Debilissimae Entitates? Bisterfeld and Leibniz’s Ontology of Relations

The Leibniz Review 11:1-22 (2001)
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Over the past decades a number of scholars have identified Johann Heinrich Bisterfeld as one of the most decisive early influences on Leibniz. In particular, the impressive similarity between their conceptions of universal harmony has been stressed. Since the issue of relations is at the heart of both Bisterfeld and Leibniz’s doctrines of universal harmony, the extent of the similarity between their doctrines will depend, however, on Bisterfeld and Leibniz’s respective theories of relations, and especially on their ontologies of relations. This paper attempts to determine in more detail whether Bisterfeld’s ontology of relations contains at least the germ of the defining features of the ontology of relations later developed by Leibniz. It comes to the conclusion that, although Bisterfeld’s theory of relations is not as fully developed and explicit as that of Leibniz, it does contain all the key “ingredients” of it
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