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Living MirrorsInfinity, Unity, and Life in Leibniz's Philosophy$
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Ohad Nachtomy

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780190907327

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190907327.001.0001

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Living Mirrors and Mites

Living Mirrors and Mites

Leibniz and Pascal

(p.134) 7 Living Mirrors and Mites
Living Mirrors

Ohad Nachtomy

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines Leibniz’s comment on fragment 22 of Pascal’s Pensées in the Port Royal Edition (currently Lafuma §199). Leibniz responds to Pascal’s employment of the infinitely large and infinitely small, and to the way he uses infinity to describe living beings, through the example of a mite (ciron). In contrast, Leibniz invokes the image of a living mirror (miroir vivant). The author argues that, in spite of superficial similarities, Leibniz’s use of infinity to define living beings stands in stark contrast to Pascal’s use of infinity, in that it stresses unity and harmony rather than divisibility and disparity. Leibniz’s use of infinity through the notion of a living mirror suggests that each individual forms an integral part of a well-connected and harmonious system. While Pascal uses infinity to highlight our alienation and incomprehension of the world, for Leibniz, infinity serves instead as a mark of unity, connectedness, and belonging.

Keywords:   Leibniz, infinity, Pascal, living mirror, mite, natural machine

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