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BOOK REVlZWS 485 les successeurs ? "La grandeur m&aphysique de Descartes tient sans doute ~tles (c'est-~dire ces deux constitutions) avoir distingu~es, mais surtout ~ s'&re refus6 ~ les confondre trop ais6ment ensuite" (136). Dans les limites de ce compte rendu, on ne peut songer utilement ~ faire plus qu'une allusion tant ~ la pr&ision des r~f~rences qu'~ la finesse des analyses auxquelles ces r~ferences apportent leur appui. Les deux chapitres centraux du livre portent sur l'Ego and Dieu, soit sur les deux p61es de constitution. "L'ego accomplit (...) pleinement sa fonction m~taphysique : non seulement il s'impose ~ titre d'&ant par excellence, mais il d~termine ~ partir de son mode d'&re le mode d'&re universel de tous les ~tants" (214). Quant ~t Dieu, on trouve associ~es en sa notion trois d&erminations venues d'horizons th~ologiques distincts (tableau ~85), infini, supreme perfection et cause de soi. Dans les deux cas &happe au registre de la m6taphysique un ~l~ment qui la d~passe, la libert~ dans le cas de l'Ego, l'infinit~ dans le cas de Dieu. "Instaurant les figures possibles de la m~taphysique moderne, Descartes a redoubl~ avec une insurpassable autorit6 sa propre instauration, en en traqant lui-m6me, le premier, par avance, les bornes" (29~). D'ot~ la destitution pascalienne de la m6taphysique, laiss6e au-dessous d'elle par la chatri~ (mais, ajouterais-je, du sein des myst6res de l'h&6ronomie antiphilosophique ofa se renonqait le penseurjans6niste). JEAN BERNHARDT C.N.R.S., Paris Benson Mates. The Philosophy of Leibniz: Metaphysicsand Language. New York: Oxford University Press, 1986. Pp. ix + 271. $29.95 Benson Mates has written an extraordinary book on Leibniz's metaphysics and philosophy of language. Although this will come as no surprise to readers already familar with Mates's earlier essays on these subjects, the book is nevertheless remarkable not only for the sheer number of topics on which it makes original contributions, but also for the relatively integrated picture that it succeeds in constructing from the vast, fragmented , and often conflicting texts that constitute the Leibnizian corpus. For these reasons, the book will be essential reading for anyone with more than a casual interest in the history of modern philosophy. But it will also be of considerable value to those whose interest in the history of philosophy is restricted to the light it may throw on contemporary issues. As Mates notes, "many of the topics Leibniz discusses are right at the center of present-day philosophical activity, so that his works are a mine of ideas that can be applied to issues now in the limelight" (12).' Mates works the mine masterfully , extracting material that frequently is as relevant to contemporary debates (on topics such as possible worlds, identity, essentialism, rigid designators, reasons and causes) as it is to the clarification of the views of Leibniz himself. i Numerals in parentheses refer to pages of Mates's book. I have benefitted considerably from discussions of this book with Robert Kane. 486 JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY 26:3 JULY 1988 It would be impossible in a brief review to summarize, let alone to criticize, the main arguments of so complex and ambitious a work. In view of this it makes sense, I think, to note the respects in which the author himself considers his interpretation to differ from those of other commentators. The first major difference that Mates points out "results from giving due attention to Leibniz's distinction between 'essential' and 'existential' propositions" (9). Attention to this distinction "gives us a way of reconciling some important Leibnizian texts that have seemed inconsistent with one another" and also throws light on the problem of contingency (9-lo). What, then, is the distinction and how is it supposed to illuminate Leibnizian doctrines? In Leibniz's scheme, any proposition 'A is B' is equivalent to the corresponding proposition 'AB is an entity'. "Caesar is a Roman," for example, is equivalent to "Caesar the Roman is an entity." But, Mates notes, the word "entity" is ambiguous and can be read as either "possible thing" or "actually existing thing." If "entity" is taken in the former sense, the relevant propositions are referred to as...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 485-488
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
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