Leibniz’s monadological automaton

(Selections from the Monadology)

17. It has to be acknowledged that perception can’t be explained by mechanical principles, that is by shapes and motions, and thus that nothing that depends on perception can be explained in that way either. Suppose this were wrong. Imagine there were a machine whose structure produced thought, feeling, and perception; we can conceive of its being enlarged while maintaining the same relative proportions among its parts, so that we could walk into it as we can walk into a mill. Suppose we do walk into it; all we would find there are cogs and levers and so on pushing one another, and never anything to account for a perception. So perception must be sought in simple substances, not in composite things like machines. And that is all that can be found in a simple substance—perceptions and changes in perceptions; and those changes are all that the internal actions of simple substances can consist in.

18. We could give the name ‘entelechy’ to all simple substances or created monads, because they have within them a certain perfection. . . .; there is a kind of self-sufficiency which makes them sources of their own internal actions—makes them immaterial automata, as it were.

64. Thus every organized body of a living thing is a kind of divine machine or natural automaton. It infinitely surpasses any artificial automaton, because a man-made machine isn’t a machine in every one of its parts. For example, a cog on a brass wheel has parts or fragments which to us are no longer anything artificial, and bear no signs of their relation to the intended use of the wheel, signs that would mark them out as parts of a machine. But Nature’s machines—living bodies, that is—are machines even in their smallest parts, right down to infinity. That is what makes the difference between nature and artifice, that is, between divine artifice and our artifice.

77. So it can be said that not only is the soul—the mirror of an indestructible universe—indestructible, but so too is the animal; though its mechanism may often come to an end in part, and throw off or take on organic coating.

83. I have noted some differences between ordinary souls and minds. Here is another. Souls in general are living mirrors or images [here = ‘likenesses’] of the universe of created things, but minds are also images of the Divinity himself, i.e. of God, the author of Nature. They are capable of knowing the system of the universe, and of imitating aspects of it through sketchy constructions of their own, each mind being like a little divinity within its own sphere.

84. That is what enables minds to enter into a kind of community with God, so that he relates to them not only (as he does to all his other creatures) as an inventor relates to his machine, but also as a prince does to his subjects, and indeed as a father does to his children.

87. Just as I earlier established that there is a perfect harmony between two natural realms, one of efficient causes and the other of final causes, so I should point out here another harmony, between the physical realm of Nature and the moral realm of grace; that is, between God considered as designer of the machine of the universe and God considered as monarch of the divine city of minds.

88. This second harmony ensures that things lead towards grace through the paths of Nature itself. For example, the divine government of minds in the City of God requires that at certain times the planet earth be destroyed and then restored, so as to punish some people and reward others; and because of the harmony this moral requirement will be brought about through purely natural processes.

89. We can also say that God the designer satisfies the wishes of God the legislator in every respect, and that sins must therefore bring their own punishment through the natural order—indeed through the mechanical structure of things; and similarly that fine actions will draw their reward through the mechanical doings of bodies, even though that reward can’t and shouldn’t always arrive right away.

SOURCE: Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm, Freiherr von. [Monadology] The Principles of Philosophy known as Monadology [1714], translated by Jonathan Bennett, 2017. [Epub]

See also: Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm, Freiherr von. Leibniz’s Monadology: A New Translation and Guide, (translated) by Lloyd Strickland. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2014.

Karel Čapek’s R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots), 1920-2020
Guide compiled by Ralph Dumain

Leibniz & Ideology: Selected Bibliography

Descartes & Marxism: Selected Bibliography

Spinoza & Marxism (with Basic Spinoza Web Guide)

Philosophical and Universal Languages, 1600-1800, and Related Themes:
Selected Bibliography


Ars Combinatoria @ Ĝirafo (blog)

Louis Couturat @ Ĝirafo

translation and commentary (1999)
by George MacDonald Ross

Monadology - Wikipedia

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

(maintained by Gregory Brown, Universtity of Houston)

Leibniz Translations

G.W. Leibniz: Texts and Translations

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, 1646-1716
(Some Texts from Early Modern Philosophy)

En Esperanto:

Monadologio de Leibniz
Tradukinto Émile Boirac
(1902, 3a eldono 1905)

Monado - Vikipedio

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