Gw leibniz philosophical essays

The principle of sufficient reason, in the eyes of Leibniz, supreme principle, very large and very noble. A mechanism that opposes the dynamism of Leibniz, that the universe is composed of monads, simple substances without parts, atoms and elements of the nature of things, dynamic spiritual realities, like souls.

Everywhere these spiritual principles are in action: they are characterized, in fact, not only by the perception of multiple representation in the unit, but also by the appetitive, tend to act in any monad. Every monad perceives the world and tends to perform an action. And this plurality of levels such that consciousness appears only as a degree and a passage. If the perception as such refers to a distinct perception and perceived by consciousness, perception without apperception or reflection is also possible. So when I walk beside the sea, a thousand little unconscious perceptions and too petty to be seized, and psychic contents that I do not know that I have not clear understanding, form the whole of my vision clear.

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Learn more - opens in a new window or tab. Why should PII follow from the complete individual concept account of substance? If we consider the CIC as that which allows us to pick out and individuate any individual substance from an infinity of substances, then we realize that, if the individual concepts of two substances, a and b , do not allow us or God to distinguish the one from the other, then their individual concepts are not complete. That is, there must always be a reason, found within the complete individual concept of substances and issuing from the free decree of God, that a is discernible from b.

And this fact points to another important fact about the interpretation suggested above: it is not only the case that each substance has a complete individual concept—the essence of the substance as it exists in the divine mind—but for every essence or complete individual concept there is one and only one substance in a world. The argument here is essentially that which was given above in the section describing the relation between PSR and PII; namely, what reason could God have had for instantiating two substances with identical CICs? Further, why should it be the case that substances can only arise naturally in God's creation of the world and end in his annihilation?

If one takes quite literally Leibniz's claim that the CIC contains within it all predicates true of the substance past, present, and future, then one might be able to say that this must include truths extending back to the creation and forward either infinitely or to the end of time. This argument might be somewhat weak in itself, but it certainly would seem to follow from Leibniz's logical notion of substance and one of the other consequences, namely, that each substance is a mirror of the entire universe. If this is the case, then a substance, insofar as it is a mirror of the entire universe, must have within its complete individual concept predicates that extend back to creation and forward in time.

At first glance, it is also not readily apparent merely from the CIC and doctrine of marks and traces why a substance cannot be constructed from two substances or be divided into two new substances. Let substance x have within its complete individual concept predicates g, h, i… which are true of it past, present and future. One might imagine that both new substances would have all of x 's pre-division predicates in common and unique predicates thereafter.

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But the relevant part of Leibniz's logical notion of substance is that the CIC is sufficiently rich to allow us or God to deduce from it all predicates past, present and future. Leibniz's implicit suggestion is that the pre-division predicates would not allow the logical deduction of branching or divided substances.

A similar argument works against the possibility of the fusion of two substances. Since substances can only naturally arise during God's creation of the world and since substances cannot undergo fusion or fission, it is obvious that the number of substances must remain constant.

Finally, if it is the case that it is of the nature of a substance to have a notion so complete that one can deduce from it all its predicates past, present, and future and if substances exist from the creation of the world, then it would seem relatively natural to conclude that each substance contains within it a kind of story of the entire universe from its own particular perspective.

While more will be said below, what Leibniz is suggesting here is a set of doctrines that he will develop in greater detail: the worlds apart doctrine, the mirroring or expression thesis , and the doctrine of universal harmony. Another notable consequence of the logical conception of substance is the denial of the causal interaction of finite substances. This is clearest in Primary Truths , where a very similar argument concerning the nature of substance is given. Not only is it the case, Leibniz claims, that genuine physical influx —the transfer of some property within one substance to a second property— is inexplicable, but more important the logical conception of substance shows us that the reasons for any property that a substance may have are already contained within its CIC.

In other words, every state of a substance is explained, grounded, or caused by its own notion or CIC. Of course, the ground or reason for the existence or actuality of any particular substance is to be found in God and his free choice of worlds. A more detailed account of Leibniz's views on causation is available in the entry Leibniz on Causation.

