[FOM] The influence of Leibniz on Russell

Edwin Mares Edwin.Mares at vuw.ac.nz
Mon May 7 09:14:55 EDT 2007

Leibniz held the doctrine that relations are "ideal". Leibniz had a substance-accident metaphysics. Individual things are substances and their properties (accidents) inhere in them. Thus, in a move that seems odd to us, Leibniz takes relational properties as primary and relations as abstractions from them. He says:
"Thus, I hold, as regards relations, that paternity in David is one thing and filiation in Solomon is another, but the relation common to both is a mere mental thing, of which the modifications of singulars are the foundation." (quoted in Hide Ishigiro has argued in "Leibniz's Theory of the Ideality of Relations" (in Harry Frankfurt, ed., Leibniz: A Collection of Essays, Notre Dame, IN: Notre Dame University Press, 1976, pp 199f)

Relations may be mental constructs, in a sense, but the truth conditions for statements of relational form are real. 

Similar views were held by the mainstream in philosophy unti the turn of the 20th Century. The philosophical tradition that Russell rebelled against -- namely absolute idealism -- held that all realtions are internal to one big substance (the absolute). Thus, in a sense, they held that relations are all properties of a single thing. 

Russell took facts to be primitives in his theory. On his view, a relation's holding between two things makes up a complex entity: a fact. Other philosophers, such as Frege (and, perhaps Bolzano?) and Moore in his early work, held that there are true relational propositions, but their propositions were constructs of senses (in Frege's case) or concepts (in Moore's case). They aren't constituents of the physical world, but Russell's facts are. Thus Frege and Moore deny the doctrine of the ideality of relations, but not to the extent that Russell does. 

Ed Mares

-----Original Message-----
From: fom-bounces at cs.nyu.edu on behalf of John McCarthy
Sent: Sat 05/05/2007 07:51
To: fom at cs.nyu.edu
Subject: Re: [FOM] The influence of Leibniz on Russell
In Russell's book on Leibniz, he remarks on Leibniz's determined
rejection of predicates  with more than one  argument and considers it 
to be the major inadequacy of Leibniz's ideas.

Does anyone understand why Leibniz did that?
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