Graduate studies at Western
|Abstract||In a number of papers,[i] I have argued that, in addition to the ‘hard’ rationality through which Leibniz’s rationalism is most familiar, it is imperative to acknowledge the existence and centrality in his thought of another form of rationality, which I proposed to dub ‘soft’. Several prominent Leibniz researchers – some of them present in the meeting from which the present book originates – have contested, on a variety of grounds, my suggestion, giving rise to an interesting and productive debate.[ii] The purpose of this chapter is not to respond directly to these criticisms. Its contribution to our ongoing discussion consists rather in scrutinizing an important instance of the hard-soft distinction in Leibniz’s work. Focusing on this instance will permit not only a better understanding of its seeming paradoxical nature but also, at the meta-level, to realize the rational power of softness as an argumentative strategy. I believe these two results will sharpen and deepen the debate and lead us together, if not to its solution, at least to clarifying the issues at stake. The central, and prima facie most problematic case, of Leibniz’s conception and use of rationality I will examine is his sui generis ‘dialectic’, which comprises what may be properly called his ‘art of controversies’. In the vast territory of rationality, Leibniz’s ‘art of controversies’ occupies a peculiar position. He conceives it sometimes as a calculus that decides rigorously and unquestionably which of the opposed positions is true and which is false, and sometimes as a negotiation strategy leading to a conciliation of the adversaries’ positions, which cannot therefore be logically contradictory. While the former is a typical ‘hard’ rationality approach, the latter is typically ‘soft’ in nature. A question that immediately arises is why, instead of treating these two forms of handling controversies as two fundamentally different Leibnizian approaches to quite distinct kinds of debate-generating opposition, should one insist in subsuming them under one label..|
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