Themes

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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 333

The themes of Leibniz' 1720 treatise, Monadology, include matter, the soul and God.

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According to Leibniz, all matter comprises monads, which are the smallest individual units of matter, that are self-contained and self-propelling. Monads have no parts, but there are different types of monads. No two monads are the exact same.

According to Leibniz, monads have body and mind (which goes against the Cartesian duality). All animals, humans, and even everything else that exists (such as trees, birds, and inanimate objects) have a body and mind. Leibniz admits that there are different types of monads: created monads, perceptive monads, and rational monads. Inanimate objects and plants would be an example of the created monads, while animals are examples of the perceptive monads (as animals have memory), and humans are an example of rational monads (who have, in addition to memory, a clear consciousness, self awareness, and awareness of God). All matter is composed of monads.

The soul comes into play in the categories of perceptive and rational monads (but not created monads). For Leibniz, the soul is equated to feeling. When a creature can be shown to feel, then it has a soul. It follows that animals and humans have soul, but simple, created monads do not. Leibniz terms human beings rational souls, because humans have reason that allows them to conceive of their own existence and of God. Unlike other ancient philosophers, Leibniz believed that the soul did not exist outside of the body.

Lastly, Leibniz maintains that God is the supreme and perfect innovator and lawgiver. Also, according to Leibniz, God Himself is a monad, and he is the cause of all other monads. Leibniz pleased the Catholic Church in his acknowledgement of God (though he is not extremely concerned with theology and doctrine in this treatise). His argument for God is one from reason; he claims that there must be an original monad who transcends all other monads (even rational ones) and is responsible for bringing these other monads into harmony.

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