Sans les mathématiques on ne pénètre point au fond de la philosophie. Sans la philosophie on ne pénètre point au fond des mathématiques. Sans les deux on ne pénètre au fond de rien.

The above quotation, an early occurrence of which is found in this 1834 edition of Bordas-Demoulin's Le Cartésianisme, is attributed to Leibniz by many writers, e.g. Gregory Chaitin, C.-A. Laisant and (in German) Peter Ruben. It is, however, never stated exactly where this passage should be found in Leibniz's oeuvre.

My question then: is the attribution more than apocryphal/anecdotal? Did Leibniz actually write this? If so, in what language, and where is the original to be found?


1 Answer 1


The earliest I could find that particular quote is in Essai sur les définitions géométriques by Joseph Florentin Bonnel. He ascribes it to Leibniz in the work Nouveaux Essais sur l'entendement humain (New Essays on Human Learning).

However, looking at the two complete copies I could find, I did not see anything quite resembling the quote you provided. Unless someone can do better, seems fair to say that Bonnel came up with the wording based on a paraphrase of Leibniz's work.

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