Monadology (Leibniz, tr. Hedge)

[Translated from the French of Leibnitz, by F. H. Hedge.]

1. The Monad, of which we shall here speak, is merely a simple substance entering into those which are compound; simple, that is to say, without parts.

2. And there must be simple substances, since there are compounds; for the compound is only a collection or aggregate of simples.

3. Where there are no parts, neither extension, nor figure, nor divisibility is possible; and these Monads are the veritable Atoms of Nature—in one word, the Elements of things.

4. There is thus no danger of dissolution, and there is no conceivable way in which a simple substance can perish naturally.

5. For the same reason, there is no way in which a simple substance can begin naturally, since it could not be formed by composition.

6. Therefore we may say that the Monads can neither begin nor end in any other way than all at once; that is to say, they cannot begin except by creation, nor end except by annihilation; whereas that which is compounded, begins and ends by parts.

7. There is also no intelligible way in which a Monad can be altered or changed in its interior by any other creature, since it would be impossible to transpose anything in it, or to conceive in it any internal movement—any movement excited, directed, augmented or diminished within, such as may take place in compound bodies, where there is change of parts. The Monads have no windows through which anything can enter or go forth. It would be impossible for any accidents to detach themselves and go forth from the substances, as did formerly the Sensible Species of the Schoolmen. Accordingly, neither substance nor accident can enter a Monad from without.

8. Nevertheless Monads must have qualities—otherwise they would not even be entities; and if simple substances did not differ in their qualities, there would be no means by which we could become aware of the changes of things, since all that is in compound bodies is derived from simple ingredients, and Monads, being without qualities, would be indistinguishable one from another, seeing also they do not differ in quantity. Consequently, a plenum being supposed, each place could in any movement receive only the just equivalent of what it had had before, and one state of things would be indistinguishable from another.

9. Moreover, each Monad must differ from every other, for there are never two beings in nature perfectly alike, and in which it is impossible to find an internal difference, or one founded on some intrinsic denomination.

10. I take it for granted, furthermore, that every created being is subject to change—consequently the created Monad; and likewise that this change is continual in each.

11. It follows, from what we have now said, that the natural changes of Monads proceed from an internal principle, since no external cause can influence the interior.

12. But, besides the principle of change, there must also be a detail of changes, embracing, so to speak, the specification and the variety of the simple substances.

13. This detail must involve multitude in unity or in simplicity: for as all natural changes proceed by degrees, something changes and something remains, and consequently there must be in the simple substance a plurality of affections and relations, although there are no parts.

14. This shifting state, which involves and represents multitude in unity, or in the simple substance, is nothing else than what we call Perception, which must be carefully distinguished from apperception, or consciousness, as will appear in the sequel. Here it is that the Cartesians have especially failed, making no account of those perceptions of which we are not conscious. It is this that has led them to suppose that spirits are the only Monads, and that there are no souls of brutes or other Entelechies. It is owing to this that they have vulgarly confounded protracted torpor with actual death, and have fallen in with the scholastic prejudice, which believes in souls entirely separate. Hence, also, ill affected minds have been confirmed in the opinion that the soul is mortal.

15. The action of the internal principle which causes the change, or the passage from one perception to another, may be called Appetition. It is true, the desire cannot always completely attain to every perception to which it tends, but it always attains to something thereof, and arrives at new perceptions.

16. We experience in ourselves the fact of multitude in the simple substance, when we find that the least thought of which we are conscious includes a variety in its object. Accordingly, all who admit that the soul is a simple substance, are bound to admit this multitude in the Monad, and Mr. Boyle should not have found any difficulty in this admission, as he has done in his dictionary—Art. Rorarius.

17. Besides, it must be confessed that Perception and its consequences are inexplicable by mechanical causes—that is to say, by figures and motions. If we imagine a machine so constructed as to produce thought, sensation, perception, we may conceive it magnified—the same proportions being preserved—to such an extent that one might enter it like a mill. This being supposed, we should find in it on inspection only pieces which impel each other, but nothing which can explain a perception. It is in the simple substance, therefore—not in the compound, or in machinery—that we must look for that phenomenon; and in the simple substance we find nothing else—nothing, that is, but perceptions and their changes. Therein also, and therein only, consist all the internal acts of simple substances.

