•  210
    Space and relativity in Newton and Leibniz
    British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 45 (1): 219-240. 1994.
    In this paper I challenge the usual interpretations of Newton's and Leibniz's views on the nature of space and the relativity of motion. Newton's ‘relative space’ is not a reference frame; and Leibniz did not regard space as defined with respect to actual enduring bodies. Newton did not subscribe to the relativity of intertial motions; whereas Leibniz believed no body to be at rest, and Newton's absolute motion to be a useful fiction. A more accurate rendering of the opposition between them, I a…Read more
  •  198
    On thought experiments as a priori science
    International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 13 (3). 1999.
    Against Norton's claim that all thought experiments can be reduced to explicit arguments, I defend Brown's position that certain thought experiments yield a priori knowledge. They do this, I argue, not by allowing us to perceive “Platonic universals” (Brown), even though they may contain non-propositional components that are epistemically indispensable, but by helping to identify certain tacit presuppositions or “natural interpretations” (Feyerabend's term) that lead to a contradiction when the …Read more
  •  172
    In this paper I try to sort out a tangle of issues regarding time, inertia, proper time and the so-called “clock hypothesis” raised by Harvey Brown's discussion of them in his recent book, Physical Relativity. I attempt to clarify the connection between time and inertia, as well as the deficiencies in Newton's “derivation” of Corollary 5, by giving a group theoretic treatment original with J.-P. Provost. This shows how both the Galilei and Lorentz transformations may be derived from the relativi…Read more
  •  170
  •  166
    In the transition to Einstein’s theory of Special Relativity (SR), certain concepts that had previously been thought to be univocal or absolute properties of systems turn out not to be. For instance, mass bifurcates into (i) the relativistically invariant proper mass m0, and (ii) the mass relative to an inertial frame in which it is moving at a speed v = βc, its relative mass m, whose quantity is a factor γ = (1 – β2) -1/2 times the proper mass, m = γm0.
  •  152
    In Minkowski spacetime, because of the relativity of simultaneity to the inertial frame chosen, there is no unique world-at-an-instant. Thus the classical view that there is a unique set of events existing now in a three dimensional space cannot be sustained. The two solutions most often advanced are that the four-dimensional structure of events and processes is alone real, and that becoming present is not an objective part of reality; and that present existence is not an absolute notion, but is…Read more
  •  145
    In contrast with some recent theories of infinitesimals as non-Archimedean entities, Leibniz’s mature interpretation was fully in accord with the Archimedean Axiom: infinitesimals are fictions, whose treatment as entities incomparably smaller than finite quantities is justifiable wholly in terms of variable finite quantities that can be taken as small as desired, i.e. syncategorematically. In this paper I explain this syncategorematic interpretation, and how Leibniz used it to justify the calcul…Read more
  •  138
    I am so in favor of the actual infinite that instead of admitting that Nature abhors it, as is commonly said, I hold that Nature makes frequent use of it everywhere, in order to show more effectively the perfections of its Author. Thus I believe that there is no part of matter which is not, I do not say divisible, but actually divided; and consequently the least particle ought to be considered as a world full of an infinity of different creatures.
  •  131
    During the last hundred years the notion of time flow has been held in low esteem by philosophers of science. Since the metaphor depends heavily on the analogy with motion, criticisms of time flow have either attacked the analogy as poorly founded, or else argued by analogy from a “static” conception of motion. Thus (1) Bertrand Russell argued that just as motion can be conceived as existence at successive places at successive times without commitment to a state of motion at an instant, so durat…Read more
  •  129
    Before establishing his mature interpretation of infinitesimals as fictions, Gottfried Leibniz had advocated their existence as actually existing entities in the continuum. In this paper I trace the development of these early attempts, distinguishing three distinct phases in his interpretation of infinitesimals prior to his adopting a fictionalist interpretation: (i) (1669) the continuum consists of assignable points separated by unassignable gaps; (ii) (1670-71) the continuum is composed of an …Read more
  •  129
    This paper consists in a study of Leibniz’s argument for the infinite plurality of substances, versions of which recur throughout his mature corpus. It goes roughly as follows: since every body is actually divided into further bodies, it is therefore not a unity but an infinite aggregate; the reality of an aggregate, however, reduces to the reality of the unities it presupposes; the reality of body, therefore, entails an actual infinity of constituent unities everywhere in it. I argue that this …Read more
  •  128
    Leibniz’s Theory of Space
    Foundations of Science 18 (3): 499-528. 2013.
