The Realism of Leibniz’s Universal Characteristic
The article deals with Leibniz’s plan for a universal language, the so-called “universal characteristic”. First, I underline the fact that Leibniz’s plan is based on a certain semiotic aspect of the mathematics, which represents an innovation in the context of the early modern idea of the mathematization of all sciences. Leibniz’s ambitious scheme naturally has some serious shortcomings, which undoubtedly contributed to the fact that he never even began to carry out his project. However, I claim that Leibniz was optimistic about his plan because of his strictly Platonist epistemology, on which the characteristic is founded. In its very theoretical core, the characteristic is possible only insofar as Leibniz adopts classic Platonic realism and renounces the kind of philosophy of consciousness advocated by Descartes and Locke. Based on the promises and the inherent Platonism of the characteristic it then seems that, as a language of nature, the scheme exhibits some striking similarities to a certain tradition of linguistic thought that started with Plato’s Cratylus and still had its advocates in Leibniz’s days.
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