LEIBNIZ

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

In his own words…and in mine!

When several predicates are attributed to a single subject and this subject is attributed to no other, it is called an individual substance (monad).

Monads must have…qualities, otherwise they would not even be beings…there would be no way of perceiving any change in things…and they would be indiscernible from one another.

There must be a plurality of properties and relations in the simple substance, although it has no parts…It is also necessary that each monad be different from each other.

Change is continual in each thing…the monad’s natural changes come from an internal principle, since no external cause can influence it internally.

There is no external cause acting on us other than God alone, and he alone communicates himself to us immediately in virtue of our continual dependence.

Universe consists entirely of monads, a virtual infinity of created monads and one uncreated monad, God. Though monads are simple substances and have no parts, they nonetheless have ‘a plurality of properties and relations’ and they are continually in a process of change.

No two monads are the same; if they were the same, they would be just one monad. Therefore, each monad is necessarily unique.

 God has power…knowledge…and finally will…and these correspond to what, in created monads, is the subject…the perceptive faculty and the appetitive faculty.

The passing state which involves and represents a multitude in the unity…is nothing other than what one calls perception…The action of the internal principle which brings about change…can be called appetition…this is all one can find in the simple substance (monad) – that is, perceptions and their changes.

Like God, created monads have three aspects. First, they are their own subjects (power); second, they are constituted by their perceptions of essences (knowledge); third, they become what they become by virtue of their desires (will).

Souls act according to the laws of final causes, through appetitions. Bodies act according to the laws of efficient causes (through perceptions). And these two kingdoms, that of efficient causes and that of final causes, are in harmony with each other…According to this system, bodies act as if there were no souls…and souls act as if there were no bodies; and both act as if each influenced the other.

The same monad can be described equally well in any one of three ways: solely in terms of its perceptions, or solely in terms of its appetitions, or as if its perceptions and its appetitions influenced one another. All three descriptions are exhaustive and ultimately identical. We shall untangle this riddle later. But first, we must hear more from Herr Leibniz.

Since something rather than nothing exists, there is a certain urge for existence or (so to speak) a straining toward existence in possible things or in possibility or in essence itself; in a word, essence in and of itself strives for existence.

We also see that every substance has a perfect spontaneity (which becomes freedom in intelligent substances)…Monads…have in themselves a certain…sufficiency (autarkeia) that makes them the sources of their internal actions…

Universe is characterized by what the 20th Century British philosopher, Alfred North Whitehead, called “creativity”…a primal urge to be (which is also the urge to be unique). Out of that urge, subjects (monads) naturally emerge and these subjects are characterized by ‘spontaneity’ (freedom) and ‘sufficiency’ (identity).

One can even say that God…is the originator of existences; otherwise, if he lacked the will to choose the best, there would be no reason for a possible thing to exist in preference to others.

God is not only the source of existences, but also of essences insofar as they are real, that is, or the source of that which is real in possibility…Without him there would be nothing real in possibles, and not only would nothing exist, but also nothing would be possible.

 For if there is reality in essences or possibles, or indeed, in eternal truths, this reality must be grounded in something existent and actual, and consequently, it must be grounded in the existence of a necessary being, in whom essence involves existence, that is, in whom possible being is sufficient for actual being.

The ultimate reason for the reality of both essences and existences lies in one thing, which must of necessity be greater than the world…through it not only existing things, which make up the world, but also possibles have their reality.

“Essence in and of itself strives for existence.” In God, essence is existence. Therefore, God is the one perfect being. Without God, subjects (monads) would not exist; neither existence (subject) nor essence (predicate) would be real.

Essences by themselves are mere ideas; they do not become real possibles until they participate in a real entity. Therefore, if there is a world, and there seems to be, then there must necessarily be a real entity (God), logically prior to that world, in whom all real essences participate.

By the same token, no entity (not even God) can exist unless there are real essences (values) according to which one entity can come to exist in preference to another entity. Otherwise, the existence of all theoretically possible entities would be equally probable…which means that the existence of any actual entity would be impossible.

