Space, Imagination and the Cosmos in the Leibniz-Clarke Correspondence

  • Carla Rita PalmerinoEmail author
Part of the Studies in History and Philosophy of Science book series (AUST, volume 48)


The famous correspondence between Leibniz and Clarke deals with fundamental physical and metaphysical questions, such as the soul-body interaction, the freedom of will, the composition of matter, the possibility of a vacuum, miracles, gravity, and the nature of space and time. With respect to most of these issues the disagreement between Leibniz and Clarke results from their conflicting views on God’s role in the world. While Clarke blames Leibniz for turning God into a necessary agent, Leibniz accuses Clarke of having a wrong notion of God’s power and wisdom. The aim of this chapter is to show how theological, metaphysical and cosmological considerations shape Leibniz’ and Clarke’s respective theories of space. In his letters, Leibniz repeatedly invokes the Principle of Sufficient Reason and the Principle of the Identity of Indiscernibles in order to argue, against Newton and Clarke, that space cannot exist independently from, and prior to, physical bodies. Clarke, in turn, appeals to imaginary scenarios of medieval origin in order to show that the metaphysical principles that underlie Leibniz’s theory of space imply a limitation of God’s freedom. The chapter analyses in detail the role that imaginary scenarios play in the discussion concerning the ontological status of space, and attempts to provide a new interpretation of the function of the Principle of the Identity of Indiscernibles in the Correspondence.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for the History of Philosophy and ScienceRadboud UniversityNijmegenThe Netherlands

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