Continuity or Discontinuity? Some Remarks on Leibniz’s Concepts of “Substantia Vivens” and “Organism”

  • A. M. Nunziante
Part of the The New Synthese Historical Library book series (SYNL, volume 67)


Antonio Nunziante tells us that the doctrine of natural machines, of organisms, and of composite substances assumes a marked consistency in Leibniz throughout his mature years. Thus for a full explanation of the conceptual content of Leibniz’s reflections on the nature of living substances we must turn to the “classic” places where it took form: to the letters to De Volder and Lady Masham, to the Nouveaux Essais, to the Animadversiones against Stahl, and to the Principes de la Nature et de la Grace and to the Monadologie. Nunziante asks: what connection is there between the proto-theory of living beings of the 1680s and that of the mature years? To approach the problem in reverse fashion: what elements of discontinuity suddenly break into Leibniz’s reflections from the second half of the 1690s, in contrast with the immediately preceding phases of his thought? Certainly, there are the monads. But Nunziante wishes to know whether it is possible to find certain finer-grained changes. After a decade of intense theoretical debate on the nature of corporeal substances, on organisms, on machines of nature, Nunziante wishes to sketch a historical picture that accounts in a coherent manner for the development of Leibniz’s thought.


Causal Action Composite Substance Marked Consistency Distinction Unum Historical Picture 
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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Università di PadovaPaduaItaly

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