Leibniz on Infinite Numbers, Infinite Wholes, and Composite Substances

Adam Harmer
University of California, Riverside
Leibniz claims that nature is actually infinite but rejects infinite number. Are his mathematical commitments out of step with his metaphysical ones? It is widely accepted that Leibniz has a viable response to this problem: there can be infinitely many created substances, but no infinite number of them. But there is a second problem that has not been satisfactorily resolved. It has been suggested that Leibniz’s argument against the world soul relies on his rejection of infinite number, and, as such, Leibniz cannot assert that any body has a soul without also accepting infinite number, since any body has infinitely many parts. Previous attempts to address this concern have misunderstood the character of Leibniz’s rejection of infinite number. I argue that Leibniz draws an important distinction between ‘wholes’– collections of parts that can be thought of as a single thing – and ‘fictional wholes’ – collections of parts that cannot be thought of as a single thing, which allows us to make sense of his rejection of infinite number in a way that does not conflict either with his view that the world is actually infinite or that the bodies of substances have infinitely many parts.
Keywords Leibniz  Infinite Number  Part  Whole  Unity  Substance  Mereology
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DOI 10.1080/09608788.2014.900605
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The Logic and Meaning of Plurals. Part II.Byeong-uk Yi - 2006 - Journal of Philosophical Logic 35 (3):239-288.
The Logic and Meaning of Plurals. Part I.Byeong-Uk Yi - 2005 - Journal of Philosophical Logic 34 (5-6):459-506.

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