Leibniz and the Problem of Temporary Truths

The Leibniz Review 27:31-63 (2017)
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Not unlike many contemporary philosophers, Leibniz admitted the existence of temporary truths, true propositions that have not always been or will not always be true. In contrast with contemporary philosophers, though, Leibniz conceived of truth in terms of analytic containment: on his view, the truth of a predicative sentence consists in the analytic containment of the concept expressed by the predicate in the concept expressed by the subject. Given that analytic relations among concepts are eternal and unchanging, the problem arises of explaining how Leibniz reconciled one commitment with the other: how can truth be temporary, if concept-containment is not? This paper presents a new approach to this problem, based on the idea that a concept can be consistent at one time and inconsistent at another. It is argued that, given a proper understanding of what it is for a concept to be consistent, this idea is not as problematic as it may seem at first, and is in fact implied by Leibniz’s general views about propositions, in conjunction with the thesis that some propositions are only temporarily true.



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Giovanni Merlo
University of Geneva

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