In this article I argue that in his 1838 De l’habitude, Félix Ravaisson uses the analysis of habit to defend a Leibnizian monadism. Recent commentators have failed to appreciate this because they read Ravaisson as a typically post-Kantian philosopher, and underemphasize the distinct context in which he developed his work. I explore three key claims made by interpreters who argue that Ravaisson should be read as a Schellingian, and show [i] that these claims are incompatible with the text of De l’habitude and [ii] how they have obscured from view the monadism at the heart of this work. This article is divided into two sections. First, I explain the importance of Victor Cousin and Maine de Biran for the development of nineteenth-century French philosophy. Second, I argue that to understand the structure of De l’habitude, it should be read as a critique of Cousin’s philosophical method and a demonstration of the superiority of Biran’s Leibniz-inspired introspective method. Like Biran, Ravaisson believes that the introspective method leads to a pluralist metaphysics of forces, but he uses the introspective analysis of habit to go further back to Leibniz than Biran does and develops a pluralist substance metaphysics.
 In France during the nineteenth century the production of new editions, interpretations, and expositions of early modern philosophical texts was a flourishing activity. However, it is important to recognise when examining the scholarly works of this period that such interpretation and exposition was almost never produced without an agenda. A favourable interpretation of one of the giants of early modern philosophy that shows them to be the natural ‘father’ of one’s own philosophical perspective could act as a significant legitimation of this view and, consequently, could become a weapon in philosophical combat. In this chapter I argue that Maine de Biran’s interpretation of Leibniz, and in particular his 1819 Exposition de la doctrine philosophique de Leibniz, should be partially understood in this spirit. I show that the importance of Biran’s selective Leibnizianism is clear already in the 1811 Copenhagen treatise; however, it gains added significance in the 1819 text since he, I argue, uses his selective interpretation as a defence of his own position and critiques the remaining aspects of Leibniz’s philosophy to demonstrate the weaknesses of another philosophical position developed by one of Biran’s contemporaries: the ‘young professor’ Victor Cousin. Furthermore, even after Biran’s death in 1824, this strategic encounter with Leibniz turned out to be crucial for the development of nineteenth-century French thought. Not only did Biran present an alternative spiritualism to Cousin’s eclecticism (which was to become the orthodox philosophy of the State), he correctly identified its major faults, and left the seeds for its eventual overthrow. Understood as such, therefore, we can recognize the vital historical role played by Biran’s short Exposition de la philosophie de Leibniz. It was in part responsible for a significant change of direction in French philosophy and its influence can be recognised in a lineage that passes through Félix Ravaisson, Pierre Leroux, Émile Boutroux, Henri Bergson, to Gilles Deleuze.
 This article investigates the history of the relation between idealism and pragmatism by examining the importance of the French idealist Charles Renouvier for the development of William James's ‘Will to Believe’. By focusing on French idealism, we obtain a broader understanding of the kinds of idealism on offer in the nineteenth century. First, I show that Renouvier's unique methodological idealism led to distinctively pragmatist doctrines and that his theory of certitude and its connection to freedom is worthy of reconsideration. Second, I argue that the technical vocabulary and main structure of the argument from the ‘Will to Believe’ depend upon Renouvier's idealist theory of knowledge and psychology of belief, and that taking account of this line of influence is of crucial importance for establishing the correct interpretation of James's work.