For the class in Modern Philosophy I'm taking this semester, we have to write 15 two-paged papers (minimum) on philosophers such as Descartes, Hume, Locke, and Leibnitz. In this essay, I wrote about Leibniz's Monadology. The following is my submission:
In Monadology, Leibniz progressed in his philosophy to describe the ontological ground of all things: monads. Monads are simple substances of which bodies are compromised. Although all monads must possess some differentiae such that a monad is recognizable as such, Leibniz also maintained that the concept must compatible with the principle of the identity of indiscernibles he established in his prior works. The qualities inherent to monads are not “parts,” per se; when a monad changes, it changes with respect to itself. Leibniz clarifies this by stating perception alone comprises the “internal activity” of simple substances, and the object of perception can obviously contain a multiplicity of characteristics such that variation in the objects can cause change in the monads. Leibniz also wrote about different qualities of these monads: the soul, for instance, is a simple substance whose perception includes feeling and memory. The soul also correlates to the senses of the body to which it is united (per concomitance), although the soul and body are “governed” in distinct ways. It seems to be the case, then, that Leibniz believed animals have souls, for he believed that the only difference between men and animals is that men are capable of reflecting upon eternal, necessary truths. Also, because men alone are rational animals, they alone can be called spirits, animals created in the image of God.
Another progression in Leibniz’s philosophy was that from his belief in the “laws of logic” and principle of sufficient reason to that of a definition of God; viz. God is the single, independent, and necessary substance who functions as the preserver, telos, and – in some sense – epistemic foundation for all things. Leibniz ascribes perfection to God because God is limitless insofar as He can actuate was is possible; it is thus the case that although we are ontologically dependent upon God, the immediate cause of imperfection is found in the nature of he who is necessarily limited. Furthermore, God’s limitless nature implies His own existence, as no contradiction is implied in His existence. God alone must necessarily exist, because He alone is not limited by possibilities, including the possibility that a limitless substance exists.
Leibniz also gives a brief account of his theodicy. As the principle of sufficient reason applies to all things, Leibniz notes that God must have reason for actualizing this world instead of all other possible worlds, and that God’s reason for having chosen to actuate this world is because it is the best of all possible worlds, reflected in the fact that this world exhibits a “universal harmony which causes every substance to express exactly all others through the relation which it has with them.” This harmony is such that each body represents its soul and each substance represents its ultimate cause (God) and the universe (as all things relate to one another in some fashion). Leibniz used this line of reasoning to support his contention that bodies and souls are [holistically] indestructible, that efficient and final causes are perfectly harmonious, and that God perfectly governs the physical realm as well as the spiritual. He concludes the Monadology assuring his readers that God will justly punish evil and reward good, that all things will work out according to God’s good will, and that men should be exhorted to make our goal that of the goal of He upon whom we depend in every intelligible sense.
Leibniz’s argumentation suffers primarily because it is suspect to the same criticism inherent to every rationalistic system: the contingency of knowledge. Unless one either is infinitely knowledgeable and omniscient or can justify that his means of acquiring knowledge has come from one who is infinitely knowledgeable and omniscient, to assert that any proposition x (e.g. “God possibly exists”) is true implies one knows that the ontological reality of x is not contingent on the ontological reality of propositions y, z, ad infinitum. Presupposing that man is able to reason functions insufficiently as a grounds upon or means by which one can construct a sound philosophical system.