A Logical Reconstruction of Leibniz’s Argument for His Complete Concept Conception of the Nature of Substance in Discours §8

In: History of Philosophy & Logical Analysis
Author: Ralf Busse 1
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  • 1 Department of Philosophy, Faculty of Philosophy and Philology, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Mainz

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Abstract

This paper develops a valid reconstruction in first-order predicate logic of Leibniz’s argument for his complete concept definition of substance in §8 of the Discours de Métaphysique. Following G. Rodriguez-Pereyra, it construes the argument as resting on two substantial premises, the “merely verbal” Aristotelian definition and Leibniz’s concept containment theory of truth, and it understands the resulting “real” definition as saying not that an entity is a substance iff its complete concept contains every predicate of that entity, but iff its complete concept contains every predicate of any subject to which that concept is truly attributable. An account is suggested of why Leibniz criticises the Aristotelian definition as merely nominal and how he takes his own definition to overcome this shortcoming: while on the Aristotelian basis the predication relation could generate endless chains, so that substances as endpoints of predication would be impossible, Leibniz’s definition reveals lowest species as such endpoints, which he therefore identifies with individual substances. Since duplicate lowest species make no sense, the Identity of Indiscernibles for substances follows. The reading suggests a Platonist interpretation according to which substances do not so much have but are individual essences, natures or forms.

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