Leibniz's Early Views on Matter, Modes, and God

Although scholars have often settled upon 1686 as the year in which the central elements of Leibniz’s philosophy first appear in systematic form, certain of his positions appear to have been firmly in place at least ten years earlier. Papers written in 1676 reveal that Leibniz had already by that time established the fundamental feature of his single-substance metaphysics: the insubstantiality of matter. As he defines it, matter is a mode, but a mode of peculiar status, a sort of “top mode,” which, together with change, is requisite to the existence of any other modes, or “things.” Things for Leibniz include all bodies and their qualities, and in some places also appear to include minds, although Leibniz for religious reasons equivocates here, and wants to resist. Nevertheless, Leibniz’s desire to move toward a version of the Aristotelian notion of matter as the principle of individuation is clearly in evidence as he works to set out a view which can accommodate mechanistic physics while avoiding the perceived atheistic threat inherent in both Cartesian dualism and Spinozistic monism
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DOI 10.5840/jpr_2000_24
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