•  505
    Leibniz's Optics and Contingency in Nature
    Perspectives on Science 18 (4): 432-455. 2010.
    Leibniz’s mature philosophical understanding of the laws of nature emerges rather suddenly in the late 1670’s to early 1680’s and is signaled by his embrace of three central theses.1 The first, what I’ll call the thesis of Contingency, suggests that the laws of nature are not only contingent, but, in some sense, paradigmatically contingent; they are supposed to provide insight into the very nature of contingency as Leibniz comes to understand it. The second, what I’ll call the thesis of Providen…Read more
  •  402
    Leibniz's philosophy of physics
    Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2008.
    entry for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (SEP) This entry will attempt to provide a broad overview of the central themes of Leibniz’s philosophy of physics, as well as an introduction to some of the principal arguments and argumentative strategies he used to defend his positions. It tentatively includes sections entitled, The Historical Development of Leibniz’s Physics, Leibniz on Matter, Leibniz’s Dynamics, Leibniz on the Laws of Motion, Leibniz on Space and Time. A bibliography arrang…Read more
  •  331
    Leibniz: Creation and Conservation and Concurrence
    The Leibniz Review 17 31-60. 2007.
    In this paper I argue that the hoary theological doctrine of divine concurrence poses no deep threat to Leibniz’s views on theodicy and creaturely activity even as those views have been traditionally understood. The first three sections examine respectively Leibniz’s views on creation, conservation and concurrence, with an eye towards showing their sys­tematic compatibility with Leibniz’s theodicy and metaphysics. The fourth section takes up remaining worries arising from the bridging principle …Read more
  •  298
    Berkeley, human agency and divine concurrentism
    Journal of the History of Philosophy 46 (4). 2008.
    This paper aims to offer a sympathetic reading of Berkeley’s often maligned account of human agency. The first section briefly revisits three options concerning the relationship between human and divine agency available to theistically minded philosophers in the medieval and early modern eras. The second argues that, of those three views, only the position of concurrentism is consistent with Berkeley’s texts. The third section explores Berkeley’s reasons for adopting concurrentism by highlightin…Read more
  •  238
    Numbers, minds, and bodies: A fresh look at mind-body dualism
    with John O'Leary-Hawthorne
    Philosophical Perspectives 12 349-371. 1998.
    In this essay, we explore a fresh avenue into mind-body dualism by considering a seemingly distant question posed by Frege: "Why is it absurd to suppose that Julius Caesar is a number?". The essay falls into three main parts. In the first, through an exploration of Frege’s Julius Caesar problem, we attempt to expose two maxims applicable to the mind-body problem. In the second part, we draw on those maxims in arguing that “full blown dualism” is preferable to more modest, property-theoretic, ver…Read more
  •  139
    Defending the Refutation of Idealism
    Southwestern Philosophy Review 17 (1): 35-44. 2000.
    In his Kant and the Claims of Knowledge, Paul Guyer offers an influential reading of Kant’s famous “Refutation of Idealism.” Guyer’s reading has been widely praised as Kantian exegesis but less favorably received as an anti-skeptical line of argument worthy of contemporary interest. In this paper, I focus on defending the general thrust of Guyer’s reading as a response to Cartesian skepticism. The paper falls into two sections. The first section constructs Guyer’s central argument in three steps…Read more
  •  119
    Leibniz and the puzzle of incompossibility: The packing strategy
    Philosophical Review 119 (2): 135-163. 2010.
    Confronting the threat of a Spinozistic necessitarianism, Leibniz insists that not all possible substances are compossible—that they can't all be instantiated together—and thus that not all possible worlds are compossible—that they can't all be instantiated together. While it is easy to appreciate Leibniz's reasons for embracing this view, it has proven difficult to see how his doctrine of incompossibility might be reconciled with the broader commitments of his larger philosophical system. This …Read more
  •  119
    Leibniz on Natural Teleology and the Laws of Optics
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 78 (3): 505-544. 2009.
