The Echoes of the Mind (9-15) Gottfried von Leibniz

Gottfried von Leibniz

Substances, whether material or immaterial, cannot be conceived in their bare essence without any activity, activity being of the essence of substance in general. ~ Gottfried von Leibniz, anticipating quantum physics and energyism

German mathematician and philosopher Gottfried von Leibniz (1646–1716) is best known for developing infinitesimal calculus. Leibniz was also a prolific inventor of mechanical calculators.

Leibniz and Locke knew each other and were frequent correspondents. Leibniz greatly admired Locke’s Essay, but disagreed with Locke’s account of the mind.

Locke admitted that animals might mentally be empirics: blank tablets at birth, their minds scribed only by life experiences. But, anticipating the concept of inheritance, Leibniz thought the human mind at birth was like veined marble, with the veins representing the mind’s inborn dispositions which emerge with experience.

Leibniz’s mathematical orientation led him to accept Descartes’ mechanistic worldview while disregarding Descartes’ doctrine of the soul. Instead, Leibniz created his own system of souls.

Leibniz extended infinitesimal calculus into infinite atomism: every material object in the universe is potentially indivisible to infinity. It was Democritus’ atomism taken to a mathematical apogee, culminating in a stratified monism.

I do not conceive of any reality at all as without genuine unity. ~ Gottfried von Leibniz

In The Mondalogy (1714), Leibniz ascribed the ultimate unit of existence – the monad – as an energy-laden soul that is eternal, indecomposable, following its own laws, not interacting, yet each monad harmoniously reflecting the entire universe. Leibniz envisioned the universe as comprising a hierarchy of 4 different monads. The supreme monad is God: eternal, omniscient, and omnipotent, for whose purposes and perceptions all other monads are created.

At the apex of the finite monads were rational monads, corresponding to the conscious souls of human beings. Sentient monads are the souls of nonhuman organisms. All matter, both organic and inorganic, is made of simple monads.

Sentient monads presumably possessed the capacities for perception and memory but lacked the self-awareness and reasoning capacity of rational monads. Simple monads react to the world in a confused and unconscious way.

The aggregation of simple monads that comprised a living organism were dominated by that organism’s monad. All the finite monads are apperceived and under the control God, the supreme monad that created them all.

The ultimate reason of things must lie in a necessary substance, in which the differentiation of the changes only exists eminently as in their source; and this is what we call God. ~ Gottfried von Leibniz

Leibniz’s worldview was of an essentially organic universe with levels of purpose and awareness.

I do not believe that a world without evil, preferable to ours, is possible; otherwise it would have been preferred. ~ Gottfried von Leibniz