Leibniz's Formal Theory of Contingency


McDonough, Jeffrey K., and Zeynep Soysal. “Leibniz's Formal Theory of Contingency.” Edited by Katherine Dunlop and Samuel Levey. Logical Analysis and History of Philosophy (Forthcoming).
Penultimate draft403 KB


This essay argues that, with his much-maligned “infinite analysis” theory of contingency, Leibniz is, in fact, onto something deep and important -- a tangle of issues that wouldn’t be sorted out properly for centuries to come, and then only by some of the greatest minds of the twentieth century. The essay begins by placing Leibniz’s theory in its proper historical context and draws a distinction between Leibniz’s logical and meta-logical discoveries. It then argues that Leibniz’s logical insights make his “infinite analysis” theory of contingency, as it has been standardly interpreted, more rather than less perplexing. Finally, the essay argues that Leibniz’s meta-logical insights point the way towards a better appreciation of (what we should regard as) his formal theory of contingency and its correlative, his formal theory of necessity. 

Last updated on 02/19/2019