    In this paper I offer a fresh interpretation of Leibniz’s theory of space, in which I explain the connection of his relational theory to both his mathematical theory of analysis situs and his theory of substance. I argue that the elements of his mature theory are not bare bodies (as on a standard relationalist view) nor bare points (as on an absolutist view), but situations. Regarded as an accident of an individual body, a situation is the complex of its angles and distances to other co-existing…Read more
  •  112
    Beeckman, Descartes and the force of motion
    Journal of the History of Philosophy 45 (1): 1-28. 2007.
    In this reassessment of Descartes' debt to his mentor Isaac Beeckman, I argue that they share the same basic conception of motion: the force of a body's motion—understood as the force of persisting in that motion, shorn of any connotations of internal cause—is conserved through God's direct action, is proportional to the speed and magnitude of the body, and is gained or lost only through collisions. I contend that this constitutes a fully coherent ontology of motion, original with Beeckman and c…Read more
  •  101
    Newton's fluxions and equably flowing time
    Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 26 (2): 323-351. 1995.
  •  99
    Gottfried Leibniz is well known for his claim to have “rehabilitated” the substantial forms of scholastic philosophy, forging a reconciliation of the New Philosophy of Descartes, Mersenne and Gassendi with Aristotelian metaphysics (in his so-called Discourse on Metaphysics, 1686). Much less celebrated is the fact that fifty years earlier (in his Hypomnemata Physica, 1636) the Bratislavan physician and natural philosopher Daniel Sennert had already argued for the indispensability to atomism of (s…Read more
  •  99
    Leibniz’s Body Realism: Two Interpretations
    The Leibniz Review 16 1-42. 2006.
    In this paper we argue for the robustness of Leibniz's commitment to the reality (but not substantiality) of body. We claim that a number of his most important metaphysical doctrines — among them, psychophysical parallelism, the harmony between efficient and final causes, the connection of all things, and the argument for the plurality of substances stemming from his solution to the continuum problem— make no sense if he is interpreted as giving an eliminative reduction of bodies to perceptions.
  •  69
    In this paper I attempt to trace the development of Gottfried Leibniz’s early thought on the status of the actually infinitely small in relation to the continuum. I argue that before he arrived at his mature interpretation of infinitesimals as fictions, he had advocated their existence as actually existing entities in the continuum. From among his early attempts on the continuum problem I distinguish four distinct phases in his interpretation of infinitesimals: (i) (1669) the continuum consists …Read more
  •  65
    In a recent note in this review (Leibniz e gli Zenonisti, n. 3, 2001, pp. 15-22) Paolo Rossi stresses the importance of a philosophical sect that he claims has been unjustly ignored in accounts of the history of modern philosophy, the Jesuit philosophers of Louvain and Spain of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century known as the Zenonists. The occasion for his complaint is Massimo Mugnai’s admirable new introduction to Leibniz’s thought (Introduzione alla filosofia di Leibniz, Torino, …Read more
  •  62
    Reductio arguments are notoriously inconclusive, a fact which no doubt contributes to their great fecundity. For once a contradiction has been proved, it is open to interpretation which premise should be given up. Indeed, it is often a matter of great creativity to identify what can be consistently given up. A case in point is a traditional paradox of the infinite provided by Galileo Galilei in his Two New Sciences, which has since come to be known as Galileo’s Paradox. It concerns the set of al…Read more
  •  61
    In last year’s Review Gregory Brown took issue with Laurence Carlin’s interpretation of Leibniz’s argument as to why there could be no world soul. Carlin’s contention, in Brown’s words, is that Leibniz denies a soul to the world but not to bodies on the grounds that “while both the world and [an] aggregate of limited spatial extent are infinite in multitude, the former, but not the latter, is infinite in respect of magnitude and hence cannot be considered a whole”. Brown casts doubt on this inte…Read more
  •  53
    Leibniz: Body, Substance, Monad
    British Journal for the History of Philosophy 18 (4): 721-724. 2010.
    This Article does not have an abstract
  •  52
    Leibniz on Continuity
    PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1986. 1986.
    In this paper I attempt to throw new light on Leibniz's apparently conflicting remarks concerning the continuity of matter. He says that matter is "discrete" yet "actually divided to infinity" and (thus dense), and moreover that it fills (continuous) space. I defend Leibniz from the charge of inconsistency by examining the historical development of his views on continuity in their physical and mathematical context, and also by pointing up the striking similarities of his construal of continuity …Read more
  •  48
    Massimo Mugnai and the Study of Leibniz
    The Leibniz Review 23 1-5. 2013.
    This essay is an appreciation of Massimo Mugnai’s many contributions to Leibniz scholarship, as well as to the history of logic and history of philosophy more generally.