Can you tell who discussed the precondition of being?

Also, when I was at college, a long time ago, I remember studying only one (British, I think) philosopher tackling that issue, and he listed four properties among which there was elasticity.

Can someone tell me who it was and why should elasticity be a pre-requisite of being?

  • I recently read here a great argument against Solipsism.. which is that in order for anything to exist in any meaningful way, you must have 'time' Time, is the ultimate precondition.
    – Richard
    Sep 8, 2018 at 0:47

1 Answer 1


The only philosopher who comes to mind, not British of course, is Leibniz. Consider the following quotation from L.J. Russell :

Starting with the conviction that all in nature happens mechani- cally, he thought that you ought to be able to derive the laws of motion by deducing them from the notion of matter as what occupies space. The cohesion of bodies, he argued, could not be taken as an ultimate property of matter, nor could their weight, nor their resistance to being moved by other bodies which impinged on them, nor their elasticity. All these qualities must, he thought, be explained in terms of motion. The only quality bodies must have is that in virtue of occupying space, they prevent other bodies from occupying the same space as they do, at the same time. ( L.J. Russell, 'Leibniz's Philosophy of Science', Studia Leibnitiana, Bd. 8, H. 1 (1976), pp. 1-17 : 3.)

Note two points : (1) Leibniz lists four properties : cohesion, weight, resistance, and elasticity. Also (2) Leibniz is widely read in British philosophy courses. Admittedly the four properties are worked out in two treatises on motion which don't widely figure in British courses : Theoria Motus Abstracti and Theoria Motus Concreti (Russell : 3) But you might have read an anthology of Leibniz's writings or a lecturer could have introduced the material.

Can't be of more help than this, I'm afraid.

  • Thanks, where did you find that list? any suggestion on why elasticity is necessary? weight is odd too!
    – user157860
    Sep 6, 2018 at 10:41
  • 1
    @user157860. Hi : I was simply fortunate to have access to LJ Russell's article. Leibniz's point seems to be that the notion of matter is central. The laws of motion should be derivable from the nature of matter. None of the four properties can base the derivation because they are all themselves explicable in terms of motion. I agree that the four conditions make up an odd list (in this way rather like Aristotle's list of categories). I'm honestly uncertain what motivated Leibniz's adoption of these conditions.
    – Geoffrey Thomas
    Sep 6, 2018 at 12:25
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    You might get some help from Bertrand (not LJ) Russell's The Philosophy of Leibniz. I've just checked the index; elasticity and weight are listed and it's quite likely that the other two conditions are handled but not listed. Russell's book is outdated in many respects but is not without value by any means, particularly on the points that exercise you. Best - Geoffrey
    – Geoffrey Thomas
    Sep 6, 2018 at 12:29

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