Leibniz on Natural Teleology and the Laws of Optics

This essay examines one of the cornerstones of Leibniz's defense of teleology within the order of nature. The first section explores Leibniz's contributions to the study of geometrical optics, and argues that his "Most Determined Path Principle" or "MDPP" allows him to bring to the fore philosophical issues concerning the legitimacy of teleological explanations by addressing two technical objections raised by Cartesians to non-mechanistic derivations of the laws of optics. The second section argues that, by drawing on laws such as the MDPP, Leibniz is able to introduce a thin notion of teleology that gives him the resources to respond to the most pressing charges of his day against teleological explanations within natural philosophy. Finally, the third section argues that contemporary philosophers have been overly hasty in their dismissal of Leibniz's account of natural teleology, and indeed that their own generally thin conceptions of teleology have left them with few well-motivated resources for resisting his elegant position
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DOI 10.2307/40380438
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