As we shall see below, the denial of the causal interaction of substances forms an essential premise of Leibniz's argument for pre-established harmony. That is, what kind of thing could have such a CIC or such a nature? Leibniz's answer to this question brings to the fore another paradigm of substancehood: unity. While it is the nature of an individual substance to have a CIC, only a genuine unity can qualify as a substance.

In later years, the Scholastic way of speaking fades away, but the fundamental idea remains the same: there must be something that guarantees or makes possible the unity of a substance, and this is the substantial form or the soul. The point Leibniz wants to make is that only a soul or a substantial form is the kind of thing that can be said to have or underlie a complete individual concept, for only a soul or substantial form is by its nature an imperishable unity. This thought underlies much of Leibniz's reflections on the nature of substance and has important consequences.

Leibniz is not as clear as one would like him to be, for at this point in his career it is possible to read him as seeing that something is a substance so long as it has a soul or a substantial form, whereas later in his career it seems more clearly to be the case that the only substances are souls or soul-like entities, the monads. In other words, Leibniz can be interpreted as advocating, at least in this period, a kind of Aristotelian hylomorphism, in which substances are composites of matter and form. This has been the subject of debate in the field, but this entry cannot adjudicate the matter.

For more on this dispute, see Look Nevertheless, in declaring that a substance is necessarily indivisible, Leibniz renders it impossible for a body , or matter alone, to be a substance. Thus, Cartesian corporeal substance , the essence of which is simply extension, cannot exist as substance. Put differently, Leibniz's argument is that nothing that is divisible is a substance; a Cartesian chunk of matter is divisible; therefore, a Cartesian chunk of matter is not a substance.

This points to the first part of Leibniz's critique of the Cartesianism mentioned above: namely, that according to Leibniz, Cartesian matter fails to have the unity required of a genuine substance. Indeed, in the Correspondence with Arnauld, Leibniz considers the case of a human body deprived of a soul and says the body, or cadaver, would not be a substance at all but merely an aggregate of substances.

Aggregates of simple substances, therefore, have a different ontological status from simple substances. The distinction between simple substances and aggregates becomes an important one in Leibniz's philosophy. Further, the bodies of natural philosophy, the bodies of the world we observe around us, would seem to be in some sense mere phenomena. While some scholars of Leibniz's thought have suggested this, it does not get at the full story of Leibniz's metaphysical system. The distinction that Leibniz draws is one between a real unity and a phenomenal unity, or as he also puts it, between a unum per se and a unum per aggregationem.

Leibniz's favorite comparison in the case of the latter is to a rainbow: bodies, for example, fail to have intrinsic unity, but we do represent them as being single and unified objects much as we represent a rainbow as being one thing when it is in fact merely the result of the refraction of light through innumerable water droplets. But just as the rainbow results from the presence of genuine unities, the water droplets to continue the metaphor, even if this is not true when speaking with Leibniz in metaphysical rigor , so do the bodies of the natural world result from the genuine simple substances.

Put differently, the simple substances ground the phenomena of bodies in the world. But insofar as the bodies of the natural world are well-founded phenomena — that is, insofar as they are grounded in the simple substances — they are not simply phenomena as in Berkeley's philosophy. This view is also not uncontroversial. To compare Leibniz with Berkeley, see the entry on Berkeley. The second part of Leibniz's critique of the Cartesian doctrine of corporeal substance relates to the notion of activity.

According to Leibniz, substances are not only essentially unities, but also active. First, Leibniz holds that this is so because he adheres to the classical and Scholastic idea that actions pertain to supposita ; that is, only something that can be the subject of predication can be active, and only true unities can be genuine subjects of predication and not mere phenomena. Put differently, Cartesian extended stuff cannot, insofar as it is infinitely divisible, constitute a suppositum , or subject of predication. But, second, Leibniz believes that something is active if and only if the source of its activity can arise within itself, that is, if and only if its activity arises spontaneously from within itself.

This is another reason, then, that individual substances will be understood as mind-like, for Leibniz believes that only minds or mind-like things can originate and alter their modifications. In saying that substances are essentially active, Leibniz means that they are endowed with forces. The idea here again sounds Aristotelian: a substance has a certain essentially active component, the soul or substantial form or first entelechy, and a passive component, primary matter.