God is the ordering of all essences and all possibles according to their values. Therefore, God is the source of the real essences that make his own existence possible just as it is his existence that gives reality to those same essences. How can this be? Only if in God, existence and essence logically coincide; only if in God they are one. Therefore, God is the Being whose essence entails his existence and whose existence (perfection) entails his essence.

Beyond the world, that is, beyond the collection of finite things, there is some One Being who rules…for we cannot find in any of the individual things, or even in the entire collection and series of things, a sufficient reason why they exist.

We will never find…a complete explanation (ratio) for why, indeed, there is any world at all, and why it is the way it is…Therefore, the reasons for the world lie hidden in something extramundane, different from the chain of states, or from the series of things, the collection of which constitutes the world.

It must be the case that the sufficient or ultimate reason is outside the sequence or series of this multiplicity of contingencies.

 There are contingent beings, which can only have their final or sufficient reason in the necessary being, a being that has the reason for its existence in itself.

Divine nature needs only its possibility of essence in order actually to exist…it is a simple consequence of its possible existence.

 God is an absolutely perfect being.

We say that God is ‘causa sui’. In other words, the essences that become real possibles through God also ensure that God exists. And they ensure that God is ‘sumum bonum’ since real essences determine what exists in preference to what does not exist and God is defined by the real essences that characterize his being. Therefore, God who exists primordially and eternally must exist in preference to any other possible entity and therefore God must be ‘an absolutely perfect being’.

The excellence of God’s works can be recognized by considering them in themselves…it is by considering his works that we discover the creator…Thus when we see some good effect or perfection occurring or ensuing from God’s works, we can say with certainty that God had proposed it.

God is the solution to the “Problem of Good”: how is it that anything good exists? Why aren’t all things morally or aesthetically neutral…or worse? The answer is God. When we see Good, we see God.

Thus God alone is the primitive unity or the first simple substance; all created or derivative monads are products, and generated so to speak, by continual fulgurations of the divinity.

Every substance bears in some way the character of God’s infinite wisdom and omnipotence and imitates him as much as it is capable. For it expresses, however confusedly, everything that happens in universe, whether past, present or future…

Every effect expresses its cause and thus the essence of our soul is a certain expression, imitation or image of the divine essence, thought, and will, and of all the ideas comprised in it. It can then be said that God is our immediate external object and that we see all things by him.
We come to be solely in relation to God and it is through God that we come to relate to everything else.

Yet we think immediately through our own ideas and not through those of God…it is inconceivable that I think through the ideas of others.

It also follows that creatures derive their perfections from God’s influence, but that they derive their imperfections from their own nature.

The urge to be is both an urge to imitate God and an urge to be unique. Therefore, every created monad reflects in part, but only in part, God’s essence. (If a created monad imitated God perfectly, then it would be God and not a created monad.) Therefore, we can be certain that every created monad imitates God imperfectly. (This is akin to the doctrine of ‘The Fall’ or ‘Original Sin’.)

The Gospel of Mark (7: 22-23) quotes Jesus saying something quite similar: “From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile.”

Created substances depend upon God who preserves them and who even produces them continually by a kind of emanation…he views all the faces of the world in all ways possible…The result of each view of the universe, as seen from a certain position, is a substance which expresses the universe in conformity with this view…

Because of the infinite multitude of simple substances, there are, as it were, just as many different universes, which are, nevertheless, only perspectives on a single one, corresponding to the different points of view of each monad.

Every substance is like a complete world and like a mirror of God or of the whole universe, which each one expresses in its own way…Thus the universe is in some way multiplied as many times as there are substances…

There is one Universe and one God who perceives (or reflects) that Universe. God does not perceive Universe from a particular vantage or perspective; God reflects Universe wholly and simultaneously. God and Universe exist outside of space and time.

Space and time characterize the internal structure of Universe but not Universe itself just as ‘properties and relations’ characterize the internal structure of created monads but not the monads themselves.

In fact, Universe may be perceived internally from a virtually infinite number of space-time perspectives. Each such perspective, at least potentially, gives rise to a unique actual entity (monad).

