Modern Philosophy
Prize Winners

2016 Winner

Version 2

Julia Joráti, Ohio State University
Title: “Leibniz’s Ontology of Force”

The Marc Sanders Foundation wishes to congratulate Julia Joráti, winner of its inaugural prize in History of Early Modern Philosophy, for her paper “Leibniz’s Ontology of Force”.  The review panel, chaired by Steven Nadler  (Wisconsin), with Lisa Downing (Ohio), Susan James (Birkbeck), and Kenneth Winkler (Yale), unanimously selected Julia’s paper from a field of 70 quality submissions. Julia is an assistant professor of philosophy at Ohio State University. Her paper will be published in Oxford Studies in Early Modern Philosophy.


Leibniz portrays the most fundamental entities in his mature ontology in at least three different ways. In some places, he describes them as mind-like, immaterial substances that perceive and strive. Elsewhere, he presents them as hylomorphic compounds. In yet other passages, he characterizes them in terms of primitive and derivative forces. Interpreters often assume that the first description is the most accurate. In contrast, I will argue that the third characterization is more accurate than the other two. If that is correct, Leibniz’s monadological metaphysics is even more radical than it initially seems: his ontology is best understood not as a substance-mode ontology but as a force ontology. At the metaphysical ground floor, we do not find substances that possess force; instead, we just find forces. Interpreting Leibniz as a force ontologist has far-reaching consequences. For instance, it requires us to reconsider the status of time in Leibniz’s system and to revise our understanding of appetitions and perceptions.