Locke, Leibniz and the State Space

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Stephen Connelly


The chapter explores the relationship between Locke and Leibniz's account of space and how this impacts on their understanding of possibility, and particularly practical choices between possibilities within a modal space. Using Borges' short story 'Pierre Menard, author of the Quixote' it argues that Locke's acquiescence to absolute space severly restricts his account of the power to do things. Leibniz's retention of relative space permits a much richer account of possible, yet he binds these worlds together under a universal set of principles which are morally true in every possible world. He calls these morally impossible (prohibited), echoing the Scholastic language of repugnance. 'Menard' is employed to critique this resort to universality, before an alternative possible truth structure is sketched as a response to the 'self-evident' truths defended by Leibniz.

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How to Cite
Connelly, S. (2021). Locke, Leibniz and the State Space. McGill GLSA Research Series, 1(1), 1-18. https://doi.org/10.26443/glsars.v1i1.154


J-L Borges, ‘Pierre Menard, autor del Quixote,’ in Ficciones (Editorial Sur 1944).

Roland Barthes, ‘La Mort de l’auteur’ in Image-Music-Text (Fontana Press 1977)

Michel Foucault, ‘Qu’est-ce qu’un auteur?’ (lecture of 22 February 1969 translated as ‘What is an author?’ by Donald F. Bouchard and Sherry Simon, in Donald F. Bouchard ed. Language, Counter-Memory, Practice (Blackwell 1977)).

Étienne Balibar, Identity and Difference (Verso 2013).

Geoffrey Gorham & Edward Slowik, ‘Locke and Newton on Space and Time and their Sensible Measures’ in Z. Biener & E. Schliesser eds. Newton and Empiricism (OUP, 2014) 119-37.

Leibniz, New Essays on the Human Understanding, Peter Remnant & Jonathan Bennett eds. (CUP, 2003) II.xiv s.26, 154.

Aristotle, Meta. Lambda 7; cf. Plotinus Ennead V.1; cf. Aquinas Summa Theologiae Ia q.44 and also De Ente et Essentia.

Leibniz: A Contribution to the Archaeology of Power (Edinburgh UP 2021) 278-80 and generally.

Jean-Pascal Anfray, ‘Molina and Duns Scotus’ in Aichele & Kauffmann eds. A Companion to Luis de Molina (Brill 2014) 325-64.

Aquinas, De Potentia, Ennead II.5.

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Christophe Bouton, Time and Freedom (Northwestern UP 2014) 37.

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Nicolas Rescher, ‘Contingentia Mundi: Leibniz on the World’s Contingency’ (2001) 33(2) Studia Leibnitiana 145-62.

Connelly, Leibniz: A Contribution to the Archaeology of Power (Edinburgh UP 2021).

Reply 4 to Question XVI in Leibniz’s early Specimen Quaestionum Philosophicarum discussed in Connelly, Leibniz (2021) 245-6.

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‘Introduction’ to The Production of Space (Blackwell, 1991).

Alain Badiou, Being and Event, Oliver Feltham trans. (Continuum 2005) 335ff.