Counting individuals with Leibniz

In H. Berger, J. Herbst & S. Erdner (eds.), VIII Internazionaler Leibniz Kongress: Einheit in Der Vielheit, Vol. 1. 76-83 (2006)
For most early Medieval and Scholastic philosophers working in the Aristotelian tradition, knowledge of any specific subject is knowledge of its causes and principles. Knowledge of individuals was no exception. As Jorge Gracia has written "To know individuality [for early Medieval and Scholastic philosophers] is to be able to determine the causes and principles that are responsible for it."1 The achievement of such ability is also known as the problem of individuation. This paper will be concerned with the solution to the problem suggested by Leibniz’s writings and how it relates to the contemporary metaphysical debate. In the first section I introduce the problem of individuation along with the solution Leibniz proposed during the latter part of his life. The second section analyzes Leibniz’s solution in a contemporary perspective. I argue that, unlike during the Medieval and early Modern periods, today the epistemic side of the problem of individuation plays a major role in the debate. In this light, Leibniz’s proposal that humans cannot grasp what the individuality of an individual consists in seems problematic. I show, however, that Leibniz’s proposal can stand on its feet also nowadays, provided we are willing to give up the pretenses that there is a definitive count of individuals and that re-identifying individuals across time and space is part of the problem of individuation.
Keywords Individuals  Identity
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