    This essay examines one of the cornerstones of Leibniz's defense of teleology within the order of nature. The first section explores Leibniz's contributions to the study of geometrical optics, and argues that his "Most Determined Path Principle" or "MDPP" allows him to bring to the fore philosophical issues concerning the legitimacy of teleological explanations by addressing two technical objections raised by Cartesians to non-mechanistic derivations of the laws of optics. The second section arg…Read more
  •  102
    Comments on Sukjae Lee's "Berkeley on the Activity of Spirits," presented at Eastern Division Meeting of the American Philosophical Association, Baltimore, MD, December 2007
  •  85
    The following paper attempts to explore, criticize and develop Thomas Kuhn's most mature -- and surprisingly neglected -- view of incommensurability. More specifically, it focuses on undermining an influential picture of scientific kinds that lies at the heart of Kuhn's understanding of taxonomic incommensurability; sketching an alternative picture of scientific kinds that takes advantage of Kuhn's partially developed theory of disciplinary matrices; and using these two results to motivate revis…Read more
  •  84
    Leibniz's two realms revisited
    Noûs 42 (4): 673-696. 2008.
    Leibniz speaks, in a variety of contexts, of there being two realms—a "kingdom of power or efficient causes" and "a kingdom of wisdom or final causes." This essay explores an often overlooked application of Leibniz's famous "two realms doctrine." The first part turns to Leibniz's work in optics for the roots of his view that nature can be seen as being governed by two complete sets of equipotent laws, with one set corresponding to the efficient causal order of the world, and the other to its tel…Read more
  •  84
    Hume's account of memory
    British Journal for the History of Philosophy 10 (1). 2002.
    This essay attempts to provide a sympathetic reading of Hume’s often tangled discussion of memory in the Treatise. It divides into three main sections. The first section isolates three puzzles in Hume’s account of memory. The second section attempts to show how those puzzles arise as a result of Hume’s understandable failure to recognize a necessary connection between memory and causation. Finally, the third section looks at how the reading of Hume’s account of memory offered in the first two se…Read more
  •  77
    Leibniz and the Foundations of Physics: The Later Years
    Philosophical Review 125 (1): 1-34. 2016.
    This essay offers an account of the relationship between extended Leibnizian bodies and unextended Leibnizian monads, an account that shows why Leibniz was right to see intimate, explanatory connections between his studies in physics and his mature metaphysics. The first section sets the stage by introducing a case study from Leibniz's technical work on the strength of extended, rigid beams. The second section draws on that case study to introduce a model for understanding Leibniz's views on the…Read more
  •  76
    The Heyday of Teleology and Early Modern Philosophy
    Midwest Studies in Philosophy 35 (1): 179-204. 2011.
    This paper offers a non-traditional account of what was really at stake in debates over the legitimacy of teleology and teleological explanations in the later medieval and early modern periods. It is divided into four main sections. The first section highlights two defining features of ancient and early medieval views on teleology, namely, that teleological explanations are on a par (or better) with efficient causal explanations, and that the objective goodness of outcomes may explain their com…Read more
  •  73
    Leibniz's Conciliatory Account of Substance
    Philosophers' Imprint 13. 2013.
    This essay offers an alternative account of Leibniz’s views on substance and fundamental ontology. The proposal is driven by three main ideas. First, that Leibniz’s treatment should be understood against the backdrop of a traditional dispute over the paradigmatic nature substance as well as his own overarching conciliatory ambitions. Second, that Leibniz’s metaphysics is intended to support his conciliatory view that both traditional views of substance are tenable in at least their positive and …Read more
  •  59
    Descartes' "Dioptrics" and Descartes' Optics
    In Larry Nolan (ed.), The Cambridge Descartes Lexicon, Cambridge University Press. forthcoming.
    The Dioptrique, often translated as the Optics or, more literally, as the Dioptrics is one of Descartes’ earliest works. Likely begun in the mid to late 1620’s, Descartes refers to it by name in a letter to Mersenne of 25 November 1630 III, 29). Its subject matter partially overlaps with Descartes’ more foundational project The World or Treatise on Light in which he offers a general mechanistic account of the universe including the formation, transmission, and reception of light. Although Galile…Read more
  •  58
    Leibniz, Spinoza and an Alleged Dilemma for Rationalists
    Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy 2. 2015.
