Force, Motion, and Leibniz’s Argument from Successiveness

Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie 103 (4):704-729 (2021)
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Abstract

This essay proposes a new interpretation of a central, and yet overlooked, argument Leibniz offers against Descartes’s power-free ontology of the corporeal world. Appealing to considerations about the successiveness of motion, Leibniz attempts to show that the reality of motion requires force. It is often assumed that the argument is driven by concerns inspired by Zeno. Against such a reading, this essay contends that Leibniz’s argument is instead best understood against the background of an Aristotelian view of the priority of real being over time. The essay also shows how this alternative interpretation can help to shed new light on the difference between Leibnizian forces and Aristotelian powers, as well as on Leibniz’s famous claim that accounting for force leads us beyond the mechanistic corporeal realm.

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Peter Myrdal
University of Oulu

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