Bill asked:

I am not a philosopher or educated in philosophy, but I like to break what I observe around me down into common factors.

I have arrived at the tentative conclusion that everything is motion. It seems to me that while we are used to thinking of movement as being something that things do that the opposite is in fact true; things are something that motion does.

My question is, has any philosopher said something similar to this? I’d like that philosophers name and referred to writings on the subject.

Here are the questions that bring me to my conclusion. What exists that does not move? Does anything have an aspect or property about it that is not constituted by motion? Can any thing be distinguished from anything else except by means of motion? How is space conceivable apart from motion? How is time conceivable apart from motion?

Isn’t everything reducible to motion? And if so, wouldn’t that mean that every property or attribute which constitutes the nature of anything is nothing more then various velocities contrasted or interacting with one another?

Answer by Jürgen Lawrenz

There is such a philosopher. His name is Leibniz and his theory of the monads is fundamentally the explanation of the force which lies at the bottom of all reality. Simplifying his thought: It is nonsensical to suppose a ‘container’ (space) with nothing in it. Likewise it is impossible to speak sensibly of time without something happening. ‘A thing exists where and when it acts’. Accordingly all things (past, present and future) exist in two relationships to each other, namely their relative mutual succession and their relative mutual orientation. But this can only be discerned in terms of changing temporal and spatial arrangements, i.e. their motions. These motions are therefore the ultimate source of time and space. But the motions obviously imply some force, so it is a conception of universal (or residual) force we get from Leibniz.

The problem for you might now be that following up your idea with reading Leibniz is more difficult than with other philosophers. He did not write a book on the subject – in fact most of his philosophical writings are letters and essays, so that finding and compiling the relevant texts is a pretty taxing job. To date, no editor of Leibniz seems to have seen fit to collect them all in one publication.

So you have basically two ways to find your entry into this literature. Get yourself a fat book of his papers, e.g. Philosophical Papers and Letters, edited by Loemker; or Philosophical Writings, edited by Parkinson and find what you need. This is likely to be frustrating. The alternative is to read my comprehensive account of Leibniz’s theory. Check it out here.