Each such created monad perceives Universe from a specific vantage point which allows it in turn to be unique. But this begs a question: do created monads emerge in space-time…or is space-time an emergent property of created monads? It would seem that the limited perspective imposed on created monads might be ontologically substructural but it also appears that the expression of those perspectives as ‘space-time’ might be epiphenomenal.

Our soul expresses God, the universe, and all essences, as well as all existences…We have all these forms in our mind; we even have forms from all time, for the mind always expresses all its future thoughts and already thinks confusedly about everything it will ever think about distinctly.

And since every present state of a simple substance is a natural consequence of its preceding state, the present is pregnant with the future.

The notion of an individual substance includes once and for all everything that can ever happen to it…If I were capable of considering distinctly everything that happens or appears to me at this time, I could see in it everything that ever will happen or appear to me. This would never fail…provided there remained only God and me.

God exists outside of space-time and each monad is a reflection of God. Therefore, each monad by itself exists outside of space-time. Space-time is an emergent property of the multiplicity of monads.

Everything that is, was or will be, everything that might be or might have been (real possibles), is reflected in some way in each created monad. The perpetual change that characterizes all monads pre-exists in each monad…but only insofar as there is just the one created monad and God.

Each substance is like a world apart, independent of all other things, except for God; thus all our phenomena, that is, all the things that can ever happen to us, are only consequences of our being…And God alone…makes that which is particular to one of them public to all of them; otherwise, there would be no interconnection.

A substance, which is of infinite extension insofar as it expresses everything, becomes limited in proportion to its more or less perfect manner of expression. This, then, is how one can conceive that substances impede or limit each other and…act upon one another and…accommodate themselves to one another…

God alone brings about the connection and communication among substances and it is through him that the phenomena of any substance meet and agree with those of others and consequently there is reality in our perceptions.

Each monad relates to God and God alone. But God is also a medium through which the unique ‘properties and relations’ that characterize each monad are shared with every other monad. Therefore, each monad relates to every other monad, albeit only through God.

Each monad reflects everything that is real (above); but no monad (except God) expresses everything that is real with equal precision and clarity. Therefore, our picture of the world, in so far as it is derived from created monads, requires a contribution from each such monad. Once we have assembled all of those unique contributions, we will have reconstructed God’s perfect image (reflection) of Universe.

God alone operates on me…the other substances contribute only…because God…requires them to accommodate themselves to one another.

 The creature is said to act externally insofar as it is perfect and to be acted upon (patir) by another insofar as it is imperfect…but in simple substances the influence of one monad over another can only be ideal, and can only produce its effect through God’s intervention, when in the ideas of God a monad rightly demands that God take it into account in regulating the others from the beginning of things.

It is in this way that actions and passions among creatures are mutual. For God, comparing two simple substances, finds in each reasons to adjust the other to it.

This interconnection or accommodation of all created things to each other, and each to all the others, brings it about that each simple substance has relations that express all the others, and consequently, that each simple substance is a perpetual, living mirror of the universe.

Everybody is affected by everything that happens in the universe, to such an extent that he who sees all can read in each thing what happens everywhere, and even what has happened or what will happen, by observing in the present what is remote in time as well as space.

Our body receives the impression of all other bodies, since all the bodies of the universe are in sympathy.

“All things conspire,” said Hippocrates.

The unique contribution of every monad is essential, first because each monad reflects Universe from a unique vantage, and second because each monad undergoes a process through which its content is adjusted to the content of every other monad. Therefore, each monad is unique but each monad also templates in a unique way all other created monads. Ultimately, no two monads conflict, but every two monads contrast.

In the language of Quantum Mechanics, monads might be seen as universally ‘entangled’ (John Bell). Measuring one local quantum can immediately reveal information about another, remote quantum. Ultimately, this model of Universe is holographic. The whole is immanent in each of its parts (David Bohm) but with less and less definition as the ratio of the part to the whole grows smaller.

