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Justin Smith: What Is a World?

Counterfactuals, Possibility, and Science Fiction in Leibniz and his Contemporaries

Lecture by Justin Smith (Université Paris Diderot - Paris 7), organized by the Department of the History of Philosophy

In this talk I consider the ambiguities inherent in the early modern concept of 'world', and I argue that what exactly this term was taken to mean had significant and generally overlooked philosophical implications for philosophers active in the 17th century. Is a world a far-away region? Or is it somehow a causally self-contained reality that cannot be accessed from outside?

Or is it indeed not another reality at all, but rather a possible yet non-actual state of affairs? Having considered these different possibilities, I move on to examine the role that novels --books containing sequences of sentences that are known to be false, but nonetheless that are engaged with as if they were true-- played in the conceptualisation of possible worlds within 17th-century philosophy. I will focus in particular on the fictional work of Cervantes and Cyrano de Bergerac, and its influence on the philosophy of Descartes and Leibniz.

When & where?

Wednesday, 17 February, 3.15 - 5 pm
Faculty of Philosophy, room Omega

Last modified:06 June 2019 12.45 p.m.