Many philosophers have argued that the past must be finite in duration because otherwise reaching the present moment would have involved something impossible, namely, the sequential occurrence of an actual infinity of events. In reply, some philosophers have objected that there can be nothing amiss in such an occurrence, since actually infinite sequences are ‘traversed’ all the time in nature, for example, whenever an object moves from one location in space to another. This essay focuses on one of the two (...) available replies to this objection, namely, the claim that actual infinities are not traversed in nature because space, time, and other continuous wholes divide into parts only in so far as we divide them in thought, and thus divide into only a finite number of parts. I grant that this reply succeeds in blunting the anti-finitist objection, but I argue that it also subverts the very argument against an eternal past that it was intended to save. (shrink)
It is widely believed that on Frege's view, vague predicates have no referent (Bedeutung). But given other things he evidently believes, such a position would seem to commit him to a suspect nihilism according to which assertoric sentences containing vague predicates are neither true nor false. I argue that we have good reason to resist ascribing to Frege the view that vague predicates have no Bedeutung and thus good reason to resist seeing him as committed to the suspect nihilism. In (...) the process, I call attention to several under-appreciated texts in which Frege suggests that a vague predicate, though lacking a Bedeutung of its own, can come to acquire a Bedeutung in certain contexts. The upshot of this suggestion is that vague predicates can serve the purposes of ordinary communication quite well, even if they are useless for logical purposes. (shrink)
Anthony Brueckner argues that Berkeleyan idealism lacks anti-sceptical force because of the way Berkeley draws the appearance/reality distinction. But Brueckner's case rests on a misunderstanding of Berkeley's view. Properly understood, Berkeleyan idealism does indeed have anti-sceptical force.
Drawing on remarks scattered through his writings, I argue that Leibniz has a highly distinctive and interesting theory of color. The central feature of the theory is the way in which it combines a nuanced subjectivism about color with a reductive approach of a sort usually associated with objectivist theories of color. After reconstructing Leibniz's theory and calling attention to some of its most notable attractions, I turn to the apparent incompatibility of its subjective and reductive components. I argue that (...) this apparent tension vanishes in light of his rejection of a widely accepted doctrine concerning the nature of bodies and their geometrical qualities. (shrink)
Leibniz has been accused of being ambivalent about the nature of sensible qualities such as color, heat, and sound. According to the critics, he unwittingly vacillates between the view that these qualities are really just complex mechanical qualities of bodies and the competing view that they are something like the perceptions or experiences that confusedly represent these mechanical qualities. Against this, I argue that the evidence for ascribing the first approach to Leibniz is rather strong, whereas the evidence for imputing (...) the second approach to him is rather weak. The first, "mechanistic" approach should therefore be regarded as his considered view. (shrink)
In the texts of the middle years (roughly, the 1680s and 90s), Leibniz appears to endorse two incompatible approaches to motion, one a realist approach, the other a phenomenalist approach. I argue that once we attend to certain nuances in his account we can see that in fact he has only one, coherent approach to motion during this period. I conclude by considering whether the view of motion I want to impute to Leibniz during his middle years ranks as a (...) kind of realism or rather as some kind of phenomenalism or idealism. (shrink)
Leibniz has almost universally been represented as denying that created substances, including human minds and the souls of animals, can causally interact either with one another or with bodies. Yet he frequently claims that such substances are capable of interacting in the special sense of what he calls 'ideal' interaction. In order to reconcile these claims with their favored interpretation, proponents of the traditional reading often suppose that ideal action is not in fact a genuine form of causation but instead (...) a merely apparent influence which serves to 'save the appearances.' I argue that this traditional reading distorts Leibniz's thought and that he actually considers ideal action a genuine (though non-standard) form of causation. (shrink)
Questions about Leibniz's views on the ontological status of the corporeal world have been at the center of debate in Leibniz scholarship for more than two decades, and one of the major players in these debates has been Daniel Garber. Having sketched his influential position in a number of articles over the years, he now gives full expression to his view in this highly anticipated and long-awaited book.
In this work Thomas surveys the contributions of (pre-Kantian) early modern philosophy to our understanding of the mind. She focuses on the six canonical figures of the period -- Descartes, Spinoza, Locke, Leibniz, Berkeley, and Hume -- and asks what each has to say about five topics within the philosophy of mind. The topics are (1) the ontological status of mind, (2) the scope and nature of self-knowledge, (3) the nature of consciousness, (4) the problem of mental causation, and (5) (...) the nature of representation or intentionality. The overarching aim of the book is to show that the theories articulated by these thinkers are not just historical curiosities, but have much to contribute to our understanding of these topics today. (shrink)
In einem unlängst erschienenen Aufsatz untersucht Dennis Plaisted ein wichtiges Argument von Leibniz hinsichtlich der Existenz einfacher Begriffe. Plaisted stellt das Argument kurz dar, beurteilt es als offensichtlich unvereinbar mit anderen Positionen Leibniz' und schlägt eine Neugestaltung vor, die den Widerspruch auflösen soll. Die Revision erzeugt jedoch mehrere schwerwiegende Probleme und kann die aufgewiesene Inkonsistenz insofern nicht beheben - wir erörtern die Probleme und liefern eine, wie uns scheint, plausiblere Alternative. In diesem Zusammenhang machen wir auf Leibniz' wenig beachtete Auffassung (...) von der Natur der Erkenntnis aufmerksam und beleuchten seine etwas überraschende These, man könne etwas durch einen Begriff erfassen, obwohl man keinen bewussten Zugang zu diesem Begriff habe. (shrink)
Leibniz’s physicalism about colors and other sensible qualities commits him to two theses about our knowledge of those qualities: first, that we can acquire ideas of sensible qualities apart from any direct acquaintance with the qualities themselves; second, that we can acquire distinct (i.e., non-confused) ideas of such qualities through the development of physical-theoretical accounts. According to some commentators, however, Leibniz frequently denies both claims. His views on the subject are muddled and incoherent, they say, both because he is ambivalent (...) about the nature of sensible qualities, and because he gets confused about confusion, losing sight of his own distinction between the confusion proper to perceptions and that proper to ideas. In opposition to this, I argue that the critics have misunderstood Leibniz’s views, which are both consistent over time and coherent. The key to understanding his position is toappreciate what he characterizes as a kind of redundancy in our ideas of sensible qualities, a crucial feature of his view overlooked by the critics. (shrink)