No substance perishes, although it can become completely different… Where there are no parts, neither extension, nor shape, nor divisibility is possible…there is no conceivable way in which a simple substance can perish naturally…there is no conceivable way a simple substance can begin naturally…they can only begin or end all at once, that is, they can only begin by creation and end by annihilation.

Minds…are to persist as long as the universe itself does, and they express the whole in a certain way and concentrate it in themselves, so that it might be said that they are parts that are wholes.

God had ordered everything in such a way that minds not only live always, which is certain, but also that they preserve their moral quality, so that the city does not lose a single person, just as the world does not lose any substance.

We may say that although all substances express the whole universe, nevertheless the other substances express the world rather than God while minds express God rather than the world.

Thus one can state that not only is the soul (mirror of an indestructible universe) indestructible, but so is the animal itself.

A mind cannot perish because it is, in a sense, the whole. This whole is reflected in God and reflects God and God is imperishable. Therefore, the whole must be imperishable, and so since the whole is imperishable, the minds that reflect the whole must also be imperishable.

Leibniz appears to make a distinction between mental monads (minds) and physical monads (bodies). Alfred North Whitehead (referenced earlier) takes a different approach: every actual entity has both a “mental pole” and a “physical pole”.

Now at last we are equipped to untangle our earlier riddle: “The same monad can be described equally well in any one of three ways: solely in terms of its perceptions, or solely in terms of its appetitions, or as if its perceptions and its appetitions influenced one another.”

How can this be so? First, each monad perceives essences that inhere in God primordially and existences (other monads) that are reflected in God. There is nothing else. Therefore, each monad perceives only God and the ‘properties and relations’ in God. Therefore, what each monad perceives is God.

Second, every monad aims to imitate God but in a unique way. The hunger to imitate focuses on God directly while the hunger to be unique focuses on the other monads, as they are reflected in God. The monad projects itself into the community of created monads in order to play a certain role vis-à-vis the other monads in that community.

God is both the primordial essences that define him and the created monads that are reflected in him; in God essence and existence are one. Therefore, a monad’s projection of itself into the community of monads, and its contribution of a contrast, is the same thing as that monad’s perception of those other monads along with God’s primordial essences. The monad’s contribution of a functional contrast is ontologically equivalent to the monad’s conformation to God’s values (essences). Projection of a contrast into the world is the objective expression of subjective conformation to God’s values.

In the New Testament, the Letter of James puts it this way: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows.” (Jas. 1: 27)

Further, the monad’s appetitions influence its perceptive selections just as much as the monad’s perceptions help form and define its appetitions. We can learn everything there is to know about a monad simply by focusing on the dialectic that occurs between those perceptions and those appetitions. Tracing their dance of mutual modification is equivalent to articulating either the perceptions or the appetitions completely.

Finally, we know that through God’s agency, monads are adjusted to other monads. Since a monad consists only of perceptions and appetitions, these adjustments must be reflected in those perceptions and appetitions…and nowhere else. Therefore, describing a monad in terms of the modifications it undergoes with respect to external monads is equivalent to describing the internal influence of perceptions and appetitions on one another.

The life of a monad is pretty amazing. On the one hand, it is a reflection of God and of Universe. It comes from God and returns to God. Yet it is spontaneous (free) and self-sufficient and thinks for itself. While it is in the perpetual process of change, everything it ever was, everything it might have been, everything it is, and everything it might become is present in it at all times. It exists eternally or at least co-extensively with Universe.

On the other hand, it is massively self-referential. Its perceptions, its objectives, its process of internal modification and its process of external modification all turn out to be are one and the same thing.

It turns out that there are two paths to God and, no surprise, they are ultimately equivalent. The essences that inhere in God and are primordially valued by God are God. The set of created monads, once completely harmonized with one another, also constitutes God.

 Alfred North Whitehead (above) owes much of his cosmology to Leibniz. According to Whitehead, God consists of a Primordial Nature (essences…and their valuations) and a Consequent Nature (existences…and their harmonized contrasts). In the end thought, there is but one God, understood conceptually through essences but physically through realized contrasts.

Remarkably, Leibniz discovered these principles 300 years before Whitehead!