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The Paideia Archive: Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 11, 1998

Modern Philosophy

Arto Repo
Pages 153-158

Leibniz on Material Things

My paper is about two at least apparently conflicting stands in Leibniz's arguments concerning the nature of material things. The first strand is phenomenalist in character, connecting the ontological status of material things with harmony between the perceptions of monads. According to the other strand, material things are understood to be aggregates of monads. These descriptions are different, but it is difficult to decide whether they are incompatible or not. Could Leibniz coherently claim that material things are phenomena, mental things, in some sense, and at the same time constituted by real substances? I consider Leibniz's view of relations, because this helps us to understand the move. Against R. Adams (following P. Hoffman) I argue that the interpretation of Leibnizian phenomena as intentional objects does not help either. My thesis is that it is possible to see the two strands as compatible only by taking the phenomenalist account as the primary and by interpreting the aggregate account as derivative. The result is an interpretation of Leibniz's theory of matter as fundamentally phenomenalistic.

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