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A discussion on how to formulate the question of contingency in Leibniz's system: a logical approach

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2008
Besler, Arman
The main objective of this study is to shed light on some difficulties involved in the formulation of the problem of contingency in Leibniz’s philosophical system. Leibniz’s mature philosophy is characterized by the solutions he proposes for this problem, and the ontological ideas underlying or assisting them. ‘The problem of contingency’ refers to the tension between his conceptual containment theory of truth and his claim that true existential propositions that is, propositions which concern actual individuals are all contingent. Though Leibniz does not seem to have one definite theory of contingency, two general lines of thought can nevertheless be discerned from his fragments on propositions and propositional truth. The first one is the infinite analysis theory, which is regarded in general as Leibniz’s real theory of contingency, and the other is a theory of necessity, providing a division between absolute and hypothetical modalities. This thesis is not a study on the question whether Leibniz did really manage to solve the problem, but rather an attempt to trace the problem to its logical and ontological origins, and redefine it under a relatively simple form. It is first shown that Leibniz’s theory of propositions relies heavily on his ontological conception of modalities, which covers the idea of a division between pure possibility and actuality; and then this idea is shown to be reflected on the logical level as a division between essential and existential truths. Finally it is argued that the two lines of thought and some peculiar characteristics of Leibniz’s conception of modalities bring us to the conclusion that his real problem is the (deliberate) inability of his propositional calculus to express the difference between truths of reason (essential truths) and truths of fact (existential truths) as a logical structural one.