The philosophers of the 17th century had inherited from the scholastics a concept of substance which required reformulation if it were to fit into the world scheme of Newtonian Science, which had constructed or described the universe in terms of a set of mathematical principles.  These principles applied to every material particle in the universe, regardless of its size, mass, motion, or position in space.  The problem with these principles was that they could not explain the source and nature of our experiences.
      The mechanical "world-scheme" and its processes are described solely in terms of particles of matter in motion, each particle determining the role of the others by sheer mechanical causation.  It would seem to be quite natural that philosophers holding these views would fit all their concepts into this underlying system and this would include concepts of society and governments.  Such an interpretation demanded a new understanding of man in his relation to the world and to his fellowman.  With the new science, man was to be described in terms of the world.  And it was the self-appointed task of Hobbes and Locke to relate man to Newton's new mechanical-driven world now that it had been renovated with concepts, like mass, energy, time, space, instead of the older concepts of substance, essence, form, and quality.
      These were the problems met by Spinoza and Leibniz in the philosophical systems of their times.  Once the basic assumptions of how substance is going to be defined is granted, Descartes dualistic difficulty is successfully resolved, and we have nature back with us as she always was.  But, we may ask, on what basis could such assumptions be justified?  If Descartes' innate and apriori ideas are denied, as Locke and the later empiricists insisted they should be, then much as we might have, in Spinoza and Leibniz, a resolution of Decartes' dualism problem, we cannot be sure it is the true solution.  Their concepts of substance and pre-established harmony (respectively) fit nicely into their systems.  But, if we should deny the validity of these basic concepts and should subject them first to empirical as well as rational tests, we should find that their systems were not altogether, if at all, on firm ground.  Experience and reasoning are the only valid criteria to be used in discovering the nature of reality -- if any claim to knowledge of reality is itself a valid one.
      Even though the Monad is considered the least important concept in Leibniz's philosophy, it is very important to his system.  For that reason, it is worth examining its relation and significance to the problems that Leibniz felt Spinoza and Descartes to have left unsolved.
      In any event, this trio, the continental titans of reason, was reared in an atmosphere and environment of mathematics and science.  It was a period when science was beginning to dig its way up through the pressures and repressions of the dogmas and authority of the organized church.  They could not help but be influenced by the sciences and mathematics in which they were all schooled.  To what extent they were influenced is shown in the systems of philosophy each developed.
      The introduction of the Monad, as Leibniz conceived it, is a direct result of his disagreement with Descartes and Spinoza.  Their concepts of reality, he thought, held several glaring weaknesses.
      Leibniz could not agree with Spinoza's contention that it is the nature of reality to exhibit itself as it does, i.e., in a sequential order.  He contended that this did not answer the question of what nature is.  Moreover Spinoza contributed nothing to the solution of the mind-body problem that was raised by Descartes.  Descartes, himself, failed to solve it too, having founded his philosophy so much on his rejection of mechanical causation.
      Master that he was, he might have been more if he had had the courage to stand by his method of reason wherever it might have led him.  He did not want to incur the wrath of the clergy and declared he would change his own ideas rather than try to change the world. (1)  Of necessity, he exercised caution which, I feel, created a drag on his philosophic thinking.
      But I shall refrain from further criticism for the moment until we have some idea of what it is to be levied at.  Therefore, it is necessary that we examine some of the fundamental disagreements he had with Descartes and Spinoza.

