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Last Updated on August 7, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 555

German philosopher and mathematician Gottfried Leibniz published Monadology in 1720. With this metaphysical pamphlet (comprising 90 paragraph-length precepts, somewhat in the manner of a religious tract), he is participating in a dialogue about matter, the body, and the soul that was much discussed by other prominent scientists and philosophers such as René Descartes and Isaac Newton. Leibniz is distinct from these two for his acceptance of the smallest individual unit as a "monad," which (according to Leibniz) was endowed with a body and mind, and, occasionally, a soul. Newton was concerned with the physical being matter but not the mental aspects. Descartes proposed a dualism of mind and body (maintaining that they were separate substances), while Baruch Spinoza claimed that the universe was made up of a single divine substance (a theory known as "monism"). Leibniz begins his dialogue thus:

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

Leibniz goes on to say that monads can not be created nor destroyed by natural means. His description here bears remarkable resemblance to that of the atom. However, there are several types of monads. Leibniz says later:

But it is the knowledge of necessary and eternal truths that distinguishes us from the mere animals and gives us Reason and the sciences, raising us to the knowledge of ourselves and of God. And it is this in us that is called the rational soul or mind."(paragraph 29).

For Leibniz, there are three types of monads: 1) created monads, 2) perceiving monads, and 3) rational monads (humans). The ability to remember and rationalize is unique to humans.

In the latter part of his treatise, Leibniz addresses how these monads operate together. In brief, God (himself a monad) is the divine architect of them all, and it is through him that all that all other monads interact.

Thus, although each created monad represents the whole universe, it represents more distinctly the body which specially pertains to it, and of which it is the entelechy; and as this body expresses the whole universe through the connexion of all matter in the...

(The entire section contains 555 words.)

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