    In a stimulating recent paper, “Violations of the Principle of Sufficient Reason (in Leibniz and Spinoza),” Michael Della Rocca argues that rationalists face a daunting dilemma: either abandon the Principle of Sufficient Reason or embrace a radical, Parmenidian-style monism. The present paper argues that neither historical nor contemporary rationalists need be afraid of Della Rocca’s dilemma. The second section reconstructs Della Rocca’s argument in five steps. The third section argues that Leib…Read more
  •  51
    Somethings and Nothings: Śrīgupta and Leibniz on Being and Unity
    Philosophy East and West 70 (4): 1022-1046. 2020.
    Śrīgupta, a Buddhist philosopher in the Middle Way tradition, was born in Bengal in present-day India in the seventh century. He is best known for his Introduction to Reality with its accompanying auto-commentary,1 in which he presents the first Middle Way iteration of the influential "neither-one-nor-many argument."2 This antifoundationalist line of reasoning sets out to prove that nothing enjoys ontologically independent being.Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz was born some one thousand years later, i…Read more
  •  41
    Occasionalism: Causation Among the Cartesians (review)
    Philosophical Review 122 (1): 125-128. 2013.
  •  40
    Leibniz: Body, substance, monad (review)
    Journal of the History of Philosophy 49 (3): 380-381. 2011.
  •  38
    In writing papers, students confront two obstacles. First, they may not know what philosophical writing is, mistaking an extended statement of their opinion for a philosophy paper. Second, some students lack certain key writing skills and so have difficulty organizing and conveying their view on a philosophical issue. In addition to reading good philosophical works, students need practice writing, editing, and revising their work and so rough drafts become a key component in teaching philosophic…Read more
  •  31
    Comments on Andy Egan’s "Second-Order Predication and the Metaphysics of Properties," presented at California State University Long Beach, CA 2003
  •  27
    In his rich and engaging essay, Professor Garber asks most centrally, “…what was the relation between Leibniz’s metaphysical project as set out in the so-called ‘Monadologie’ and the more theological project in the Essais de Théodicée?” His answer is, in short, that there isn’t much of a relationship between these two great works. Furthermore, he takes this result to be evidence of Leibniz’s not being a systematic philosopher in the spirit of Descartes or Spinoza. In these brief comments, I r…Read more
  •  14
    Leibniz’s Formal Theory of Contingency
    History of Philosophy & Logical Analysis 21 (1): 17-43. 2018.
    This essay argues that, with his much-maligned “infinite analysis” theory of contingency, Leibniz is onto something deep and important – a tangle of issues that wouldn’t be sorted out properly for centuries to come, and then only by some of the greatest minds of the twentieth century. The first two sections place Leibniz’s theory in its proper historical context and draw a distinction between Leibniz’s logical and meta-logical discoveries. The third section argues that Leibniz’s logical insights…Read more
  •  12
    Daniel Garber’s Leibniz: Body, Substance and Monad . When I first entered graduate school Dan’s previous book Descartes’s Metaphysical Physics had recently appeared, and it made a huge and lasting impression on me. All of a sudden I saw Descartes’s project in a much different, more intriguing light. This Garber fella had managed to open up a new area of Descartes’s thought to me, to tease out with great care his philosophical arguments, and to situate both in a broader historical context in whic…Read more
  •  9
    Teleology: A History (edited book)
    Oxford University Press. 2020.
    This volume explores the intuitive yet puzzling concept of teleology as it has been treated by philosophers from the time of Plato and Aristotle to the present day. Philosophical discussions are enlivened and contextualized by reflections on the implications of teleology in medicine, art, poetry, and music.
  •  1
    Leibniz on Teleology and the Laws of Optics
    Dissertation, University of California, Irvine. 2004.
    This essay explores Leibniz's defense of teleology and teleological explanations in the domain of physics in general, and the roles that teleology plays in his studies of optics in particular. I argue first that Leibniz draws upon Plato's defense of final causes to introduce a novel research program intended to steer a middle course, on the one hand, between Aristotelian-Scholasticism and the new mechanical philosophy, and, on the other hand, between Cartesian rationalism and Gassendist empirici…Read more
  •  1
    This essay develops our meta-logical interpretation of Leibniz’s formal theory of contingency by taking up two additional issues not fully addressed in our earlier efforts. The first issue concerns the relationship between Leibniz’s formal theory of contingency and his views on species and essentialism. The second issue concerns the relationship between Leibniz’s formal theory of contingency and the modal status of the actual world.