Rene Descartes

      Descartes's dualism, was inherent in nature, itself, raising the difficult problem of finding just where and how the extended and thinking substances are related.  It is obvious that they are.  Otherwise, why should the world operate so harmoniously?  Why, when we experience one object hitting another, is the formula that expresses that phenomenon being exemplified?
      Descartes, rejecting completely the principles of empiricism as a method of understanding nature, (2) attempted to deduce the structure of the universe through reason.   But, with the inception of the concepts of substance, thought, space, and infinity, he slighted reason in favor of apriori "knowledge."  He did not really dispense with reason, however, for he contended that knowledge was given by clear vision of the intellect. (3)  This "clear" vision was possible because the mind possessed certain innate ideas.
      On the basis of an implied assumption that the mind knows its own processes, i.e., that he knows the mind thinks, Descartes arrived at his famous dictum, "I think, hence, I am." (4)  Despite the hidden circularity of his statement, he never doubted this for a moment.  Man, being a rational animal, can come to know this intelligible structure through the intellect that possesses two functional logical distinctions: active and passive.  This, of course led eventually to a dualism of mind and body for the mind knows its own processes better than it knows the objects it thinks about.  It was a dualism he was never to solve--however assiduously he tried.
      When confronted with the problem, he attempted to solve it by first proving the existence of God, which he did to his own satisfaction, with a version of St. Anselm's Ontological proof, i.e., that God's perfection logically entails existence. (5)  Having proved, but not verified, the existence of God, he credited Him with having created the two "substances," thinking and extension, (6) out of which the universe, he contended, is constructed.  But God, Himself, is Pure Infinite Substance, and it is through God that matter receives its attribute of extension, and its attribute of thought, i.e., mind.  These are the only attributes, says Spinoza, later, that the human mind can know.
      Descartes, prone to the logic of mathematics, postulated two kinds of substances, separate and distinct from one another, because he was unable to account for what, later, Locke distinguished as primary and secondary qualities, i.e., the attributes of the physical world subject to geometric explanation.  Attributes of the extended substance, matter, were the primary qualities, with which the new science concerned itself.  Its character was of a geometric nature as opposed to our experiences, the content of consciousness, mind, i.e., colors, sounds, tastes, etc.  These he could not describe in quantitative terms.
      Underlying both of these substances is the One Perfect Substance, God, the explanatory principle for the apparent harmony existing between the extended and mental substances.
      However, Descartes insisted that the mind was wholly distinct from the body. (7)  It was only an apparent connective relationship because God, in his benevolence, synchronized the mental and bodily events.  This synchronization depends upon the constant intervention of God. (8)  Nothing can exist without it.(9)
      This was not a satisfactory answer for Descartes' dictum, "Je pense, donc je suis," by which, he though he had proved his own existence.  Not realizing it, at least initially, he implied an interaction of the substance doing the thinking, with the substance of his physical being.
      If Descartes were not to be found guilty of circular reasoning leading to a contradiction, he would have to have another answer.  He did.  Without recognizing the weakness of his argument, he declared that the soul rests in the pineal gland and functions as a catalyst directing the course of the movement of the blood through the body activating the muscles. (10)
      But how can the mind, i.e., functions of a physical brain, cause any physical action?  Evidence clearly shows that non-matter is absent of causal abilities.  Descartes never devised a credible answer.  But if he did not solve the question, he must receive credit for having motivated those who followed him to pursue it

