[C] [Wittrs] [quickphilosophy] Leibnizian Interlude

  • From: "walto" <calhorn@xxxxxxx>
  • To: quickphilosophy@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 19 Jul 2010 23:00:54 -0000

Here's the opening to Monadology.  It seems to me striking to what
degree W's logical atomism follows the same path.

1. The monad, of which we will speak here, is nothing else than a simple
substance which goes to make up composites; by simple, we means without

2. There must be simple substances because there are composites; for a
composite is nothing but a collection oraggregatum of simple substances.

3. Now where there are no constituent parts there is possible neither
extension, nor form, nor divisibility. These monads are the true atoms
of nature, and, in fact, the elements of things.

4. Their dissolution, therefore, is not to be feared, and there is no
way conceivable by which a simple substance can perish through natural

5. For the same reason there is no way conceivable by which a simple
substance might, through natural means, come into existence, since it
cannot be formed by composition.

6. We may say then, that the existence of monads can begin or end only
all at once, that is to say, the monad can begin only through creation
and end only through annihilation. Composites, however begin or end

7. There is also no way of explaining how a monad can be altered or
changed in its inner being by any other created thing, since there is no
possibility of transposition within it, nor can we conceive of any
internal movement which can be produced, directed, increased or
diminished there within the substance, such as can take place in the
case of composites where a change can occur among the parts. The monads
have no windows through which anything may come in or go out. The
attributes are not liable to detach themselves and make an excursion
outside the substance, as could sensible species of the schoolmen. In
the same way neither substance nor attribute can enter from without into
a monad.

However, in my view, W's argument is more audacious both than this and
than arguments for epistemic foundationalism.  Leibniz can hold that
there are simples in nature even if nobody can (or has yet) drilled down
to them: that may be a scientific goal, but there's no reason to suppose
that just because any such simples do (or even must) exist, that anybody
has become acquainted with any.  And the foundationalist who says that
if we have evidence for anything we must have evidence for some things
that don't require any additional evidence will generally provide
examples (perhaps "This looks red to me" or "1 + 1 = 2" or "I exist" or
"Red patch here.")

But W can neither give examples nor claim that nobody need be acquainted
with atomic facts.  Why?  Because in his view for anybody to understand
anything there must be basic facts, and, since understanding is a
cognitive activity it is implausible that atomic facts could do the work
he requires of them if nobody was ever acquainted with one.

That's why, IMHO, this is the most audacious philosophical argument
since Anselm.


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