# Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz

*23 January 2011*.

**Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz** (1646-1716) was, with Descartes and Spinoza, one of the leading rationalists, and among philosophers perhaps best known for his view that the universe is ultimately composed of "simple souls" called *monads.* Among students of mathematics Leibniz is celebrated for his discovery of the infinitesimal calculus made at about the same time as Newton (in the 1670s). Leibniz devised a notation for derivatives of functions which is more convenient and more widely applied than Newton's fluxion notation. Newton, Leibniz, and above all their followers, had a famous and unpleasant priority dispute about the discovery of calculus. Leibniz is also well known for his view, expressed for example in his *Theodicy,* that "this is the best of all possible worlds"--which was lampooned by Voltaire in the character of Dr. Pangloss in his *Candide.*

Leibniz was also virtually unique among pre-20th century philosophers in that he wrote mostly short essays and letters, and only one book-length work. Perhaps his best-known essays are "Discourse on Metaphysics" and "Monadology."

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