Productive Ambiguity in Leibniz's Representation of Infinitesimals

Emily Grosholz

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In this essay, I argue that Leibniz believed that mathematics is best investigated by means of a variety of modes of representation, often stemming from a variety of traditions of research, like our investigations of the natural world and of the moral law. I expound this belief with respect to two of his great metaphysical principles, the Principle of Perfection and the Principle of Continuity, both versions of the Principle of Sufficient Reason; the tension between the latter and the Principle of Contradiction is what keeps Leibniz's metaphysics from triviality. I then illustrate my exposition with two case studies from Leibniz's mathematical research, his development of the infinitesimal calculus, and his investigations of transcendental curves.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationInfinitesimal Differences
Subtitle of host publicationControversies between Leibniz and his Contemporaries
PublisherWalter de Gruyter GmbH and Co. KG
Number of pages18
ISBN (Print)9783110202168
StatePublished - Nov 3 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Arts and Humanities


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