Leibniz's syncategorematic infinitesimals, smooth infinitesimal analysis, and Newton's proposition

In contrast with some recent theories of infinitesimals as non-Archimedean entities, Leibniz’s mature interpretation was fully in accord with the Archimedean Axiom: infinitesimals are fictions, whose treatment as entities incomparably smaller than finite quantities is justifiable wholly in terms of variable finite quantities that can be taken as small as desired, i.e. syncategorematically. In this paper I explain this syncategorematic interpretation, and how Leibniz used it to justify the calculus. I then compare it with the approach of Smooth Infinitesimal Analysis (SIA), as propounded by John Bell. Despite many parallels between SIA and Leibniz’s approach —the non-punctiform nature of infinitesimals, their acting as parts of the continuum, the dependence on variables (as opposed to the static quantities of both Standard and Non-standard Analysis), the resolution of curves into infinitesided polygons, and the finessing of a commitment to the existence of infinitesimals— I find some salient differences, especially with regard to higher-order infinitesimals. These differences are illustrated by a consideration of how each approach might be applied to Newton’s Proposition 6 of the Principia, and the derivation from it of the v2/r law for the centripetal force on a body orbiting around a centre of force. It is found that while Leibniz’s syncategorematic approach is adequate to ground a Leibnizian version of the v2/r law for the “solicitation” ddr experienced by the orbiting body, there is no corresponding possibility for a derivation of the law by nilsquare infinitesimals; and while SIA can allow for second order differentials if nilcube infinitesimals are assumed, difficulties remain concerning the compatibility of nilcube infinitesimals with the principles of SIA, and in any case render the type of infinitesimal analysis adopted dependent on its applicability to the problem at hand.
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