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Oxford Studies in Early Modern Philosophy, Volume VIII$
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Daniel Garber and Donald Rutherford

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198829294

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198829294.001.0001

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On Living Mirrors and Mites: Leibniz’s Encounter with Pascal on Infinity and Living Things Circa 1696

On Living Mirrors and Mites: Leibniz’s Encounter with Pascal on Infinity and Living Things Circa 1696

Chapter:
(p.159) 6 On Living Mirrors and Mites: Leibniz’s Encounter with Pascal on Infinity and Living Things Circa 1696
Source:
Oxford Studies in Early Modern Philosophy, Volume VIII
Author(s):

Ohad Nachtomy

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780198829294.003.0006

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 employs the image of a living mirror (miroir vivant). The chapter argues that, despite 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. Whereas Pascal uses infinity to highlight our alienation and incomprehension of the world, for Leibniz infinity serves as a mark of unity, connectedness, and belonging.

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

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