Leibniz, Spinoza and an Alleged Dilemma for Rationalists


McDonough, Jeffrey K. “Leibniz, Spinoza and an Alleged Dilemma for Rationalists.” Ergo 2, no. 15 (2015): 367-392.


In a stimulating recent paper, “Violations of the Principle of Sufficient Reason (in Leibniz and Spinoza),” Michael Della Rocca argues that rationalists face a daunting dilemma: either abandon the Principle of Sufficient Reason or embrace a radical, Parmenidian-style monism. The present paper argues that neither historical nor contemporary rationalists need be afraid of Della Rocca’s dilemma. The second section reconstructs Della Rocca’s argument in five steps. The third section argues that Leibniz’s treatment of relations undermines one of those steps in particular and thus provides him—as well as contemporary rationalists—with a way out. The fourth section argues that a similar way out is available to Spinoza, and that it’s a better way out than either of the two options Della Rocca offers on Spinoza’s behalf. The essay concludes with an historically-minded suggestion for those eager to revitalize the once-again popular notion of grounding.

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Last updated on 07/15/2018