Benedict Spinoza

      Spinoza could not accept Descartes' solution in which the two substances were related.  For Spinoza, the intelligibility of the world structure takes the form of a universal cosmic law, a mathematical and logical order.  The whole of nature is intelligible in itself and all intelligibility follows the order of nature.  Common to Spinoza and Leibniz is the Aristotelian concept that substance contains within itself, inseparately, form and matter, i.e., the idea that nature is, and that it is intelligible in terms of a unified logical structure.  That is to say, Spinoza translated Descartes' double concept of nature, mind, and extension, into the effort to avoid the dualism by combining in substance, itself, not only its material existence but the causes, forms, or intelligible structure as well.  Spinoza made the order of ideas coextensive with the order of nature.  Every extension has a correlative idea.  That is, extension and thought are two attributes of substance that has infinite attributes none of which can be known except the two mentioned.  Thus when Spinoza considers the world intelligible experientially and mathematically, he is positing two aspects or attributes in which the world, the one substance, can be known.
      As with Plato, Spinoza felt, so to speak, that it was the duty of a philosopher to re-descend into the cave and strive for earthly light, in much the same sense that Descartes started by doubting everything other than what was, to him, indisputably clear in his mind.
      Using Descartes as a point of departure, Spinoza took it upon himself to prove the rationality of the universe.  He saw that Descartes had left it in a state of extreme chance and irrationality.  Descartes left the universe in such a condition that there had to be an ever-present super-rational deity to keep it wound up and working in concert.  Spinoza as a consequence redefined substance as that which underlies the extension and thought of nature.
      Spinoza levied the charge against Descartes that his clear and distinct ideas were based upon a super-rational faith, and declared that faith is not the way to truth -- nor is presumed clarity of mind.  Despite Descartes' belief that God would not deceive him, it is conceivable that He might.  Spinoza felt that only reason could justify reason, and that the universe was inherently continuous and rational.  It was also the very nature of the mind to recognize this order.  Here, according to Leibniz, is one of the fundamental errors in Spinoza's philosophy.
      Refusing to accept Descartes' solution to the mind-body bifurcation and attempting to supply his own solution, Spinoza redefined substance as that which underlies the extension and thought of nature.  It is not that which exists (as we understand the word exist), nor is it that which is intelligible.  Rather, it is that in terms of which we can define existence or intelligibility, i.e., God, or substance, as speech is intelligible and has substance, a holding together as a whole.  We can know Him through a process of rational thinking.  The material and the mental in this system are but two among infinite attributes that are all aspects of knowing and understanding substance or God.  Mind and matter are expressions of one and the same thing.
      For Spinoza, however, the court of final appeal for truth is the insight of the mind, not Descartes' "clarity of mind."  It naturally and inevitably knows.  And when he speaks of the mind knowing a thing, he means knowing what is its cause or reason.  By "cause" or "reason," Spinoza means what is generally considered knowing the sequential order of things.  Recognizing that such a concept would ultimately lead to infinite regress, he had to find something which is its own reason.  With a spin on Descartes' concept of God, Spinoza is led to propound his theory of substance, (11) in which he founds the rationality of the universe.  The underlying substance is self caused, for this Substance is God.

By 'God,' I understand absolutely infinite, that is to say, substance consisting of infinite attributes, each one of which expresses eternal and infinite essence. (12)

     All infinite existences are traceable to this Substance.
      Since the mind can absorb the order of the world, he considered this proof of the rationality of the universe.  Spinoza proves that there is an underlying Substance.  This is demonstrated through the use of four proofs (13) that show that if we admit, in Tomistic fashion, the existence of something finite, God necessarily follows.
      Leibniz felt that Spinoza contributed nothing to the solution of the dualism of mind and body that Descartes so unsuccessfully tried to solve.  Spinoza who denied the dualism which Descartes would maintain insisted that the universe was monistic and all things could be explained in terms of substance, attributes, and modes.  It is senseless to ask whether mind is or is not material; or whether body is for that matter.

Mind and the body are one and the same thing, manifested through different aspects conceived at one time under the attribute of thought, and at another under that of extension.  For this reason, the order of concatenation of things is one, whether nature be conceived under this or under that attribute, and consequently the order of the actions and passions of our body is coincident in nature, with the order of the actions and passions of the mind. (14)

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz
Origin of The Monad

      The monad is not an entirely new concept.  There is no doubt but that Leibniz was greatly influenced by pre-Socratic ideas and, I think, there is little risk in the declaration that the monad had been in the process of development since the time of Anaxagoras' demolishment of Parmenides' Plenum.  It is true that Anaxagoras' "seed" was infinitely divisible.  However, it is the direction in which his "seed" led us which makes the concept important.  It led to the philosophy of the atomists who retained some of the characteristics which were attributed to Anaxagoras' "seeds" and which throughout the development of the underlying substance of reality were still evident in Leibniz's monad.  Those qualities are worth mentioning here, for they are an indication of some of the influences that effected Leibniz in the long period of time in which he was formulating his concept of the monad.
      Empedocles had divided substance into particles of fire, air, water, and earth.  Each of the elements was indestructible, simple, homogenous, and incapable of change.  As we shall see, the first and the last were retained by Leibniz in his concept of the monad.
      Anaxagoras showed that because of Empedocles' system of four elements, he was committing himself to the position that a mixture of any of them would involve the creation of new qualities in reality.  For Anaxagoras, this was untenable.  Parmenides had shown him, that the appearance of new qualities was impossible.  To overcome this deficiency in the nature of Empedocles' "roots," Anaxagoras declared that the primary substance was made up of seeds each of which had a little of everything else in the universe in it and that no matter how infinitely these "seeds" would be divided, each part would still be composed of a little of everything.  All things

. . . will be in everything, nor is it possible for them to be apart, but all things have a portion of everything. (15)

    Leibniz, of course, puts it in other words.