18. We might give the name of Entelechies to all simple substances or created Monads, inasmuch as there is in them a certain completeness (perfection), (έχουσι τό έντελες). There is a sufficiency (αύτάρκεια) which makes them the sources of their own internal actions, and, as it were, incorporeal automata.

19. If we choose to give the name of soul to all that has perceptions and desires, in the general sense which I have just indicated, all simple substances or created Monads may be called souls. But as sentiment is something more than simple perception, I am willing that the general name of Monads and Entelechies shall suffice for those simple substances which have nothing but perceptions, and that the term souls shall be confined to those whose perceptions are more distinct, and accompanied by memory.

20. For we experience in ourselves a state in which we remember nothing, and have no distinct perception, as when we are in a swoon or in a profound and dreamless sleep. In this state the soul does not differ sensibly from a simple Monad; but since this state is not permanent, and since the soul delivers herself from it, she is something more.

21. And it does not by any means follow, in that case, that the simple substance is without perception: that, indeed, is impossible, for the reasons given above; for it cannot perish, neither can it subsist without affection of some kind, which is nothing else than its perception. But where there is a great number of minute perceptions, and where nothing is distinct, one is stunned, as when we turn round and round in continual succession in the same direction; whence arises a vertigo, which may cause us to faint, and which prevents us from distinguishing anything. And possibly death may produce this state for a time in animals.

22. And as every present condition of a simple substance is a natural consequence of its antecedent condition, so its present is big with its future.

23. Then, as on awaking from a state of stupor, we become conscious of our perceptions, we must have had perceptions, although unconscious of them, immediately before awaking. For each perception can have no other natural origin but an antecedent perception, as every motion must be derived from one which preceded it.

24. Thus it appears that if there were no distinction—no relief, so to speak—no enhanced flavor in our perceptions, we should continue forever in a state of stupor; and this is the condition of the naked Monad.

25. And so we see that nature has given to animals enhanced perceptions, by the care which she has taken to furnish them with organs which collect many rays of light and many undulations of air, increasing their efficacy by their union. There is something approaching to this in odor, in taste, in touch, and perhaps in a multitude of other senses of which we have no knowledge. I shall presently explain how that which passes in the soul represents that which takes place in the organs.

26. Memory gives to the soul a kind of consecutive action which imitates reason, but must be distinguished from it. We observe that animals, having a perception of something which strikes them, and of which they have previously had a similar perception, expect, through the representation of their memory, the recurrence of that which was associated with it in their previous perception, and incline to the same feelings which they then had. For example, when we show dogs the cane, they remember the pain which it caused them, and whine and run.

27. And the lively imagination, which strikes and excites them, arises from the magnitude or the multitude of their previous perceptions. For often a powerful impression produces suddenly the effect of long habit, or of moderate perceptions often repeated.

28. In men as in brutes, the consecutiveness of their perceptions is due to the principle of memory—like empirics in medicine, who have only practice without theory. And we are mere empirics in three-fourths of our acts. For example, when we expect that the sun will rise tomorrow, we judge so empirically, because it has always risen hitherto. Only the astronomer judges by an act of reason.

29. But the cognition of necessary and eternal truths is that which distinguishes us from mere animals. It is this which gives us Reason and Science, and raises us to the knowledge of ourselves and of God: and it is this in us which we call a reasonable soul or spirit.

30. It is also by the cognition of necessary truths, and by their abstractions, that we rise to acts of reflection, which give us the idea of that which, calls itself "I," and which lead us to consider that this or that is in us. And thus, while thinking of ourselves, we think of Being, of substance, simple or compound, of the immaterial, and of God himself. We conceive that that which in us is limited, is in him without limit. And these reflective acts furnish the principal objects of our reasonings.

31. Our reasonings are founded on two great principles, that of "Contradiction," by virtue of which we judge that to be false which involves contradiction, and that to be true which is opposed to, or which contradicts the false.

32. And that of the "Sufficient Reason," by virtue of which we judge that no fact can be real or existent, no statement true, unless there be a sufficient reason why it is thus, and not otherwise, although these reasons very often cannot be known to us.

