Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Roger Ariew


Causation, Early Modern Philosophy, Leibniz


This commentary on article #19 of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz's Discourse on Metaphysics is for the purpose of promoting the understanding of Leibniz on the role of teleology in physics. Understanding Leibniz on final causes is crucial to understanding his overall natural philosophy. If one approaches Leibniz with a bias regarding either final causes or protestant Christian theology, such that they ignore these aspects of Leibniz, such a person is in danger of completly misunderstanding this philosopher. Leibniz is a mix of natural philosophy, mechanical physics, and protestant Christian theology. The rationale behind this study is to cause the student of philosophy to consider a somewhat ignored side of Leibniz which stems from his combination of two politically incorrect words in academics today, "intelligent" and "design". Both of these words are found in #19. Both of these terms are employed in concert with the Christian idea of God, a combination which is highly charged in academics today, and most politically incorrect. To address the political incorrectness of this combination of terms, however, is to engage in the understanding of what it mean to think and argue in seventeenth century Europe. To wrestle with these terms in article #19, therefore, is to wrestle with those positions which caused great tensions in early modern culture. The approach taken for this work is a line by line exposition of the text, unearthing the arguments involved and those philosophers who made them. Once into this particular text, article #19 turns out to be enormous in its scope of Leibnizian thought. Its subject matter mirrors the thinking of Leibniz, and is background material for other projects Leibniz was involved in at the time, such as the laws of motion in optics. The significance of this work to the discipline is that Leibniz, one of the most intellectually gifted men in human history, no less the co-discoverer of the calculus, argues that reality is an intelligent design created by a loving person who only wants to be loved by the creation in return. This puts him at odds with pure mechanists in his day, and it puts him at odds with many in philosophy today. For all those in philosophy who argue that there is no reason for reality existing, at least not as it does, Leibniz provides a very clear counter argument. Leibniz's point in #19 is that there is a place for end purposes in calculating the laws of nature, and that those who dismiss end purposes do so for insufficient reasons.