The early Russell on the metaphysics of substance in Leibniz and Bradley

Synthese 163 (2):245 - 261 (2008)
While considerable ink has been spilt over the rejection of idealism by Bertrand Russell and G.E. Moore at the end of the 19th Century, relatively little attention has been directed at Russell’s A Critical Exposition of the Philosophy of Leibniz, a work written in the early stages of Russell’s philosophical struggles with the metaphysics of Bradley, Bosanquet, and others. Though a sustained investigation of that work would be one of considerable scope, here I reconstruct and develop a two-pronged argument from the Philosophy of Leibniz that Russell fancied—as late as 1907—to be the downfall of the traditional category of substance. Here, I suggest, one can begin to see Russell’s own reasons—arguments largely independent of Moore—for the abandonment of idealism. Leibniz, no less than Bradley, adhered to an antiquated variety of logic: what Russell refers to as the subject-predicate doctrine of logic. Uniting this doctrine with a metaphysical principle of independence—that a substance is prior to and distinct from its properties—Russell is able to demonstrate that neither a substance pluralism nor a substance monism can be consistently maintained. As a result, Russell alleges that the metaphysics of both Leibniz and Bradley has been undermined as ultimately incoherent. Russell’s remedy for this incoherence is the postulation of a bundle theory of substance, such that the category of “substance” reduces to the most basic entities—properties.
Keywords Bertrand Russell  F. H. Bradley  G. W. Leibniz  Metaphysics  Substance  Properties  Individuation  G. E. Moore  Independence  Subject-predicate logic  Idealism  Monism  Pluralism  Judgment  Relations
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