33. There are also two sorts of truths—those of reasoning and those of fact. Truths of reasoning are necessary, and their opposite is impossible; those of fact are contingent, and their opposite is possible. When a truth is necessary, we may discover the reason of it by analysis, resolving it into simpler ideas and truths, until we arrive at those which are ultimate [Primitifs].

34. It is thus that mathematicians by analysis reduce speculative theorems and practical canons to definitions, axioms and postulates.

35. And finally, there are simple ideas of which no definition can be given; there are also axioms and postulates,—in one word, ultimate [Primitifs] principles, which cannot and need not be proved. And these are "Identical Propositions," of which the opposite contains an express contradiction.

36. But there must also be a sufficient reason for truths contingent, or truths of fact—that is, for the series of things diffused through the universe of creatures—or else the process of resolving into particular reasons might run into a detail without bounds, on account of the immense variety of the things of nature, and of the infinite division of bodies. There is an infinity of figures and of movements, present and past, which enter into the efficient cause of my present writing; and there is an infinity of minute inclinations and dispositions of my soul, present and past, which enter into the final cause of it.

37. And as all this detail only involves other anterior or more detailed contingencies, each one of which again requires a similar analysis in order to account for it, we have made no advance, and the sufficient or final reason must be outside of the series of this detail of contingencies [i.e. accidental causes], endless as it may be.

38. And thus the final reason of things must be found in a necessary Substance, in which the detail of changes exists eminently as their source. And this is that which we call God.

39. Now this Substance being a sufficient reason of all this detail, which also is everywhere linked together, there is but one God, and this God suffices.

40. We may also conclude that this supreme Substance, which is Only [unique], Universal, and Necessary—having nothing outside of it which is independent of it, and being a simple series of possible beings—must be incapable of limits, and must contain as much of reality as is possible.

41. Whence it follows that God is perfect, perfection being nothing but the magnitude of positive reality taken exactly, setting aside the limits or bounds in that which is limited. And there, where there are no bounds, that is to say, in God, perfection is absolutely infinite.

42. It follows also that the creatures have their perfections from the influence of God, but they have their imperfections from their proper nature, incapable of existing without bounds; for it is by this that they are distinguished from God.

43. It is true, moreover, that God is not only the source of existences, but also of essences, so far as real, or of that which is real in the possible; because the divine understanding is the region of eternal truths, or of the ideas on which they depend, and without Him there would be nothing real in the possibilities, and not only nothing existing, but also nothing possible.

44. At the same time, if there be a reality in the essences or possibilities, or in the eternal truths, this reality must be founded in something existing and actual, consequently in the existence of the necessary Being, in whom essence includes existence, or with whom it is sufficient to be possible in order to be actual.

45. Thus God alone (or the necessary Being) possesses this privilege, that he must exist if possible; and since nothing can hinder the possibility of that which includes no bounds, no negation, and consequently no contradiction, that alone is sufficient to establish the existence of God a priori. We have likewise proved it by the reality of eternal truths. But we have also just proved it a posteriori by showing that, since contingent beings exist, they can have their ultimate and sufficient reason only in some necessary Being, who contains the reason of his existence in himself.

46. Nevertheless, we must not suppose, with some, that eternal verities, being dependent upon God, are arbitrary, and depend upon his will, as Des Cartes, and afterward M. Poiret, appear to have conceived. This is true only of contingent truths, the principle of which is fitness, or the choice of the best; whereas necessary truths depend solely on His understanding, and are its internal object.

47. Thus God alone is the primitive Unity, or the simple original substance of which all the created or derived Monads are the products; and they are generated, so to speak, by continual fulgurations of the Divinity, from moment to moment, bounded by the receptivity of the creature, of whose existence limitation is an essential condition.

48. In God is Power, which is the source of all; then Knowledge, which contains the detail of Ideas; and, finally, Will, which generates changes or products according to the principle of optimism. And this answers to what, in created Monads, constitutes the subject or the basis, the perceptive and the appetitive faculty. But in God these attributes are absolutely infinite or perfect, and in the created Monads, or in the Entelechies (or perfectihabiis, as Hermolaus Barbaras translates this word), they are only imitations according to the measure of their perfection.

