A Miracle Creed: The Principle of Optimality in Leibniz’s Physics and Philosophy

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2022.09.02 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews

Jeffrey K. McDonough, A Miracle Creed: The Principle of Optimality in Leibniz’s Physics and Philosophy, Oxford University Press, 2022, 234pp., $74.00 (hbk), ISBN 9780197629079.

Reviewed by Richard T. W. Arthur, McMaster University

In this engaging and original study, Jeffrey McDonough promotes a new way of understanding the interrelation between Leibniz’s metaphysics and his contributions to the science of his time. This understanding is in terms of what he calls Leibniz’s Principle of Optimality, the idea that underlying the complexity of the phenomena of nature there is an immanent optimal form, the recognition of which can lead to the explanation of phenomena by elegant means. McDonough constructs his argument through an analysis of several of Leibniz’s solutions to specific technical problems in natural philosophy: Chapter 1 is on Leibniz’s derivation of the laws of reflection and refraction by applying a minimization principle to derive the easiest path; Chapter 2 is on his provision of a derivation…

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