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date: 20 July 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This article examines Gottfried Leibniz’s notion of analysis by focusing on his investigation of transcendental curves. It argues that Leibnizian analysis can be understood as an art of both discovery and justification in mathematics that aims for generalization rather than abstraction, and explanation rather than formal proof. The article first considers Leibniz’s work on the catenary before discussing some of his pronouncements on analysis as the search for conditions of intelligibility. It also evaluates some modern accounts of Leibniz’s notion of analysis by contemporary philosophers, including Carlo Cellucci, Herbert Breger, and Nancy Cartwright. It argues that concrete terms can be used to say something true only when they are combined with more abstract locutions that express the conditions of intelligibility of the thing denoted, the formal causes that make the thing what it is and so make its resemblance to other things possible.

Keywords: Gottfried Leibniz, analysis, transcendental curves, mathematics, generalization, catenary, intelligibility, Carlo Cellucci, Herbert Breger, Nancy Cartwright

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