49. The creature is said to act externally, in so far as it possesses perfection, and to suffer from 'another (creature) so far as it is imperfect. So we ascribe action to the Monad, so far as it has distinct perceptions, and passion, so far as its perceptions are confused.

50. And one creature is more perfect than another, in this: that we find in it that which serves to account a priori for what passes in the other; and it is therefore said to act upon the other.

51. But in simple substances this is merely an ideal influence of one Monad upon another, which can pass into effect only by the intervention of God, inasmuch as in the ideas of God one Monad has a right to demand that God, in regulating the rest from the commencement of things, shall have regard to it; for since a created Monad can have no physical influence on the interior of another, it is only by this means that one can be dependent on another.

52. And hence it is that actions and passions in creatures are mutual; for God, comparing two simple substances, finds reasons in each which oblige him to accommodate the one to the other. Consequently that which is active in one view, is passive in another—active so far as what we clearly discern in it serves to account for that which takes place in another, and passive so far as the reason of that which passes in it is found in that which is clearly discerned in another.

53. Now, as in the ideas of God there is an infinity of possible worlds, and as only one can exist, there must be a sufficient reason for the choice of God, which determines him to one rather than another.

54. And this reason can be no other than fitness, derived from the different degrees of perfection which these worlds contain, each possible world having a claim to exist according to the measure of perfection which it enfolds.

55. And this is the cause of the existence of that Best, which the wisdom of God discerns, which his goodness chooses, and his power effects.

56. And this connection, or this accommodation of all created thin- M5h, and of each to all, implies in each simple substance relations which express all the rest. Each, accordingly, is a living and perpetual mirror of the universe.

57. And as the same city viewed from different sides appears quite different, and is perspectively multiplied, so, in the infinite multitude of simple substances, there are given, as it were, so many different worlds which yet are only the perspectives of a single one, according to the different points of view of each Monad.

58. And this is the way to obtain the greatest possible variety with the greatest possible order—that is to say, the way to obtain the greatest possible perfection.

59. Thus this hypothesis (which I may venture to pronounce demonstrated) is the only one which properly exhibits the greatness of God. And this Mr. Boyle acknowledges, when in his dictionary (Art. Rorarius) he objects to it. He is even disposed to think that I attribute too much to God, that I ascribe to him impossibilities; but he can allege no reason for the impossibility of this universal harmony, by which each substance expresses exactly the perfections of all the rest through its relations with them.

60. We see, moreover, in that which I have just stated, the a priori reasons why things could not be other than they are. God, in ordering the whole, has respect to each part, and specifically to each Monad, whose nature being representative, is by nothing restrained from representing the whole of things, although, it is true, this representation must needs be confused, as it regards the detail of the universe, and can be distinct only in relation to a small part of things, that is, in relation to those which are nearest, or whose relations to any given Monad are greatest. Otherwise each Monad would be a divinity. The Monads are limited, not in the object, but in the mode of their knowledge of the object. They all tend confusedly to the infinite, to the whole; but they are limited and distinguished by the degrees of distinctness in their perceptions.

61. And compounds symbolize in this with simples. For since the world is a plenum, and all matter connected, and as in a plenum every movement has some effect on distant bodies, in proportion to their distance, so that each body is affected not only by those in actual contact with it, and feels in some way all that happens to them, but also through their means is affected by others in contact with those by which it is immediately touched—it follows that this communication extends to any distance. Consequently, each body feels all that passes in the universe, so that he who sees all, may read in each that which passes everywhere else, and even that which has been and shall be, discerning in the present that which is removed in time as well as in space. "Συμπνόιει Πάντα," says Hippocrates. But each soul can read in itself only that which is distinctly represented in it. It cannot unfold its laws at once, for they reach into the infinite.

62. Thus, though every created Monad represents the entire universe, it represents more distinctly the particular body to which it belongs, and whose Entelechy it is: and as this body expresses the entire universe, through the connection of all matter in a plenum, the soul represents also the entire universe in representing that body which especially belongs to it.

