What is a singular thing? Is there a first or last principle that allows us to call something an individual or one? What is the relation between the particular and the universal? Does the being of a particular mean the separation from the universal, or, on the contrary, is the universal a post facto aggregation of individual subjects? What constitutes the individuality of man? This book, based on a lecture course given at the University of Freiburg, addresses these difficult questions and their answers by Nietzsche, Leibniz, and Aristotle.
The author claims to limit the discussion to these philosophers because their philosophies represent distinct stations in the development of the question of individuation and the nature of individuality and, at the same time, because their different positions are both explicitly and implicitly related to each other (15). Coriando begins her discussion with Nietzsche, a philosopher one might not have linked at all to the "problem of individuation" per se, and moves backward in time to Leibniz and finally to Aristotle. The point of this order of presentation, the reader is told, is to trace back the essentials of the question of individuation to its origin: Aristotle (16). This strategy is largely successful.
Nietzsche's primary concern, of course, is with the nature of the individual, or more particularly, the individual Mensch, and how he is distinguished from or distinguishes himself from the rest of the world. The answer, for Nietzsche, is to be found in his concept of the "will to power," which provides what Coriando calls his "ontological principle of individuation": the inherent drive for perspectival self-affirmation and self-increase (131). There is also, however, an "ethical principle of individuation": the attitude of a person vis-à-vis the eternal recurrence of the same. In accepting and letting go of the entirety of the world and its eternal recurrence, one "becomes who one is," and one can know one's individuality.
Whereas Nietzsche tries to approach the problem of individuation independently of the entire western tradition of metaphysics, Leibniz is squarely within this tradition. Indeed, [End Page 121] in his first philosophical work, the Metaphysical Disputation on the Principle of Individuation, the sixteen-year-old Leibniz throws himself into a scholastic fray, carving out a strongly nominalist position. Leibniz's belief that only genuine individuals exist would, of course, stay with him throughout his career; the problem will be, as Coriando nicely shows, to give a precise account of the nature of individual substance. Coriando focuses on two works in her discussion, On the Correction of Metaphysics and the Concept of Substance and, to a much greater extent, the Monadology. The view that she extracts from these works should not be surprising. The principle of individuation, for Leibniz, rests in the active force of a monad and in the particular representation of the rest of the world from the monad's own point of view. Put this way, there is an interesting commonality with Nietzsche at work here.
A similar commonality is shown with the thought of Aristotle. Here the principal concern is to explicate Aristotle's conception of ousia in De anima and MetaphysicsZ, H, and Q. Naturally, this leads into an account of how matter can be living and a further explication of Aristotle's energeia and entelecheia. In the end, it becomes clear that the set of concepts—energeia, conatus, will to power—are all, if not equivalent, at least performing largely the same role in guaranteeing the being of individuals. What has become "lost" in Aristotle's philosophy, however, is a notion like the perspectivalism present in Leibniz and Nietzsche, something that Coriando does not discuss at any length.
This book offers a broad perspective on the question of individuation, and the choice of Nietzsche, Leibniz, and Aristotle allows Coriando to highlight interesting answers to this metaphysical problem. I do have two small quibbles. First, the problem of individuation, or the desire for a principium individuationis is so much a problem associated with medieval philosophy that it might have been helpful if...