Volume 20, December 2010
Leibniz and ‘Bradley’s Regress’
In a text written during his stay in Paris, Leibniz, to deny ontological reality to relations, employs an argument well known to the medieval thinkers and which later would be revived by Francis H. Bradley. If one assumes that relations are real and that a relation links any property to a subject – so runs the argument – then one falls prey to an infinite regress. Leibniz seems to be well aware of the consequences that this argument has for his own metaphysical views, where the relation of inherence (‘inesse’) plays such a central role. Thus, he attempts first to interpret the relation of inherence as something ‘metaphoric’, originating from our ‘spatial way’ of looking at the surrounding world; and then he tries to reduce it to the part-whole relation which clearly he considers weaker, from the ontological point of view, than that of ‘being in’.