Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Martin Schonfeld, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Martin Schonfeld, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Alexander Levine, Ph.D.


infinite, infinity, analysis, matter, form, individual, corporeal, incorporeal, specimen, labyrinth, continuum, combinatorial, phenomena


Leibniz’s early conception of individual substance ontology is one of the most puzzling, and fascinating, within the history of philosophy. It is the purpose of this paper to show that: 1) Leibniz did develop a coherent scheme that embodied his substance ontology, 2) the exposition of his early substance ontology is in A Specimen of the Discoveries of the Admirable Secrets of Nature in General, written in 1688 and, 3) the scheme is not sufficiently represented in the Discourse on Metaphysics.

Leibniz slowly developed a multifaceted view of substance within the twenty years previous to the writing of the Discourse. This view is comprised of the matter/form complex, the predicate-in-subject thesis and, the phenomenal characteristics of material interaction. These three facets can also be viewed as ontological, teleological/ epistemological, and phenomenological, respectively. These facets were developed concurrently and are interdependent. The understanding of any facet requires the understanding of all of them.

From the exploration of Leibniz’s development of substance ontology, one can understand his presentation of rational theology in the Discourse. Leibniz develops the ontology to account for the infinite nature of material division. The unification of material bodies requires explanation. Leibniz has the desire to create a method of deriving a priori knowledge of God, the universe, and humanity; he believes his substance ontology creates the firm basis needed to accomplish this task.

The Discourse on Metaphysics does not itself represent the complete scheme Leibniz developed. It shall be shown that A Specimen of the Discoveries of the Admirable Secrets of Nature in General, composed in 1688, is a definitive exposition of Leibniz's early substance ontology. The Discourse on Metaphysics can be viewed as an exposition of rational theology based upon the ontology Leibniz had developed.