Now this interconnection, relationship, or this adaptation of all things to each particular one, and of each one to all the rest, brings it about that every simple substance has relations which express all the others and that it is consequently a perpetual living mirror of the universe. (16)

     Anaxagoras' "seeds," however, were not "created."  Leibniz's monads were.  And too, the latter "mirrored the universe," whereas each seed was different from the others because each of them was dominated by a particular quality.
      This should be sufficient to show that there were definite influences in Leibniz's concept of the monad.  Descartes did not succeed too well in making a thorough going system of the new science.  Leibniz tried in a different way.
      I should like, now, to investigate the Leibnizian concept without further consideration of its origin or development in relation to those problems that concern his disagreements with Descartes and Spinoza.
      Leibniz tried to avoid the Cartesian dualism by combining in substance its ability to change in terms of its native force, and its inherent awareness of the changes that took place.
      According to Leibniz's "Monadology," from points of force, or "monads," both consciousness (relations of monads) and space (attributed qualities of a monad) can be deduced.  Activity, makes things what they are, (the characterization or definition of a monad) and contains within itself the relation of one monad to all others (the intelligible structure of the universe).
      Hence, the monads are the only real substances -- points of force which achieve extension only from within themselves by striving for it.  For Leibniz, the monad is both a metaphysical and a mathematical point.  Each monad is a single windowless entity bearing the reflection of the entire universe -- a replica as it were -- containing within itself its whole history and the law or formula of its whole future.  The intelligible structure of the infinity of eternal monads is reflected in each monad, and each monad contains its own spirit or soul, its own motivating power.
      Here we see the clear distinction between Leibniz's psychical monads and Newton's and Hobbes' inanimate, i.e., mechanically interacting particles.
      In a different way, Leibniz started out to resolve this same difficulty that Descartes had in making a thoroughgoing system of the new science.  His concepts of substance and attribute were best understood through his definition of a true proposition.  A statement is true for Leibniz if the predicate is either implicitly or explicitly contained in the subject.  Substance is that which is the subject of propositions; attribute is the predicate.

For when I state a proposition declaring a certain relation between one substance and another, I am stating, in a way, an implicit identity since predicates to be true are always bound up in the subject. (17)

