Leibniz on Intellectual Pleasure, Perception of Perfection, and Power

Theoria 87 (3):600-627 (2021)
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Leibniz is unclear about the nature of pleasure. In some texts, he describes pleasure as a perception of perfection, while in other texts he describes pleasure as being caused by a perception of perfection. In this article, I disambiguate two senses of “perception of perfection”, which clarifies Leibniz’s considered position. I argue that pleasure is a perception of an increase in a substance’s power which is caused by a substance’s knowledge of a perfection of the universe or God. This reading helps clarify the nature of Leibnizian happiness. Happiness is a cognitive process (akin to a mood), constituted fundamentally out of pleasure, which is grounded in increases in a substance’s power. A rational substance will sustain its happiness so long as it is more powerful than it is weak, and it is engaging in activities that increase its power.

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Saja Parvizian
University of Illinois, Chicago (PhD)

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