Blanchard W. Means Memorial Lecture: Leibniz, Substance, and the Explanatory Demand by Michael Della Rocca

Friday, March 28, 2014
4:30 PM - 6:00 PM
Mather Hall Rittenberg Lounge
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Marjorie R. Harter

The notion of a substance or a thing is central to philosophy, and metaphysicians have long recognized a need to give an account of what it is to be a substance.   In this paper, I explore the attempts by Aristotle, Descartes, and -- in most detail -- Leibniz to meet this explanatory demand, and I show how these attempts are all unsuccessful.  I then argue that such failure is inevitable as long as philosophers embrace a seemingly harmless assumption common to the accounts of Aristotle, Descartes, and Leibniz.  The paper closes by examining the exciting and unsettling implications of giving up this natural
Michael Della Rocca is Andrew Downey Orrick Professor of Philosophy at Yale University where he has taught since 1991.  He received his PhD from the University of California at Berkeley.  He is the author of two books on Spinoza -- Representation and the Mind-Body Problem in Spinoza and the volume on Spinoza in the Routledge series on the great philosophers.  In addition, he is the author of numerous articles on early modern philosophy more generally and on contemporary metaphysics.


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