Leery bedfellows: Newton and Leibniz on the status of infinitesimals

Newton and Leibniz had profound disagreements concerning metaphysics and the relationship of mathematics to natural philosophy, as well as deeply opposed attitudes towards analysis. Nevertheless, or so I shall argue, despite these deeply held and distracting differences in their background assumptions and metaphysical views, there was a considerable consilience in their positions on the status of infinitesimals. In this paper I compare the foundation Newton provides in his Method Of First and Ultimate Ratios (sketched at some time between 1671 and 1684, and published in the Principia of 1687) with that provided independently by Leibniz in his unpublished manuscript De quadratura arithmetica (1675-6) as well as in later writings. I argue that both appeal to a version of the Archimedean Axiom to underwrite their use of infinitesimal techniques, which must be interpreted as a shorthand for rigorously finitist methods.
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