A Sibling Rivalry, Triumph and Neglect: The Legacy of Leibniz’s Mechanics

Citation:

McDonough, Jeffrey K. “ A Sibling Rivalry, Triumph and Neglect: The Legacy of Leibniz’s Mechanics.” In Festschrift for George E. Smith, edited by Marius Stan, Eric Schliesser, and Chris Smeenk. Springer, Forthcoming.

Abstract:

This essay explores the legacy of Leibniz’s mechanics and the philosophical reasons for its neglect. The first section sets the stage by revisiting a particular problem – the problem of the Brachistochrone – that would prove pivotal in the development of Leibnizian mechanics. The second section lays out defining characteristics of Leibnizian mechanics and argues that – against all odds – it triumphed with the development of extremal principles and the rational mechanics of the eighteenth century. The third section argues that Leibniz’s extremal principles cannot be easily dismissed as being incomplete, unexplanatory, or causally and temporally “backwards.” The essay concludes that is no philosophical justification for the continued neglect of Leibnizian mechanics.