Religion in the Age of Enlightenment


Age of Enlightenment, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, hermeneutics, China


Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz is not typically seen as having formulated a "hermeneutics;' or as being a "hermeneutical thinker;' despite his discussions of the art of interpretation and his influence on the development of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century hermeneutics in Germany. Nonetheless, many of his works involve issues of how best to interpret texts and other persons. His voluminous writings thus contain-at least implicitly-a hermeneutics, or art of understanding signs, through his practice of interpretation. Furthermore, hermeneutical concerns are prevalent in a number of Leibniz's international projects. Through various philosophical and practical endeavors, Leibniz attempted to reconcile conflicting and seemingly irreconcilable arguments and positions within Western philosophy (ancient and modern, Aristotelian and Cartesian, organic-teleological and mathematical-mechanical) and Christianity (Protestant and Catholic, Western and Orthodox), as well as between western Europe and the cultures of Russia, Islam, and China. This project of reconciliation proceeded through the critical employment of reason and is oriented by one of Leibniz's earlier insights into natural law: in cases of conflict, justice calls for maximizing harmony, and harmony is the greatest amount of multiplicity compatible with unity.