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Journal of Early Modern Studies

Volume 5, Issue 1, Spring 2016

Emanuele Costa
Pages 143-167
DOI: 10.5840/jems2016516

Leibniz on Relations: From (Soft) Reductionism to the Expression of the Universe

In this paper, I undertake an analysis of Leibniz’s theory of relations. My main argument focuses on distinguishing the ontological part of this theory from the logical/grammatical part, and showing that several studies of this subject are misplaced. I offer a clarification of the matter, presenting an argument that shows how Leibniz does not provide a unified theory for the two sides of his theory of relations. I proceed to argue about soft and hard reductionism, supporting the former. I show how Leibniz’s “re-writing project” about the elimination of dyadic predicates in the “perfect language” of philosophy fits in the picture of his theory without the implication of a nominalist position. Nevertheless, thanks to the distinguishing argument, I am able to argue for Leibniz’s conceptualism on the ontological side of the theory of relations, without using any logical/grammatical argument. I deploy an analysis of all the core themes in his theory, from compossibility to expressionism, from concogitabilitas to supervenience, showing how Leibniz’s position is neither nominalist nor realist, but rather a medial position that has to be understood in its own complexity.

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