leibniz's.

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