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Observations placeholder

Leibniz - The Monadology - 01



Type of Spiritual Experience


Possibly Leibniz's best known contribution to metaphysics is his theory of monads, described in the  Monadologie. There is a direct correspondence between Leibniz’s monads and the Atoms – Plato’s atoms, the non physical atoms as described on this site.  At the time the description was written we had not seen Leibniz’s paper and thus it is a strange synchrony that has produced this correspondence.

Monads are the ultimate elements of the universe, but they are ‘software’ not ‘hardware’. Each monad is a complete universe in itself with all the functions of the universe within it and are thus as Leibniz said -  "substantial forms of being".  But each one has the functions appropriate to the aggregate it is describing turned on.  In effect it functionally represents the aggregate.

They are eternal, indecomposable, individual, subject to their own laws, and un-interacting – physically un-interacting, but they interact by virtue of their states – a form of software interaction.

Thus they are ‘centres of force’, meaning they are the means by which functions/activities get executed.

There is a before state, the function is executed [like a program] and an after state. 

The ontological essence of a monad is its irreducible simplicity. Unlike the physical atoms of physicists, monads possess no material or spatial – physical - character. They also differ from atoms by their complete mutual independence, so that interactions among monads are only apparent.

This is just like an object oriented computer system.  Leibniz even went so far as to say that each monad follows a preprogrammed set of "instructions" peculiar to itself, so that a monad "knows" what to do at each moment.

By virtue of these intrinsic instructions, each monad is like a little mirror of the universe. Monads need not be "small"; it depended on the aggregate being represented.  The aggregate that is a human being, fr example, with the functions of will, reason emotions etc [see the Model ] is a monad.

A description of the experience

THE MONADOLOGY - by Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz  - translated by Robert Latta

1. The Monad, of which we shall here speak, is nothing but a simple substance, which enters into compounds. By 'simple' is meant 'without parts.' (Theod. 10.)

2. And there must be simple substances, since there are compounds; for a compound is nothing but a collection or aggregatum of simple things.

3. Now where there are no parts, there can be neither extension nor form [figure] nor divisibility. These Monads are the real atoms of nature and, in a word, the elements of things.

4. No dissolution of these elements need be feared, and there is no conceivable way in which a simple substance can be destroyed by natural means. (Theod. 89.)

5. For the same reason there is no conceivable way in which a simple substance can come into being by natural means, since it cannot be formed by the combination of parts [composition].

6. Thus it may be said that a Monad can only come into being or come to an end all at once; that is to say, it can come into being only by creation and come to an end only by annihilation, while that which is compound comes into being or comes to an end by parts.

7. Further, there is no way of explaining how a Monad can be altered in quality or internally changed by any other created thing; since it is impossible to change the place of anything in it or to conceive in it any internal motion which could be produced, directed, increased or diminished therein, although all this is possible in the case of compounds, in which there are changes among the parts. The Monads have no windows, through which anything could come in or go out. Accidents cannot separate themselves from substances nor go about outside of them, as the 'sensible species' of the Scholastics used to do. Thus neither substance nor accident can come into a Monad from outside.

8. Yet the Monads must have some qualities, otherwise they would not even be existing things. And if simple substances did not differ in quality, there would be absolutely no means of perceiving any change in things. For what is in the compound can come only from the simple elements it contains, and the Monads, if they had no qualities, would be indistinguishable from one another, since they do not differ in quantity. Consequently, space being a plenum, each part of space would always receive, in any motion, exactly the equivalent of what it already had, and no one state of things would be discernible from another.

9. Indeed, each Monad must be different from every other. For in nature there are never two beings which are perfectly alike and in which it is not possible to find an internal difference, or at least a difference founded upon an intrinsic quality [denomination].

10. I assume also as admitted that every created being, and consequently the created Monad, is subject to change, and further that this change is continuous in each.

11. It follows from what has just been said, that the natural changes of the Monads come from an internal principle, since an external cause can have no influence upon their inner being. (Theod. 396, 400.)

12. But, besides the principle of the change, there must be a particular series of changes [un detail de ce qui change], which constitutes, so to speak, the specific nature and variety of the simple substances.

13. This particular series of changes should involve a multiplicity in the unit [unite] or in that which is simple. For, as every natural change takes place gradually, something changes and something remains unchanged; and consequently a simple substance must be affected and related in many ways, although it has no parts.

The source of the experience

Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm von

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