Volume 11, 1998
Unity and Reality in Leibniz’s Correspondence with Des Bosses
Leibniz's correspondence with Des Bosses presents students of his thought with a problem. It contains some of Leibniz's longest and most detailed discussions of the nature of substance while at the same time introducing two concepts into Leibniz's metaphysics that continually baffle commentators: scientia visionis and the vinculum substantiale. The aim of this paper is to explicate the relationship between scientia visionis, or God's knowledge by vision, and the vinculum substantiale, or the substantial bond, and to show how these concepts are used by Leibniz in the correspondence with Des Bosses to account for the unity and reality of corporal substances. In my view, the vinculum substantiale and scientia visionis do not represent rival strategies, as they have been recently portrayed in the literature; rather, they work together. But scientia visionis, when applied to questions of ontology, gives us a rather vacuous kind of reality, while the vinculum substantiale represents a much more significant, albeit problematic, account of the nature of substance.