One way to think of this is that each substance has a unique series of perceptions programmed by God to play in harmony with all other substances, and the internal tendency of a substance to move from perception to perception is its active force, or what Leibniz also calls appetite or appetition. While separate entries detail Leibniz's account of causation and his account of the mind, it will still be useful to provide a short exegesis of Leibniz's celebrated solution to the mind-body problem which Leibniz had inherited from Descartes and his followers.

The problem, briefly, is this: if mind is essentially thought and nothing else , and body is essentially extension, then how can mind and body interact or form a unity as we know from experience they must? Or how do thinking substance and extended substance unite in the substance of a human being?

Leibniz answers this question by, first, denying the possibility of the causal interaction of finite substances. In this way, Leibniz undermines Cartesian dualism because it takes as a premise the idea that mind-body interaction is to be explained by the influence of the one on the other via the pineal gland. In one of Leibniz's best-known metaphors, he asks his readers to imagine the mind and body as two pendula hanging from a beam.

Whence comes their agreement? One could imagine that the motion of the one is communicated through the wooden beam to the other, thus causing them eventually to swing harmoniously the theory of influx. Or one could imagine that God intervenes and moves the pendula, guaranteeing their synchronicity the theory of occasionalism.

Or, Leibniz says, one could imagine that God, the supreme artificer, created the world and the pendula so perfectly that, by their own natures, they would swing in perfect harmony. Naturally, it is this last thesis that Leibniz endorses and asks his readers to endorse as well. More precisely, Leibniz argues that God created the world so perfectly that each substance acts according to its own law of unfolding and is at the same time in perfect harmony with all others substances; further, that the mind has a distinct point of view of the world by virtue of its being the center of some mass body , and that the law of unfolding of the mind is in accord with the laws of the corporeal machine.

He puts this most succinctly in his essay, A New System of Nature , in which he effectively presents a five-step argument for pre-established harmony :. Now, when Leibniz speaks in metaphysical rigor, he denies the underlying premise of Cartesian dualism: body is not a substance; so there can be no question of how it qua substance interacts with or is related to the mind, or thinking substance.

Nevertheless, Leibniz was able to express his view for the vulgar — that is, for those expecting a Cartesian metaphysics — by saying that the mind and body can be said to form a union and interact insofar as the mind follows its laws, the body follows its laws, and they are in perfect harmony.

The body and soul are not united to each other in the sense that Descartes had suggested, but the perceptions and appetitions of the soul will arise spontaneously from its own stores and will correspond to the actions of the body as well as to the events of the world. In other words, while the perceptions and appetitions of the mind or soul will be independent of the body, they will nevertheless correspond precisely to the actions of the particular body to which it is attached and be in perfect conformity with all the other substances of the world.

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On Leibniz's view, to individual substances there belong only perceptions and appetitions, and these perceptions and appetitions can be understood to form a series within the individual substance. In other words, every individual substance can be thought to have a set of perceptions and appetitions such that one could say that, at any given time, a particular substance was experiencing such-and-such a perception and such-and-such an appetition. In fact, the position is more complex; for, as will be shown in a subsequent section, the mind has at any moment an infinity of petites perceptions within it, perceptions of everything that is occurring in the universe, but the human mind at least will be truly aware of one thing at a time.

For example, the reader of this article could be said to have a temporally-ordered series of perceptions — with t 1 corresponding to the first sentence, t 2 the second sentence, etc. Moreover, the series of perceptions and appetitions are generated from within the individual substance itself. That is, Leibniz speaks as if perceptions and appetitions follow naturally from prior perceptions and appetitions — and it is in this respect, after all, that a finite individual substance is causally independent from all other finite created substances. The crucial idea is that the body will follow its own laws, the mind its own laws, and there will be no true influence between the two.

The mind and body thus seem to constitute, as it were, worlds apart, as indeed Leibniz claims later when he explains the world in terms of monads, and these worlds apart are, according to Leibniz, unified solely by virtue of the correspondence of their actions and perceptions. Further, to these separate realms there will apply two distinct means of explaining the events of the world: we may explain things according to the final causes of the mind or according to the efficient causes of the body or of bodies in general.

