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Leibniz and Clarke in Conflict: The Role of “Force” and the Nature of God’s Providence

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The intellectual background of the concept of force in the dispute between Leibniz and Clarke has not received enough scholarly attention. Vailati’s monograph, which is the most important study of the Leibniz-Clarke correspondence, focuses on a non-theological dimension in terms of the concept of force in this debate. Based on this perspective, Vailati’s conclusion is that Clarke’s understanding of force was totally different from that of Newton. However, the historical context shows that this is not the case. Clarke’s concept of motive force bore a strong resemblance to that of Newton, according to which force was an active principle that had been endowed upon matter at the beginning of God’s creation. Furthermore, the close link between force, matter and God’s providence had a long tradition of debate between Cartesian and Gassendian philosophers since early modern times. The different concepts of force dividing Cartesian and Gassendian philosophers were actually related to, and conditioned by, their underlying fundamental theological differences. The concept of force in the Leibniz-Clarke controversy, accordingly, could be regarded as along the lines of the earlier disputes between Cartesian and Gassendian philosophers.

Affiliations: 1: School of History, Classics and Archaeology, University of Edinburgh, Scotland EH1 2PE, UK blackbamboo1022@gmail.com

10.3868/s030-004-015-0021-4
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/content/journals/10.3868/s030-004-015-0021-4
2015-06-17
2017-11-22

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