Thread: The genuine infinite is not a 'modification'.

1. The genuine infinite is not a 'modification'.

It is perfectly correct to say there is an infinite of things. That is, there arealways more things than one can specify. But it is easy to demonstrate that there is no infinite number, infinite line, or any other infinite quantity, if these are taken as genuine wholes… . Strictly speaking, the true infinite exists only in the absolute, which precedes all composition and is not formed by the addition of parts… . The thought of finite and infinite is only appropriate wherever there is a magnitude or multiplicity. The genuine infinite is not a ‘modification’: it is the absolute. Indeed, it is precisely by modifying it that one limits oneself and forms the finite.

– New Essays on Human Understanding, Chapter 17

I cannot grasp the meaning of the sentences in red. Can anyone help me with these philosophical sentences?

2. Re: Modification

If you quote from this work again, please credit the author — GW Leibniz (if only so that we know who to blame).

The tenth word should be 'infinity'.

I have no idea what it all means.

3. Re: Modification

Anyone with some interest in philosophy?

4. Re: The genuine infinite is not a 'modification'.

Originally Posted by Geralt of Rivia
It is perfectly correct to say there is an infinite number? of things. That is, there are always more things than one can specify. But it is easy to demonstrate that there is no infinite number, infinite line, or any other infinite quantity, if these are taken as genuine wholes… . Strictly speaking, the true infinite exists only in the absolute, which precedes all composition and is not formed by the addition of parts… . The thought of finite and infinite is only appropriate wherever there is a magnitude or multiplicity. The genuine infinite is not a ‘modification’: it is the absolute. Indeed, it is precisely by modifying it that one limits oneself and forms the finite.
As I understand it, the highlighted text means that "infinite" as a concept (and a word) should be the original from which "finite" can be derived, not the other way around.

5. Re: The genuine infinite is not a 'modification'.

I think he means that we tend to try to imagine the infinite by, say, extending a line without limits. The writer is suggesting that this is wrong because the infinite is not an extension of the finite- the finite derives from the infinite when we impose limits on it

6. Re: The genuine infinite is not a 'modification'.

I agree with Tdol. The writer appears to be saying that the infinite should be taken as the baseline. The finite is a smaller, limited version of the infinite.

7. Re: Modification

Originally Posted by Rover_KE
If you quote from this work again, please credit the author — GW Leibniz (if only so that we know who to blame).
I'd say we can blame the translator from the German, or the transposer.

8. Re: Modification

He's saying that although the notion of the infinite doesn't make much sense if you think of it as a whole consisting of parts, it does make sense when taken to be an absolute.

This absolute cannot be 'modified' by, say, subtracting 1, or dividing by 2, since operations/modifications like these "form the finite."

Leibniz was attempting to defend the idea of the infinite, (which was a key component of both his metaphysics and his Theodicy), in response to the ideas of contemporary thinkers such as Spinoza, Locke, Descartes, Galileo.

I think that if you read the whole chapter, or even the whole of the New Essays, (which were written in French, not German), and some commentary texts, only then will you gain a really clear understanding of what he meant. It's very difficult to grasp such ideas from a single passage like this, without the wider intellectual context.

By the way, interesting as it is, this doesn't strictly seem to be a discussion of language use.

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