Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 34 (2):309-327 (2003)
This paper employs the revised conception of Leibniz emerging from recent research to reassess critically the ‘radical spiritual revolution’ which, according to Alexandre Koyré’s landmark book, From the closed world to the infinite universe was precipitated in the seventeenth century by the revolutions in physics, astronomy, and cosmology. While conceding that the cosmological revolution necessitated a reassessment of the place of value-concepts within cosmology, it argues that this reassessment did not entail a spiritual revolution of the kind assumed by Koyré, in which ‘value-concepts, such as perfection, harmony, meaning and aim’ were shed from the conception of the structure of the universe altogether. On the contrary, thanks to his pioneering intuition of the distinction between physical and metaphysical levels of explanation, Leibniz saw with great clarity that a scientific explanation of the universe which rejected the ‘closed world’ typical of Aristotelian cosmology did not necessarily require the abandonment of key metaphysical doctrines underlying the Aristotelian conception of the universe. Indeed the canon of value-concepts mentioned by Koyré—meaning, aim, perfection and harmony—reads like a list of the most important concepts underlying the Leibnizian conception of the metaphysical structure of the universe. Moreover, Leibniz’s universe, far from being a universe without God—because, as Clarke insinuated, it does not need intervention from God—is a universe which in its deepest ontological fabric is interwoven with the presence of God.Author Keywords: Leibniz; Koyré; Clarke; Universe; Cosmology; Harmony
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