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Unholy Force: Toland's Leibnizian ‘Consummation’ of Spinozism

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This article argues that the Fourth and Fifth of John Toland's Letters to Serena are best understood as a creative confrontation of Spinoza and Leibniz  – one in which crucial aspects of Leibniz's thought are extracted from their original context and made to serve a purpose that is ultimately Spinozistic. Accordingly, it suggests that the critique of Spinoza that takes up so much of the fourth Letter, in particular, should be read as a means of `perfecting' Spinoza (via Leibniz), rather than as the outright dismissal it might appear to be. In order to make its case, the article outlines: the supposed problems that Toland finds in Spinoza; what Toland takes from Leibniz, and what he discards, in order to solve these `problems'; and the imprint of Spinoza's naturalism on the eventual `solution' that Toland offers. The article concludes that, whatever the success of this `solution', Toland's speculative labours should still be treated as creative, perspicuous and intrinsically significant.

Keywords: Leibniz; Spinoza; Toland; matter; motion

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Dublin City University,

Publication date: May 1, 2012

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