There is in the New Essays a prominent line of argument that Leibniz took to have remarkable scope. If it works, it sweeps away most of the mainstays of Locke’s metaphysics: atoms, vacuum, real space and time, absolute rest, inactive faculties, and the tabula rasa. It alone does not suffice to undermine the possibility of thinking matter, but it contributes support to that most important of Leibniz’s claims against Locke. Because it is so central to the project of New Essays, (...) I am going to focus mainly on the argument as it is employed there; doing so illuminates both the work and the argument. But Leibniz used it a number of times in letters and notes from roughly the same time period and it is related to a thesis in the Discourse on Metaphysics and letters to Arnauld. The argument invokes a distinction between abstract or incomplete entities and concrete or complete ones. Its premises are that atoms, vacuum, inactive substances, and other items on Leibniz’s list are homogeneous or uniform; that all things that are uniform or otherwise exactly alike are abstract; and that nothing abstract can be found in nature. (shrink)
Shepherd propounds a theory of mind with a fair claim to be better than Hume’s at explaining the sources of commonly held human beliefs about causal necessity due largely to her relational theory of sense perception. In comparison with Hume’s account, it incorporates a more sophisticated treatment of mental representation, especially the role of relational structure and logical form. Most important, perhaps, Shepherd’s theory enforces the division, obscured by Hume, between the evidence of necessity and the metaphysical foundation of necessity.
Locke, Leibniz, and the Logic of Mechanism MARTHA BRANDT BOLTON l~ EARLY MECHANIST PHILOSOPHERS demanded a new standard of perspicuity in the natural sciences. They accused others of "explaining" phenomena in terms of obscurely defined, unconfirmed, and uninformative causes. These complaints were leveled, not just at the real qualities and forms of Scholastics, but also against the sympathetic attractions of Hermetics and the sophic prin- ciples of the Spagyrites. These competitors to mecha- nism could at best demonstrate that a certain (...) effect occurs and claim to state why it does. Mechanists aspired to explain how phenomena are produced. 1 Beyond that, however, philosophers in the broadly "mechanist" movement shared no single account of what this sort of explanation involves. They were too diverse, not only in their views on the central notions of material sub- stance, cause, and force, but also with respect to their standards of intelligibil- ity. In this paper, however, I want to isolate one mechanist model of explana- tion with intellectual virtues that strongly recommended it in some quarters. I will argue specifically that it influenced Leibniz and Locke. This favored form of mechanism opens a deep problem, because it con- flicts with the existence of causal interaction between bodies and minds. 2 It is not just that the model does not apply beyond the realm of intercorporeal ' Much of the work of documenting this trait.. (shrink)
Leibniz repeatedly daims to refute "Hobbes' doctrine of arbitrary truth". I argue against several recent expositors of Hobbes that Hobbes' view comes to nothing more scandalous than "nominalism" about kind terms. Although some have recognized that it is this thesis which Leibniz claims to refute, his argument has not been correctly understood. I maintain that the argument rests upon Leibniz' theory of signs and his account of concepts. In brief, Leibniz argues that concepts have structures which correspond to structures of (...) things; thus, kinds are independent of language and truth is independent of arbitrary convention. (shrink)
This interesting and challenging book addresses the apparent gap between the empiricist account of the origin of ideas and the theory of knowledge in the Essay concerning Human Understanding. Matthew Priselac makes an impressive argument that they are complementary parts of a coherent program. It consists of a naturalistic interpretation on which the Essay's main aim is to provide the kind of understanding of the mind, knowledge, and probability afforded by modern methods of natural scientific inquiry.On this view, the Essay (...) advances a hypothesis intended to explain the epistemic phenomena of everyday life, that is, what we take ourselves to know rather than hold as probable. It describes a process by which the... (shrink)