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Lebniz's New Essays Concerning Human Understanding


give a “critical exposition” of some one masterpiece. In treating
the “Nouveaux Essais” of Leibniz, I have found myself obliged, at
times, to violate the letter of this expressed intention, in order to
fulfil its spirit. The “Nouveaux Essais,” in spite of its being one of
the two most extended philosophical writings of Leibniz, is a
compendium of comments, rather than a connected argument or
exposition. It has all the suggestiveness and richness of a note-
book, but with much also of its fragmentariness. I have therefore
been obliged to supplement my account
of it by constant references to the other writings of Leibniz, and
occasionally to take considerable liberty with the order of the
treatment of topics. Upon the whole, this book will be found, I
hope, to be a faithful reflex not only of Leibniz’s thought, but also
of his discussions in the “Nouveaux Essais.”
In the main, the course of philosophic thought since the time of
Leibniz has been such as to render almost self-evident his
limitations, and to suggest needed corrections and amplifications.
Indeed, it is much easier for those whose thoughts follow the turn
that Kant has given modern thinking to appreciate the defects of
Leibniz than to realize his greatness. I have endeavored, therefore,
in the body of the work, to identify my thought with that of Leibniz
as much as possible, to assume his standpoint and method, and, for
the most part, to confine express criticism upon his limitations to
the final chapter. In particular, I have attempted to bring out the
relations of philosophy to the growing science of his
times, to state the doctrine of pre-established harmony as he
himself meant it, and to give something like consistency and
coherency to his doctrine of material existence and of nature. This
last task seemed especially to require doing. I have also
endeavored to keep in mind, throughout, Leibniz’s relations to
Locke, and to show the “Nouveaux Essais” as typical of the
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