alone, as far as I can discover, are the windows by which light is let into this dark room. For methinks the understanding is not much unlike a closet wholly shut from light, with only some little opening left to let in external visible resemblances or ideas of things without: would the pictures coming into such a dark room but stay there, and lie so orderly as to be found upon occasion, it would very much resemble the understanding of a man in reference to all objects of sight, and the ideas of them. These are my guesses concerning the means whereby the understanding comes to have and retain simple ideas and the modes of them, with some other operations about them. I proceed now to examine some of these simple ideas and their modes a little more particularly.
GOTTFRIED WILHELM LEIBNIZ
Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646–1716) was insatiably curious about everything. Educated
at home by his professor father, he was able to read Latin texts at the university level at the
age of 6, prompting some debate about just what a 6 year old should be reading. He re-
ceived his doctorate in law from the University of Altdorf when the University of Leipzig
was unable to grant the degree because of annual quotas. Leibniz attached himself to
wealthy patrons, working on a variety of projects encompassing history, public health, the-
ology, engineering, teaching, and diplomacy. While in Paris on a failed diplomatic mis-
sion, Leibniz became interested in mathematics and developed binary arithmetic and cal-
culus. The latter had been independently discovered, but not yet published, by Sir Issac
Newton. The volume of Leibniz's work, including some 15,000 letters, simultaneously re-
veals a refreshing openness to new ideas and the exchange of information and a failure to
focus and truly complete any of his work. Wearing a huge black wig and declaring a vari-
ety of catastrophes as the best of all possible worlds, Voltaire's character Pangloss, from the
satire Candide, was modeled after Leibniz.
IN WHICH WE DISCUSS “IDEAS IN GENERAL,” AND INCIDENTALLY CONSIDER WHETHER THE SOUL OF MAN ALWAYS THINKS
Philalethes. §1. Having examined whether ideas are innate, let us consider what they are like and what varieties of them there are. Is it not true that an “idea is the object of thinking?”
Theophilus. I agree about that, provided that you add that an idea is an immediate inner object, and that this object expresses the nature or qualities of things. If the idea were the form of the thought, it would come into and go out of existence with the actual thoughts which correspond to it, but since it is the object of thought it can exist before and after the thoughts. Sensible outer objects are only mediate, because they cannot act
From Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, “Book 2, Of Ideas.” In P. Remnant and J. Bennett (Trans. and Eds.) New Essays on Human Un-
derstanding (Section 109–145). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996. (Original work published 1765)
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Book title: The History of Psychology: Fundamental Questions. Contributors: Margaret P. Munger - Editor. Publisher: Oxford University Press. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 2003. Page number: 96.
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