Alessandro Becchi
Università degli Studi di Firenze (PhD)
In recent years a certain emphasis has been put by some scholars on Leibniz’s concern about empirical sciences and the relations between such concern and the development of his mature metaphysical system. In this paper I focus on Leibniz’s interest for the microscope and the astonishing discoveries that such instrument made possible in the field of the life sciences during the last part of the Seventeenth century. The observation of physical bodies carried out by the “magnifying glasses” revealed a matter swarming everywhere with life and activity, contrary to the cartesian and atomistic view of matter as something sterile and passive. Moreover, the discovery of uncountable complete “animalcula” living in the smallest drop of water provided evidence for the idea of the preformation of every organism. During his lifetime, Leibniz was extremely watchful about the new microscopical discoveries and came into contact with some of the major “observers” of his time, such as Hooke, Leeuwenhoek, Swammerdam and Malpighi. Relying both on some passages in Leibniz’s texts and on recent critical studies, I will argue that important aspects of his metaphysics have been strongly affected by the empirical observation of the “invisible world” which the microscope made possible. In the last part of the paper I show how the concept of “preformation”, originally drawn from the context of the life sciences, comes to play in Leibnizʼs philosophy a very general role, going far beyond the scope of biology and shaping important aspects of his overall philosophical system.
Keywords Leibniz   Microscopy   Preformation   Seminal reasons   Organism   Pre-established harmony
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DOI 10.1007/s40656-017-0130-9
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Leibniz' Metaphysics. Its Origins and Development.Christia Mercer - 2001 - New York: Cambridge University Press.

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