Thus, not only do the mind and body each seem to follow a different set of laws, but the world, according to Leibniz, can be described in terms of either set of laws. Leibniz's account of the pre-established harmony of mind and body is part of a more general position in his metaphysics: the existence of parallel modes of explanation.

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As we saw above, Leibniz believes that the mind will act according to its laws and the body according to its laws and the two will be in harmony. But Leibniz also believes that the mind or soul operates for particular ends and that therefore its actions are explicable in terms of final causes , whereas the actions of the body, purely instances of matter in motion according to the claims of the mechanical philosophy, are to be explained in terms of efficient causes.

According to this system, bodies act as if there were no souls though this is impossible ; and souls act as if there were no bodies; and both act as if each influenced the other. Though Leibniz speaks here of the kingdoms of power and wisdom, the two-tiered explanatory approach — the phenomena of the natural world explained through efficient causes and the actions of the mind explained through final causes — leads to the distinction between what he more commonly calls the kingdom of nature and the kingdom of grace. Thus far we have seen that Leibniz rejected the Cartesian account of matter, according to which matter, the essence of which is extension, could be considered a substance.

Leibniz held instead that only beings endowed with true unity and capable of action can count as substances. The ultimate expression of Leibniz's view comes in his celebrated theory of monads, in which the only beings that will count as genuine substances and hence be considered real are mind-like simple substances endowed with perception and appetite.

What was said above concerning the unity and activity of simple substance should suffice to explain Leibniz's reasons for holding such a position. Now a fuller version of Leibniz's idealism must be presented. According to Leibniz, if the only genuinely real beings are mind-like simple substances, then bodies, motion, and everything else must result from or be derivative of those simple substances and their perceptual states.

For I show that corporeal mass [ massa ], which is thought to have something over and above simple substances, is not a substance, but a phenomenon resulting from simple substances, which alone have unity and absolute reality. But how so? When Leibniz argues that bodies are the results of monads and that matter itself is a phenomenon, he has something very specific in mind.

First, in Leibniz's system there is a special kind of order in the natural world corresponding to a hierarchy of monads. But, ultimately, the picture is even more complex than this, for each of the subordinate monads can be considered as having an organic machine attached to it, and this relation continues on to the infinitely small. Similarly, any seemingly inanimate chunk of matter — a stone or, yes, a drop of urine — will be the result of an infinity of monads and their organic bodies, which are nothing more than more monads and their organic bodies.

This view is associated with a panorganicist strand of Leibniz's thought. Second, there is what can best be described as a genuinely idealist strand of Leibniz's thought. That is, if idealism is the thesis that the only things that truly exist are minds and their ideas, then Leibniz clearly espouses this doctrine. Here the operative idea is that bodies, and in particular the bodies associated with particular minds, are intentional objects — though they result from or are grounded in monads.

Moreover, matter and motion are not substances or things as much as they are the phenomena of perceivers, the reality of which is situated in the harmony of the perceivers with themselves at different times and with other perceivers. Furthermore, the bodies of the natural world ought be considered intentional objects in that they are objects about which we have certain beliefs.

This is what Leibniz means in saying that they have reality insofar as there is a harmony between perceivers or between the same perceivers' beliefs or perceptions at different times. In other words, one's body or even a stone is real because it is an object of perception that fits into an account of the world that is both coherent from the point of view of the single perceiver and in harmony with the perceptions of other minds.

Leibniz's point, however, is that, while monads are not extended, they do have a situation insofar as they bear an ordered relation to other bodies through the body in which they are present or through the body to which they represent themselves as being attached. Leibniz's conception of such a perspectival universe has, however, a distinctively Platonist origin. Again, each mind-like simple substance represents itself as having a body and a position relative to other bodies, but in doing so each simple substance offers a perspective on the world for the divine mind.

This is a striking passage. Leibniz is telling us that each finite substance is the result of a different perspective that God can take of the universe and that each created substance is an emanation of God. The argument here can be expressed in several different ways.

