Volume 26, December 2016
Dedicated to G. W. Leibniz
Infinite and Limited
On Leibniz’s View of Created Beings
This paper develops some important observations from a recent article by Maria Rosa Antognazza published in The Leibniz Review 2015 under the title “The Hypercategorematic Infinite”, from which I take up the characterization of God, the most perfect Being, as infinite in a hypercategorematic sense, i.e., as a being beyond any determination. By contrast, creatures are determinate beings, and are thus limited and particular expressions of the divine essence. But since Leibniz takes both God and creatures to be infinite, creatures are simultaneously infinite and limited. This leads to seeing creatures as infinite in kind, in distinction from the absolute and hypercategorematic infinity of God. I present three lines of argument to substantiate this point: (1) seeing creatures as entailing a particular sequence of perfections and imperfections; (2) seeing creatures under the rubric of an intermediate degree of infinity and perfection that Leibniz, in 1676, calls “maximum in kind”; and (3) observing that primitive force, a defining feature of created substance, may be seen as infinite in a metaphysical sense. This leads to viewing Leibniz’s use of infinity within a Neoplatonic framework of descending degrees of Being: from the hypercategorematic infinite, identified with the most perfect Being; to the intermediate degree of maximum in kind, identified with creatures; to the lowest degree of entia rationis (or beings of reason), identified with mathematical and abstract entities.