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The Leibniz-Clarke Correspondence: Together Wiith Extracts from Newton's Principia and Opticks (Philosophy Classics) Paperback – 1 Oct 1998


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Product details

  • Paperback: 260 pages
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press; New edition edition (1 Oct. 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0719006694
  • ISBN-13: 978-0719006692
  • Product Dimensions: 14.1 x 1.6 x 21.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 1.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 329,404 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Luis Garcia-Gonzalez on 28 Oct. 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Completely right
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Amazon.com: 2 reviews
Five Stars 6 Jan. 2015
By Mahan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A must read for connoisseurs of Western philosophy.
0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Relative versus absolute space 22 Jun. 2009
By Viktor Blasjo - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Leibniz's principal argument: that absolute space violates the principle of sufficient reason. "I say then, that if space was an absolute being, the would something happen for which it would be impossible that there should be a sufficient reason. Which is against my axiom. And I prove it thus. Space is something absolutely uniform; and, without the things placed in it, one point of space does not absolutely differ in any respect whatsoever from another point of space. Now from hence it follows, (supposing space to be something in itself, besides the order of bodies among themselves,) that 'tis impossible there should be any reason, why God, preserving the same situations of bodies among themselves, should have placed them in space after one certain particular manner, and not otherwise; why every thing was not placed the contrary way, for instance, by changing East into West. But if space is nothing else, but that order or relation; and is nothing at all without bodies, but the possibility of placing them; then those two states, the one such as it now is, the other supposed to be quite the contrary way, would not at all differ from one another. Their difference therefore is only to be found in our chimerical supposition of the reality of space in itself." (Leibniz, p. 26.)

The same argument turned against Leibniz, who transforms the objection into a confirmation. "This argument, if it was true, would prove that God neither has created, nor can possibly create any matter at all. For the perfect solid parts of all matter, if you take them of equal figure and dimension (which is always possible in supposition,) are exactly alike; and therefore it would be perfectly indifferent if they were transposed in place; and consequently it was impossible (according to this learned author's argument,) for God to place them in those places wherein he did actually place them at the creation, because he might as easily have transposed their situation." (Clarke, pp. 45-46). "But 'tis a manifest petitio principii to suppose that perfect likeness which, according to me, cannot be admitted. ... I infer from [my] principle, among other consequences, that there are not in nature two real, absolute beings, indiscernible from each other; because if there were, God and nature would act without reason, in ordering the one otherwise than the other; and that therefore God does not produce two pieces of matter perfectly equal and alike. ... And 'tis a great objection against indiscernibles, that no instance of them can be found." (Leibniz, pp. 61-62). The latter supported by anecdotal evidence: "An ingenious gentleman of my acquaintance, discoursing with me, in the presence of Her Electoral Highness the Princess Sophia, in the garden of Herrenhausen; thought he could find two leaves perfectly alike. The Princess defied him to do it, and he ran all over the garden a long time to look for some; but it was to no purpose." (Leibniz, p. 36).

Attempt to derive an absurdity from the relational theory of space. "If space was nothing but the order of all things coexisting; it would follow, that if God should remove in a straight line the whole material world entire, with any swiftness whatsoever; yet it would still always continue in the same place: and that nothing would receive any shock upon the most sudden stopping of that motion." (Clarke, p. 32). "To say that God can cause the whole universe to move forward in a right line, or in any other line, without making otherwise any alteration in it; is another chimerical supposition. For, two states indiscernible from each other, are the same state; and consequently, 'tis a change without any change." (Leibniz, p. 38). "Two places, though exactly alike, are not the same place. Nor is the motion or rest of the universe, the same state; any more than the motion or rest of a ship, is the same state, because a man shut up in the cabin cannot perceive whether the ship sails or not, so long as it moves uniformly. The motion of the ship, though the man perceives it not, is a real different state, and has real different effects; and, upon a sudden stop, it would have other real effects; and so likewise would an indiscernible motion of the universe." (Clarke, p. 48). "It is [not] sufficient [for Leibniz] barely to repeat his assertion, that the motion of a finite material universe would be nothing, and (for want of other bodies to compare it with) would produce no discoverable change: unless he could disprove the instance which I gave of a very great change that would happen; viz. that the parts would be sensibly shocked by a sudden acceleration, or stopping of the motion of the whole: to which instance, he has not attempted to give any answer." (Clarke, pp. 104-105). This is true, but I think the only reason that Leibniz did not answer the challenge is that he was to engrossed in theology to make a straightforward scientific point: when a ship stops suddenly "the parts would be sensibly shocked" but only because it is *the ship only* that is being stopped; in the case of the moved universe, *everything* is being stopped ex hypothesi, whence there would be no shocking of the parts.

Science, which Leibniz ignores, speaks for absolute space. "Sir Isaac Newton in his Mathematical Principles, (Definit. 8) ... shows the difference between real motion, or a body's being carried from one part of space to another; and relative motion, which is merely a change of the order or situations of bodies with respect to each other. This argument is a mathematical one; showing, from real effects, that there may be real motion where there is none relative; and relative motion where there is none real: and is not to be answered, by barely asserting the contrary." (Clarke, p. 48). This includes for example the bucket argument (pp. 157-158). "I find nothing in the Eight Definition of the Mathematical Principles of Nature, nor in the Scholium belonging to it, that proves, or can prove, the reality of space in itself. However, I grant there is a difference between an absolute true motion of a body, and a mere relative change of its situation with respect to another body. For when the immediate cause of the change is in the body, that body is truly in motion; and then the situation of other bodies, with respect to it, will be changed consequently, though the cause of that change be not in them. ... Thus I have left nothing unanswered, of what has been alleged for the absolute reality of space." (Leibniz, p. 74). How on earth these mysterious "causes" are supposed to account for the bucket experiment, for example, is never explained.
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