First, since God could occupy any and all points of view of the universe, there must be a simple substance to represent the world from that perspective. And since the simple substance must have representations of its unique perspective, it must be a mind-like substance, a monad, capable of having perceptions. Second, and stronger, God's omniscience entails knowledge of the world from every perspective simultaneously, and the infinite perspectives of the world originating from God's nature simply are monads.

If the only things that truly exist are mind-like entities, monads, then the differences between them must be explicable in terms of mental features. Now, it was stated above that a central feature of Leibniz's account of substance was his claim that substances are endowed with active and passive forces.

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In his mature metaphysics, Leibniz expresses this view somewhat differently by saying that a substance is active insofar as it has distinct perceptions and passive insofar as it has confused perceptions. This chain goes down to the infinitely small, with monads having only very confused and inexact perceptions of the world. Since there is a hierarchy among monads within any animal, from the soul of a person down to the infinitely small monad, the relation of domination and subordination among monads is a crucial feature of both Leibniz's idealism and his panorganicism.

But the hierarchy of substances is not simply one of containment, in which one monad has an organic body which is the result of other monads, each of which has an organic body, and so on. What is it then that explains the relation of dominant and subordinate monads? As Leibniz tells Des Bosses, domination and subordination consists of degrees of perfection. Since monads are to be differentiated in terms of their perceptions, one natural reading would simply be that suggested in the paragraph above: monad x is dominant over monad y when x has clearer perceptions than y.

Monad x is dominant over monad y when x contains within it reasons for the actions of y. This is why the mind of an animal can be said to direct the actions of its body, and why, for example, there will be a hierarchy of functionality within any one animal. Thus, one's mind has clearer perceptions than those contained in the monads of its organic body, but it contains the reasons for everything that happens in one's body; one's liver contains the reasons for what happens in its cells; a cell contains the reasons for what happens in its mitochondria; and, according to Leibniz, this relation continues infinitely on down.

Leibniz's reflections on epistemological matters do not rival his reflections on logic, metaphysics, divine justice, and natural philosophy in terms of quantity. Nevertheless, he did think deeply about the possibility and nature of human knowledge, and his main doctrines will be presented here. In , Leibniz published a short treatise with the above title. It was his first mature publication and one to which he often referred in the course of his philosophical career. In it, Leibniz sets out a series of distinctions for human knowledge or cognition cognitio : knowledge is either obscure or clear; clear knowledge is either confused or distinct; distinct knowledge is either inadequate or adequate; and adequate knowledge is either symbolic or intuitive.

Now, according to Leibniz, clear knowledge means being able to recognize something that is represented to us, for example, a rose; and knowledge is both clear and distinct when one can enumerate marks sufficient to distinguish a rose from other things. When one can give such an enumeration, one possesses a distinct notion or concept and is thus able to give a nominal definition of the thing.

Further, if all the marks that form part of a distinct notion are themselves distinctly known, then the cognition is adequate. And, finally, if a notion is complex and we are able to consider all its component notions simultaneously, then our knowledge of it is intuitive. Ultimately, Leibniz holds that human beings have intuitive knowledge only of primary notions and propositions, whereas God, of course, has intuitive knowledge of all things.

Leibniz believes his distinctions also serve to show the difference between true and false ideas. On the one hand, we can know a priori that something is possible if we can resolve it into its component notions which are themselves possible and if we know that there is no incompatibility among those component notions.

On the other hand, we know a posteriori that something is possible merely through experience, for the actual existence of a thing is proof of its possibility.

While Leibniz's Principle of Contradiction and Principle of Sufficient Reason were discussed above, it was not mentioned that these two principles are employed in the service of Leibniz's distinction between truths of reasoning and truths of fact , that is, between necessary truths and contingent truths. Leibniz's account of modality is treated elsewhere, but a short account of this distinction is here required.

In the case of a truth of fact, on the other hand, its reason cannot be discovered through a finite process of analysis or resolution of notions. However, there must be a reason that some particular fact is so and not otherwise PSR , and, according to Leibniz, this reason is found outside the series of contingent things.

See below. Leibniz is often put in the camp of rationalists and opposed to the empiricists for example, Locke, Berkeley, and Hume. While there are good grounds to be unhappy with this standard textbook distinction, Leibniz does fit the bill in two important respects: he is a rationalist insofar as he holds to the Principle of Sufficient Reason, and he is a rationalist insofar as he accepts innate ideas and denies that the mind is at birth a tabula rasa or blank slate.