     And since every proposition is implicitly or explicitly an identity, (a questionable assertion, to say the least), the attributes of a substance are contained in the very nature of the substance itself.  Relations between substances are, according to this analysis, equally intrinsic as the attributes of the substances themselves.  In terms of Leibniz's Monadology, this means that substances, which for him are points of force or activity, called monads, have not only within themselves their qualities or characterizations but each monad has also inherent all possible relations with every other monad as well.  In other words, each monad is at once itself and contains within itself the intelligible structure of the universe (all actual and possible relations among monads).
      For Leibniz, God, as substance, is the creator of the harmonious order existing in the relation of the monads to each other.  For Newton, however, the order of the universe was derived from the contact of particles with each other based on a few basic principles of motion.
      With Leibniz, the idea of force or activity, the prime substance of nature, is defined as that which brings about change in the future.  Rejecting contemporary theories of motion by which change was explained in terms of transference of energy by contact (a billiard-ball universe given a first push and left to determine each other's paths by interaction), Leibniz chose to define the world as being made up of an infinity of "monads," each monad containing within itself the determination of its role in the universe.
      More than this, though there was in each monad a certain degree of consciousness (as well as force), that is, a certain amount of knowledge of itself, this awareness did not give any one monad a knowledge of another's behavior.
      Thus it was necessary for Leibniz to invoke in his system a deity in order to account for harmonious and orderly behavior among the monads.  In terms of the principle of pre-established harmony, God created each monad so perfectly that when certain changes take place in the history of one, appropriate changes take place in the history of all the others.
      Thus God is necessary in Leibniz's system to solve the problem of why the monads appear to interact as perfectly as they do while being at the same time unconscious of each other.  In this system, God is the creator, and "fulgurator" of the infinity of monads which make up nature, making each one so perfect that He does not need to direct or repair His system once it is set going.
      In terms of Leibniz's Monadology this means substances that for him are points of force or activity without extension, called monads, have not only within themselves their qualities or characterizations, but each monad has also inherent all possible relations with every other monad as well.  In other words, each monad is at once itself and contains within itself the intelligible structure of the universe including all actual and possible relations among monads.
      This is what constitutes the underlying substance of the universe.  The superstructure depends upon a plurality of monads and an infinity of them.  Leibniz agrees with Spinoza and Descartes in that substance is the central explanatory principle for the rational explanation of the nature of the universe.  He differs, however, as to the nature of this substance.  He shows the influence of mathematics when he considers the monad as an animated point.  Taking a hint from Galileo that "the differential is a point of tendency with no regard to rest," (18) Leibniz conceived his ever active non-resting monad of force.
      Thus nature is defined as that which brings about change in the future.  But Leibniz would have no change which was brought about by transference of energy by contact such as Newton's theories implied.  But Newton's particles had no awareness of their causal effects.  Leibniz' monad, however, contained within itself the determination of its role in the universe.  Not only that, each monad has a certain degree of consciousness, also; i.e., it knew something of its own self.  However, it knew nothing of other monads and exercised no direct influence of change on them.
      Leibniz describes them as windowless and as reflecting within themselves the entire universe.  The monad develops from within.  Its history is a consequence of inner impulsion not of external impact.
      Every monad is to a degree a soul or self.  Each develops solely by the law of its own being.  In this aspect, Leibniz expresses the core of the mathematics of his day.  The monad, therefore, expresses the law of an entire series and at the same time in mirroring the universe is a complex unity.  It is both one and many, unity and complexity.  Leibniz expresses this function with the analogy of the self or soul.  The human being is complex and it includes a variety of impulses in a unity of feeling and purposive activity.
      We now distinguish between his three types of monads and the qualities with which he has endowed them.  (a) The body monad is like an animated molecule.  (b) The soul monad has memory or conscious continuity.  (c) The spirit monad is a thinking center that has teleological purposes in view.  Here, whether consciously of not, Leibniz has synthesized Plato's and Aristotle's teleology with the mechanics of Newton, Kepler, and Galileo.
      Descartes and Spinoza insisted that the mind has clear and distinct ideas.  However Leibniz's body monad has only dazed flashes of consciousness.  Nature is continuous and there is an infinite series from the lowest up to the most rational and self-conscious monad.  But we are not to suppose that the monads organize themselves to form a human body or any other object out of consciousness of other monads.  To reiterate, they are unaware of and do not influence each other.  All monads just naturally group around the most highly developed or rational monads.
      It seems here that Leibniz is using Anaxagoras' concept that each monad having a little of everything in the universe in it can be dominated by one of these things. (19)  This makes way for the differences in his monads.  This is confusing.  If a monad mirrors the universe, then each monad would be dominated by the quality which dominates the universe.  This, of course would make all monads identical in every respect, which is something Leibniz is not willing to admit, for God produces different substances according to the different views He has of the world. (20)  There is no dead matter for Leibniz, however.  Even the lowest monads, those at the very bottom of his monadic hierarchy have some spark of consciousness, but it is of such minute value that it is negligible in relation to the other monads.
      As has been mentioned, the monad is a point of force, activity or desire, without extension, that is, in the final analysis, psychical.  How, then, do we explain the physical-spatial order?  It is but the phenomenal expression of an infinite order of interrelated monads.  I, as an ego, am a monad, a soul monad.  I am, as a physical and psychical person, this same monad with a cluster of lower grade monads gathered around it.  The world order is a harmonious system of such groups of monads.  But, these monads are not in space; space is in them.  This holds for time also.  And as Newton shows, his laws truthfully express the order and continuity between spatial phenomena that are thoroughly mechanical but at the same time is only an expression of an inner purposive teleological nature. (21)
      Extension, too then, is only force extending or pushing itself.  Matter is resistance that is a force or activity.  It is not an inert substance as Spinoza and Descartes would make it, i.e., inert particles which get their motion by impact, though in the case of the latter, God initiates that motion.
      Now, since the monads have no extension, as points of force, when force is not pushing itself, we can take an infinity of monads conglomerating without it adding up to extension. it would seem, then, that extension can be achieved only with the desire on the part of the points of force to be extended.
      There is yet to be proved, however, how it is possible for there to be harmony in the relations of the monads to one another if all the monads are completely unaware of the rest of the universe.  That is, even though they reflect the universe, they do not know that their inner reflection is in fact an image of a world of monads, in self-unpremeditated relations outside themselves.  How then harmony?
      Leibniz contended that God is the creator of the world and does not need to concern Himself with its operation once it has been set off.  This is somewhat of a spin-off of the Newtonian vein that change comes, not from the inherent structure of the particles, but, rather, from their interactions.
      From Leibniz's point of view, God is not only the "fulgurator" of the monads but is the creator of pre-established harmony also.  He fixed it so that when any change takes place in one monad, an appropriate change takes place in all the others. (22)  Thus, God is necessary to solve the problems of harmonious interaction of monads each of which is not even aware that any other monad than itself exists.  God, then, is the Pure Activity, a la Bergson.  However, monads are activity also.  Does this not make God a Divine Monad?  That remains a disputed point.  But if that is so, even He cannot interact with any of the other monads.  In any event, once God set the pattern of pre-established harmony all monads were at the mercy of that pattern.


