Volume 15, December 2005
Leibniz on the Greatest Number and the Greatest Being
In notes from 1675-76 Leibniz is using the notion of an infinite number as an illustration of an impossible notion. In the same notes, he is also using this notion in contrast to the possibility of the ‘Ens perfectissumum’ (A.6.3 572; Pk 91; A.6.3 325). I suggest that Leibniz’s concern about the possibility of the notion of ‘the greatest or the most perfect being’ is partly motivated by his observation that similar notions, such as ‘the greatest number’, are impossible. This leads to the question how Leibniz convinced himself that the notion of the greatest number is self-contradictory and that of the greatest being is not. I consider two suggestions, one that stress the difference between beings and numbers and one that stress the difference between two notions of infinity, and conclude that neither of them provides a satisfactory solution to this question.