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From Pre-established Harmony to Physical Influx: Leibniz’s Reception in Eighteenth Century Germany

From Pre-established Harmony to Physical Influx: Leibniz’s Reception in Eighteenth Century Germany Cohesion, Division and Harmony: Physical Aspects of Leibniz's Continuum Problem (1671-1686) Richard Arth ur Middlebury College Leibniz often claimed that his struggles with the problem of the composi­ tion of the continuum and its solution were formative for his theory of substance. As has long been recognized, mathematical considerations­ especially his creation of the differential calculus and the work on the summation of infinite series-were highly relevant. But the role of physi­ cal considerations has been comparatively neglected, and it is this I want to address in this paper by discussing three topics from physics which appear to have been particularly important for Leibniz in formulating his solution: the problem of cohesion, the problem of "the solid and the liquid," and the implications of the relational nature of motion. Of course, if the composition of the continuum is understood as a purely mathematical problem, one may well wonder what bearing physical considerations could have on it. But for Leibniz and his contemporaries, the problem was not restricted to the composition of purely mathematical entities-such as whether a line is composed out of points or infinitesimals or neither-but was understood as applying to all existing quantities and their composition. In http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Perspectives on Science MIT Press

From Pre-established Harmony to Physical Influx: Leibniz’s Reception in Eighteenth Century Germany

Perspectives on Science , Volume 6 (1-2): 68 – Jan 5, 1998

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References (73)

Publisher
MIT Press
Copyright
©1998 by The University of Chicago. All reserved.
ISSN
1063-6145
eISSN
1530-9274
DOI
10.1162/posc_a_00547
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Cohesion, Division and Harmony: Physical Aspects of Leibniz's Continuum Problem (1671-1686) Richard Arth ur Middlebury College Leibniz often claimed that his struggles with the problem of the composi­ tion of the continuum and its solution were formative for his theory of substance. As has long been recognized, mathematical considerations­ especially his creation of the differential calculus and the work on the summation of infinite series-were highly relevant. But the role of physi­ cal considerations has been comparatively neglected, and it is this I want to address in this paper by discussing three topics from physics which appear to have been particularly important for Leibniz in formulating his solution: the problem of cohesion, the problem of "the solid and the liquid," and the implications of the relational nature of motion. Of course, if the composition of the continuum is understood as a purely mathematical problem, one may well wonder what bearing physical considerations could have on it. But for Leibniz and his contemporaries, the problem was not restricted to the composition of purely mathematical entities-such as whether a line is composed out of points or infinitesimals or neither-but was understood as applying to all existing quantities and their composition. In

Journal

Perspectives on ScienceMIT Press

Published: Jan 5, 1998

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