Leibniz on Concept and Substance

A historically persistent way of reading Leibniz regards him as some kind of conceptualist. According to this interpretation, Leibniz was either an ontological conceptualist or an epistemological conceptualist. As an ontological conceptualist, Leibniz is taken to hold the view that there exist only concepts. As an epistemological conceptualist, he is seen as believing that we think only with concepts. I argue against both conceptualist renditions. I confront the ontological conceptualist view with Leibniz’s metaphysics of creation. If the ontological conceptualist interpretation were right, then Leibniz could not invoke compossibility as a criterion of creation. But since he does invoke compossibility as a criterion of creation, the ontological conceptualist approach cannot be right. I confront the epistemological conceptualist interpretation with Leibniz’s assertion of non-conceptual content. Since Leibniz acknowledges non-conceptual content at least when it comes to metaphysical knowledge, Leibniz could not have been an epistemological conceptualist either. So, Leibniz could not have been a conceptualist at all
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DOI 10.5840/ipq200646315
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Harry G. Frankfurt (1972). Leibniz. Garden City, N.Y.,Anchor Books.
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