Volume 21, December 2011
A Conjecture about a Textual Mystery
Leibniz, Tschirnhaus and Spinoza’s Korte Verhandeling
In this article, I propose a conjecture concerning the transmission of Spinoza’s Korte Verhandeling (KV) in the 1670s involving Leibniz. On the basis of a report about Spinoza’s philosophy written down by Leibniz after some conversations with Tschirnhaus in early 1676, I suggest that Tschirnhaus may have had in his possession a manuscript copy of KV and that his account of Spinoza’s doctrine to Leibniz was colored by this text. I support the hypothesis partly by means of external evidence, but mainly through a comparative analysis of Leibniz’s report and the doctrine contained in KV, showing that the report in important respects corresponds better to this text than to Ethics. I finally point to the importance that this hypothesis, if true, would have for our knowledge of Tschirnhaus’ role in the first diffusion of Spinoza’s philosophy outside Holland and for our understanding Leibniz’s reception of Spinoza in the mid-1670s.