Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
In this thesis, I address the extent of Spinoza's influence on the development of Leibniz's response to the continuum problem, with particular emphasis on his relational philosophy of time and space. I expend the first chapter carefully reconstructing Spinoza's position on infinity and time. We see that Spinoza developed a threefold definition of infinity to explain the difference between active substance and its passive modes. Spinoza advances a syncategorematic interpretation of infinity, and founds a causal theory of time directly on this conception of infinity. In the second chapter, I examine the changes Leibniz's understanding of the continuum problem underwent during 1676 and immediately thereafter. During this period, Leibniz's interacted extensively with Spinoza's ideas. We see that several fundamental features of Leibniz's philosophy of time take shape at this time. Leibniz adopts a Spinozistic definition of divine eternity and immensity, he reevaluates several analogies in an attempt to understand how the attributes of a substance interrelate, and he develops the notion ofthe law of the series that will become an essential feature of monadic appetition. Leibniz synthesizes several of these discoveries into a first philosophy of motion. The new understanding of motion leads Leibniz to rehabilitate substantial forms in 1678. Leibniz maintains that Spinoza's substance monism can be refuted only if there is a principle of activity within every individual in the universe. He attacks Descartes' and the Occasionalists' philosophies as systems equivalent to Spinozism. While Spinoza's philosophy is far from the only reason that Leibniz invents monadic appetition, his Spinoza studies clarify an important aspect of this decision and inform several other concepts in his mature philosophy of time and space. The thesis makes two contributions to recent scholarship: first, it explains a difficult and essential aspect of Spinoza's philosophy; second, it improves our understanding of Leibniz's labyrinthine development.
Riesterer, Patrick, "Lost in the Labyrinth: Spinoza, Leibniz and the Continuum" (2006). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 5706.
McMaster University Library