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The Light of the SoulTheories of Ideas in Leibniz, Malebranche, and Descartes$
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Nicholas Jolley

Print publication date: 1998

Print ISBN-13: 9780198238195

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0198238193.001.0001

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Innate Ideas, Reflection, and Self‐Knowledge

(p.173) 10 Leibniz
The Light of the Soul

Nicholas Jolley (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

The dispositional theory may be Leibniz's most prominent account of innateness, but it is not the only one, even in the New Essays; as is well known, Leibniz attempts to construct a theory of innateness on the basis of Locke's admission of ideas of reflection. Traditionally, Leibniz's claim that ideas of reflection are really innate ideas has been seen as something of an embarrassment because, for one thing, it is doubtful whether what we may call the reflection account can really perform the role that Leibniz seems to require of a theory of innateness. Moreover, there are obvious difficulties concerning the relationship of the two accounts that Leibniz seems not to have noticed, so it would be foolish to pretend that all these problems can be solved, and no attempt will be made to minimize them in the present chapter. But we can throw light on the reflection account of innateness if we place it in the wider context of Leibniz's concern with the issue of self‐knowledge; as we have seen, this issue became central in philosophy after Descartes. In the first half of this chapter, we will explore Leibniz's response to the pessimistic claims about self‐knowledge advanced by both Locke and Malebranche; in the second half, we will seek to tie in Leibniz's reflection account of innateness with the whole issue of self‐knowledge.

Keywords:   a posteriori knowledge, a priori knowledge, Arnauld, explanation, innate idea, innateness, justification, materialism, occurrent thought, reflection, self‐knowledge, substance, substantiality

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