Leibniz on the Possibility of a Spatial Vacuum, the Connectedness Condition on Possible Worlds, and Miracles

  • Gregory BrownEmail author
Part of the The New Synthese Historical Library book series (SYNL, volume 75)


Contrary to at least one recent interpretation, I argue that Leibniz did not hold that void space is metaphysically impossible. However, I also argue that Leibniz seems to have held that any possible world, were it instantiated, would give rise to a well-founded plenum, that is, a phenomenal world in which all spaces are filled with well-founded bodies (founded, that is, on genuine substantial unities). Finally, based upon what I take to be his argument for the claim that no possible world would give rise to a phenomenal world with empty spaces were it instantiated, I argue that Leibniz seems to have been committed to the view that any possible world, were it instantiated, would be a mechanistic world, in which all phenomenal events that can be explained mechanically in terms of the nature of bodies and motion would in fact be brought about in that way, with the possible exception of events that would be required by the laws of grace. If this is correct, and if compossibility requires not only logical consistency but also spatiotemporal and causal connectedness, then a Leibnizian possible world, were it instantiated, would also have to be such that each of the substances in that world would represent itself and all the others as mechanically connected in a material plenum. For the very perceptions that a possible substance would have of a phenomenal world, the very possibility of its representing itself as causally connected to the other substances in its world were it instantiated, would depend, absent miracles, upon its having either an actually extended body or a well-founded phenomenal body in mechanical contact with all the other bodies in its phenomenal world. So in the final section of the paper, I argue that Leibniz’s claim, in his First Paper for Clarke, that “when God works miracles, he does not do it in order to supply the wants of nature, but those of grace” (GP.VII.352/HGA.12), is something that is true in every possible world.


Actual World Empty Space Phenomenal World Curvilinear Motion Imaginary Space 
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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of HoustonHoustonUSA

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