Leibniz and the Scholastics

University of Lucerne, spring term 2018
BA/MA Seminar

Rather than downloading the handouts as they were distributed at the respective sessions, read the compiled version, which is regularly updated and contains the full bibliography.

This course also has a OLAT website.

Just after the end of the semester and before the exams, I am organising an informal workshop on Leibniz in beautiful Ligerz: Leibniz Now and Then, June 27 - July 1 2018 - everyone's welcome to attend!








After a short overview of the course, we start with a discussion of some general principles the survey articles on the Stanford Encyclopedia attribute to Leibniz, in particular the predicate-in-subject principle, the principle of sufficient reason and the principle of the identity of indiscernibles. We discuss the young Leibniz' view of individuation, his characterisation of substances as having complete individual concepts and his notion of monads.


Substitutivity salva veritate

We discuss the principle of the identity of indiscernibles and its converse, the indiscernibility of identicals, contrasting Max Black's indiscernible spheres with incongruent counterparts, natural numbers and elementary particles.


Truth, Analyticity, and Contingency

We discuss the predicate-in-subject principle and the notion of truth that motivates it, elaborating on how it makes the very existence of contingency problematic.


Absolute Necessity and Possible Worlds

To prepare for Leibniz' view of modality and essence, I give a brief sketch of the history of modal logic (stressing that modal framework principles are treated as absolute, ie. not given the standard quantificational treatment of necessities) and of the so-called modal "account" of essence.


Contingency and the Principle of Sufficient Reason

I discuss double threats of determinism and of theological determinism: if we are not free, we are not responsible for our actions, but God is; if God is not free, then He is not omnipotent; but if we are free, God is not; if God is, we are not.

cf. also my talk "Leibniz and Contingency" in Ligerz on the 28th of June:


The Principle of Sufficient Reason

We look at Leibniz's solution of these difficulties, and the important qualifications to the Principle of Sufficient Reason they require, highlighting the roles of the guise of the good principle and the rejection of necessitarianism about explanation.


Substances, Bodies and Monads

We begin the discussion of the problem of haecceitism, distinguishing between different versions, with an eye to the question in what sense Leibniz is a generalist, i.e. believes that there are only general facts.

cf. also my talk "Leibniz, Haecceitism and Existentialism" in Ligerz on the 29th of June:


Haecceitism and the Problem of Individuation

We continue the discussion of haecceitism, this time in the perspective of determining in what sense Leibniz is an idealist, i.e. what degree of being his well-founded phenomena have.


The Reducibility of Relations

I introduce the problem of relations, and sketch contemporary "solutions" to it (Fine, Williamson), before arguing that Leibniz had his own, and that it is superior. It turns out that, contra Russell, Leibniz is not a monadist but a monist about relations.


Existence, Essence, God and Relations

Cf. my talk "Leibniz on the Reducibility of Relations" in Ligerz on the 30th of June


Space, Time and Continuity

I sketch Aristotle's concept of place (and his theory of space), articulate what I like about it, show its reception in Leibniz's doctrine of continuity and use this material to support Leibniz's criticism of Newton's absolutist account of space and time. Cf. also my talk "Leibniz on Well-Founded Phenomena" in Ligerz on the 28th of June


Relational Spacetime

cf. my talk "Leibnizian Space and Incongruent Counterparts" in Ligerz on the 30th of June