     Descartes did not solve the dualistic problem.  He did, however, pose it as an important one. Spinoza and Leibniz, at any rate, considered it to be a serious problem in their systems of philosophy. Spinoza tried to avoid the problem by combining within substance, not only its material existence but, the causes, forms, and intelligible structure of existence as well, i.e., mind and matter as different aspects of reality.  Leibniz tried to avoid it by combining the ability of his "substance" to change in terms of its native force, with its inherent awareness of the changes that take place within itself.  But if Leibniz accuses Spinoza of being in error in assuming that it is the nature of reality to exhibit itself as it does, and that such an assumption does not answer the question of what nature is, he, himself, is guilty of an even more glaring error.  And he uses a more elaborate, complicated, and tortured system for accomplishing it.
      Granting certain assumptions, Leibniz's idealism did not deprive nature of reality.  He has but filled it with a pervasive spirit akin to man's.  And at the same time he made it dynamic according to the physical sciences of his day.  But has he really shown Spinoza "the error of his ways"?  It seems, rather, he accepts Spinoza's universe and merely fictionalizes it.  He has presented us with infinite psychical universes all of which are "fulgurated" by and mirror the One Pure Universe that is God. (23)
      But, Spinoza's universe is God too.  And it is a much simpler one to understand.  To put it naively, as an ego or soul, if Leibniz was serious about his monadic principles, being a monad himself, he cannot say that there are monads outside himself.  He can claim only to have certain impressions within himself.  He admits this. (24)  He cannot know that these impressions are of other monads for "they are without windows" and he cannot see into them.  This is the old epistemological problem.  How can he know about the outside world?  He cannot, and does not, solve it because he has gone to such great lengths to prevent knowledge of the outside world ever getting into the inner sanctums of his windowless monads.  They cannot know that their reflections are of the outside world because God imparted to them only the reflections, not the knowledge that there is another world.  Leibniz, himself, being a monad, merely behaves according to God's pattern of pre-established harmony.  Moreover, he depends upon a god whose existence he fails to verify and proves in an unsatisfactory manner.(25)
      If he cannot know the outside world how can he claim to know its nature.  It becomes a fiction by his own rules.  Therefore, he cannot make any epistemically meaningful statements about nature.  He is restricted to statements about his own impressions.  But granting him his concept of the monad, he does not settle the problem to which he accuses Spinoza of not contributing.  In like manner he doesn't contribute to it either.  If anything, he merely dispenses with one of the aspects.  For Spinoza, substance appears to us in two aspects though reality is but one substance.  For Leibniz, it is out of the soul of nature that its reflections of body and the world must arise.  And let us remember that reflections and thoughts are all that the soul knows since it is unable to perceive anything outside itself.  But the reflections and thoughts must arise