In terms of Leibniz's classical allegiances, it is interesting to see that in the realm of metaphysics, he often couched his philosophy in Aristotelian and Scholastic terms but that in the realm of epistemology, he was a fairly open Platonist — at least in terms of the existence of innate ideas. Indeed, in the opening passages of his New Essays on Human Understanding , his book-length commentary on Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding , Leibniz explicitly aligns himself with Plato on the fundamental question of the origin of ideas.

Leibniz has several straightforwardly metaphysical reasons for denying that the mind could be a tabula rasa. First, and most obvious, since there can be no genuine causal interaction among substances, then there could be no way that all our ideas could come from experience; indeed, no ideas could, strictly speaking, come from experience.

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Leibniz will, however, adopt a more liberal understanding of sense experience, so that this is not mooted tout court. But, second, and rarely remarked upon, Leibniz believes that the view that our minds are blank slates at birth violates the Principle of the Identity of Indiscernibles. In short, PII works against qualitatively identical physical atoms and against qualitatively identical because blank souls. Further, in one telling passage, he shows us the metaphysical underpinnings of the empiricist view that he finds so objectionable.

But how could experience and the senses provide the ideas? Does the soul have windows? Is it similar to writing-tablets, or like wax? Clearly, those who take this view of the soul are treating it as fundamentally corporeal. Throughout his career, Leibniz expresses no doubt that the human mind or soul is essentially immaterial, and Locke's skepticism about the nature of substance is fundamentally at odds with Leibniz's most deeply held philosophical commitments.

But, of course, the consequence of this is that Leibniz seeks to undermine Locke's position with respect to the origin and nature of ideas. That the mind, according to Leibniz, must be essentially immaterial has been shown above in the section on metaphysics.

But Leibniz does have a particular argument for the mind's immateriality or against its mechanism that concerns the nature of thought and ideas. This is his famous metaphor of a mill, which comes forth both in the New Essays and the Monadology. According to Leibniz, perceptions cannot be explained in mechanical or materialistic terms. Even if one were to create a machine to which one attributes thought and the presence of perceptions, inspection of the interior of this machine would not show the experience of thoughts or perceptions, only the motions of various parts.

But even when Leibniz accepts the common way of speaking — that is, as if the senses are causally responsible for some ideas — he has arguments against the empiricist claim that the senses are the origin of all ideas. According to Leibniz, while the empiricist position can explain the source of contingent truths, it cannot adequately explain the origin and character of necessary truths.

For the senses could never arrive at the universality of any necessary truth; they can, at best, provide us with the means of making a relatively strong induction. Rather, it is the understanding itself, Leibniz claims, which is the source of such truths and which guarantees their very necessity. While we are not aware of all our ideas at any time — a fact demonstrated by the function and role of memory — certain ideas or truths are in our minds as dispositions or tendencies. This is what is meant by an innate idea or an innate truth. On this subject, Leibniz uses a distinctive metaphor: a piece of marble has veins that indicate or are disposed to indicate shapes that a skillful sculptor can discover and exploit.

The hierarchy of monads mentioned above has a corollary in Leibniz's epistemology. Monads are more or less perfect depending upon the clarity of their perceptions, and a monad is dominant over another when the one contains reasons for what happens in the other. But some monads can also rise to the level of souls when, for example, they experience sensations , that is, when their perceptions are very distinct and accompanied by memory. This is a position occupied by animals. Furthermore, some souls are sometimes also in a position to engage in apperception , that is, to reflect on their inner states or perceptions.

There is a continuum here from God, angels, and human beings through animals to stones and the dull monads which underlie the muck and grime of the world; and this continuum is not solely to be understood in terms of the comparative clarity of the mind's perceptions but also in terms of the kinds of mental activity possible for a particular being.

Indeed, according to Leibniz, animals operate not as mere automata as they do in the Cartesian philosophy, but rather have fairly sophisticated mental faculties. And yet we are different from the beasts, Leibniz believes.