Time and Causation in Leibniz's Metaphysics

Dissertation, Emory University (2001)

This dissertation is an examination of Leibniz's philosophy of time and causation as expressed in his late metaphysics. The central thesis of the dissertation is that Leibniz propounds a causal theory of time, one in which a world's temporal facts are ontologically dependent on its causal facts. I begin with a comprehensive exploration of Leibniz's writings on causation. I argue that Leibniz assimilates causal relations to logical and explanatory relations, and that a cause is what, in conjunction with other conditions, constitutes a sufficient condition for the effect. I further examine the counterfactual character of causal relations, and how Leibniz explains the nature of causal asymmetry without invoking temporal concepts. With this background in hand, I turn to Leibniz's many analyses of qualitative temporal relations. Specifically, I provide an interpretation of Leibniz's causal theory of time according to which temporal facts are constructed from and defined in terms of metaphysically more basic causal and spatial relations. In this respect, Leibniz's philosophy of time is a precursor to more recent spatio-causal theories of time. Against the view that Leibniz limits the dependence of temporal on causal and spatial facts to one a form of supervenience, I argue that he opts he for an identificatory reductive strategy. The final two chapters examine Leibniz's views on the topological features of time, and the relation between tensed and non-tensed time. Though the dissertation focuses on Leibniz's metaphysics, it gives extensive consideration both to the historical antecedents that inform Leibniz's theories as well as to the relevance of Leibniz's philosophy of time and causation for contemporary metaphysics and philosophy of science
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