. . .in such a way that they are in perfect harmony with the universe at large but more particularly and more perfectly to that which happens in the body associated with it because it is a particular way and only for a certain time according to the relation of other bodies to its own body that the soul expresses the state of the universe. (26)

     Surely one would not maintain that this dispenses with the problem of dualism.  He has told us nothing more than that the soul has an image of the body in harmony with the body.  We have always suspected this.  But how is the harmony achieved?  Why or how does this perception of the body or the world develop in the mind in concert with those outside objects?  In answering that God causes it to be so, he has not at all settled the problem.  The soul knows only its psychical experiences.  It has no experience with actual matter.  Leibniz, it seems to me, with his windowless monads, has left himself only a world of non-extensionable points of force.
      Still, he can't convince us that nature is alive and psychical because we observe so many examples of inanimate objects like rocks, iron, etc.  And if they were animated, how would we discover it?  Why can't we?  If nature really consists of souls, why are we not conscious of their presence and why are we incapable of communing with them?
      Let us consider those who maintain that Leibniz does have a material world (that is extended points of force) in his system.  I maintain such a viewpoint is epistemically meaningless.  In the first place, what is a "point of force" other than a mathematical concept?  The only force we know of is a sensation of push or pull and the measurements of the interaction of bodies.  This certainly is not Leibniz's monad for there are no bodies prior to his monads.  And, as Einstein has postulated, we could very well do without such terminology as "force."  What, then, is something without extension as the term 'point' is so defined?  It is but a positive synonym for "nothing" but an idea.
      As to Leibniz's disagreement with Spinoza and Descartes on the question of causation, he resorts to the same thing in disguised form.  God is the first cause.  And the pattern God creates for the behavior of his monads is even more machine-like than is causality that is based upon the concept of haphazard impacts or interaction.
      If one could divine God's pre-established pattern, one would be able to predict every event in the universe, Leibniz's "freedom" notwithstanding.
      As has been mentioned, Descartes did not succeed in solving the problem of dualism.  With Spinoza and Leibniz, if we grant them their assumptions as to how substance is to be defined, their dualistic difficulties almost disappear and their concepts fit neatly into their respective systems.
      The latter, however, must be granted the further assumptions that there is a pre-established harmony and that extension out of a point of force is conceivable.  This is not to say that they arrived at true solutions or that they solved all their difficulties considering that extension of "point of force" results only in extension of more mathematical concepts, not physicality.
      If, however, we do not grant the validity of their basic concepts without first subjecting them to empirical tests, we find that their systems are resting on shaky if not epistemically meaningless foundations.  Between Leibniz and Spinoza, however, even though I have not shown a through case for the latter, his is by far the more firmly founded system.
      Still, I would insist that our perceptions of an assumed physical world subject to the application of the processes of logic and reason are the only valid criteria to be used in discovering the essence of reality, whatever "reality" may mean.


      If science had accepted the concepts or substance, activity, force, etc., as presented by such philosophers as Spinoza, Leibniz, and Descartes we would probably, today, still be living in the non-technical age of their times.
       Considering the intellectual atmosphere of their times, they may be forgiven their misuses of language.  It is unfortunate, however, that such brilliant intellectuals did not interpret Newton's laws of motion not in mechanical terms, but rather in psychical terms reminiscent of the advent of such terms as 'neurosis,' and 'psychosis' in their original designations, respectively, "physical" and "mental."  After all, if the story of the apple hitting Newton's head has any validity to it, could not his laws of motion be interpreted to include a quality of "sensitivity," as Leibniz hints at, to be an attraction to, or repelling from other particles of matter rather than as Hobbes' "dead" matter?  Moreover, they seemed to have no inkling of the history of language, or a most brilliantly simple idea so well, years later, expounded by Locke:

Vague and insignificant forms of speech, and abuse of language, have so long passed for mysteries of science; and hard and misapplied words, with little or no meaning, have, by prescription, such a right to be mistaken for deep learning and height of speculation, that it will not be easy to persuade either those who speak or those who hear them, that they are but the covers of ignorance, and hindrance of true knowledge.

