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Res Philosophica

Volume 95, Issue 1, January 2017

Adam Harmer
Pages 69-94
DOI: 10.11612/resphil.1614

Leibniz on Plurality, Dependence, and Unity

Leibniz argues that Cartesian extension lacks the unity required to be a substance. A key premise of Leibniz’s argument is that matter is a collection or aggregation. I consider an objection to this premise raised by Leibniz’s correspondent Burchard de Volder and consider a variety of ways that Leibniz might be able to respond to De Volder’s objection. I argue that it is not easy for Leibniz to provide a dialectically relevant response and, further, that the difficulty arises from Leibniz’s commitment to part-whole priority in the case of material wholes, a commitment not shared by De Volder. One major implication is that Leibniz relies on a bottom-up conception of material things, which makes his argument vulnerable to objections stemming from certain types of monist positions.

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