Labyrinthus de Compositione Continui: The Origins of Leibniz's Solution to the Continuum Problem

Dissertation, The University of Chicago (1995)


The continuum problem is arguably one of the fundamental problems of the Western philosophical tradition. In the Greek tradition the centrality of issues surrounding the problem of how, or whether, a line is composed of points is demonstrated by the governing impact of the Zenonian paradoxes on the development of classical philosophy. For Leibniz, too, the continuum problem is the central problem of speculative philosophy, and its priority is only shared by the problem of freedom and determinism, which is the governing concern of practical philosophy. Yet although Leibniz devoted the entirety of the Theodicy to the latter problem, there is no corresponding extended treatment of the former problem, despite Leibniz' explicit declaration that it forms the cornerstone of his metaphysics. In this dissertation I offer a response to this state of affairs. I argue that to appreciate the role played by the continuum problem in Leibniz' philosophy it is best to approach Leibniz' philosophy developmentally, and for this reason I restrict my focus in the dissertation to Leibniz' earliest philosophical writings in order to conduct an exhaustive "archaeology" of the origins of Leibniz' approach to the continuum problem during the years 1666 to 1672

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