      Considering the history of the evolution of meanings attached to words, it is patently clear to me that words, i.e., symbols, do not have inherent meanings.  Meaning "exists" only in the "minds" of intelligent entities.
      Our three intellectual titans did not seem to understand that or that the mind does not absorb the order of the world but, to the contrary, as implied by William James, creates an order of the world out of our confusing and differing perceptions of events.
      At least they should have been cognizant of Hobbes' clear description of the nature of the physical universe, and of their too often use of the fallacies of hypostatization and of begging the question, i.e., offering non-falsifiable explanations incapable of being verified.  It appears that they were so rapped up in the ideas with which they were dealing, they became blind to the fact that words do not give existence to ideas but rather are only names of ideas and that ideas to not give existence to facts but rather are derived only from experience, concepts, and perceptions which in turn are based on the presumption of the existence of physical substance.
      Even though philosophical rumination can be an instrument of sharpening one's critical and analytical acuity, to confuse the language of theism, supernaturalism, metaphysics, transcendentalism, and mathematics with reality has ever been philosophy's epistemic weakness or at least the bane of arriving at truth about the physical world.  This is clearly attested to if one examines the history of philosophy.  For all its success in aiding the evolution of ideas and deriving concepts generally agreed upon, one must wonder, in the final analysis, whether the fundamental mantra of all philosophers, today, is no longer to pursue wisdom but to agree to disagree.
      In no way is the above to be interpreted as a suggestion that the history of philosophy has not been of incalculable value to the human enterprise.  But philosophy has not evolved sufficiently in concert with our advances in verifiable probable truth and knowledge.  In essence, it continues too much to be a presentation of old wine in new bottles.  It still examines concepts as if they are some form of reality instead of being dependent upon reality for their "existence" as functions of the brain.
      So long as philosophy continues in this fashion and remaining in Ivy Towers instead of greatly influencing the quality of pre-college "education," the problems of the world, that are so much founded on conflating ideas with reality, will little decrease as we continue our history of man's inhumanity to man -- physically,  psychologically, and, above all, educationally.


      1. Discourse on Method, Descartes, Open Court Pub. Co. #38, 1Page 27.
      2. Ibid., Page 35.
      3. Ibid., Page 19.
      4. Ibid., Page 35.
      5. Ibid., Page 36-37.
      6. Ibid., Page 35.
      7. Ibid., Page 36.
      8. Guide to Philosophy, Joad, Page 502.
      9. Discourse on Method, Descartes, Open Court Pub. Co. #38, P. 39.
      10. Ibid., P. 59.
      11. "Spinoza Selections," Scribners, Ethics P. 94, Part I, df. III.
      12. Ibid., df. VI.
      13. Ibid., Pp. 103-106, Part I Prop. XI.
      14. Ibid., P. 209 Part III.
      15. Fuller's History of Philosophy. Pp. 70-80.
      16. Leibniz, Open Court Pub. Co. # 52, "Monadology" P. 263, #56.
      17. Ibid., Discourse on Metaphysics, P. 13.
      18. Ibid., XVII-XVIII, Pp. 29-33.
      19. Ibid., "Monadology", P. 252 #9.
      20. Ibid., Metaphysics, P. 23. #XIV.
      21. Ibid., "Monodology,", P. 258. #36-37.
      22. Ibid., "Monadology," P. 262. #50-51, Discourse on Metaphysics P. 26.
      23. Ibid., P. 15. #9.
      24. Ibid., P. 25.
      25. Ibid., "Monadology," P. 260. #45.
      26. Ibid., Discourse on Metaphysics, P. 56.

© 1955, 1988, 2004 by Pasqual S. Schievella

© 1997 by Pasqual S. Schievella