63. The body belonging to a Monad, which is its Entelechy or soul, constitutes, with its Entelechy, what may be termed a living (thing), and, with its soul, what may be called an animal. And the body of a living being, or of an animal, is always organic; for every Monad, being a mirror of the universe, according to its fashion, and the universe being arranged with perfect order, there must be the same order in the representative—that is, in the perceptions of the soul, and consequently of the body according to which the universe is represented in it.

64. Thus each organic living body is a species of divine machine, or a natural automaton, infinitely surpassing all artificial automata. A machine made by human art is not a machine in all its parts. For example, the tooth of a brass wheel has parts or fragments which are not artificial to us; they have nothing which marks the machine in their relation to the use for which the wheel is designed; but natural machines—that is, living bodies—are still machines in their minutest parts, ad infinitum. This makes the difference between nature and art, that is to say, between the Divine art and ours.

65. And the author of nature was able to exercise this divine and infinitely wonderful art, inasmuch as every portion of nature is not only infinitely divisible, as the ancients knew, but is actually subdivided without end—each part into parts, of which each has its own movement. Otherwise, it would be impossible that each portion of matter should express the universe.

66. Whence it appears that there is a world of creatures, of living (things), of animals, of Entelechies, of souls, in the minutest portion of matter.

67. Every particle of matter may be conceived as a garden of plants, or as a pond full of fishes. But each branch of each plant, each member of each animal, each drop of their humors, is in turn another such garden or pond.

68. And although the earth and the air embraced between the plants in the garden, or the water between the fishes of the pond, are not themselves plant or fish, they nevertheless contain such, but mostly too minute for our perception.

69. So there is no uncultured spot, no barrenness, no death in the universe—no chaos, no confusion, except in appearance, as it might seem in a pond at a distance, in which one should see a confused motion and swarming, so to speak, of the fishes of the pond, without distinguishing the fishes themselves.

70. We see, then, that each living body has a governing Entelechy, which in animals is the soul of the animal. But the members of this living body are full of other living bodies—plants, animals—each of which has its Entelechy, or regent soul.

71. We must not, however, suppose—as some who misapprehended my thought have done—that each soul has a mass or portion of matter proper to itself, or forever united to it, and that it consequently possesses other inferior living existences, destined forever to its service. For all bodies are in a perpetual flux, like rivers. Their particles are continually coming and going.

72. Thus the soul does not change its body except by degrees. It is never deprived at once of all its organs. There are often metamorphoses in animals, but never Metempsychosis—no transmigration of souls. Neither are there souls entirely separated (from bodies), nor genii without bodies. God alone is wholly without body.

73. For which reason, also, there is never complete generation nor perfect death—strictly considered—consisting in the separation of the soul. That which we call generation, is development and accretion; and that which we call death, is envelopment and diminution.

74. Philosophers have been much troubled about the origin of forms, of Entelechies, or souls. But at the present day, when, by accurate investigations of plants, insects and animals, they have become aware that the organic bodies of nature are never produced from chaos or from putrefaction, but always from seed, in which undoubtedly there had been a preformation; it has been inferred that not only the organic body existed in that seed before conception, but also a soul in that body—in one word, the animal itself—and that, by the act of conception, this animal is merely disposed to a grand transformation, to become an animal of another species. We even see something approaching this, outside of generation, as when worms become flies, or when caterpillars become butterflies.

75. Those animals, of which some are advanced to a higher grade, by means of conception, may be called spermatic; but those among them which remain in their kind—that is to say, the greater portion—are born, multiply, and are destroyed, like the larger animals, and only a small number of the elect among them, pass to a grander theatre.

76. But this is only half the truth. I have concluded that if the animal does not begin to be in the order of nature, it also does not cease to be in the order of nature, and that not only there is no generation, but no entire destruction—no death, strictly considered. And these a posteriori conclusions, drawn from experience, accord perfectly with my principles deduced a priori, as stated above.

77. Thus we may Bay, not only that the soul (mirror of an indestructible universe) is indestructible, but also the animal itself, although its machine may often perish in part, and put off or put on organic spoils.

78. These principles have furnished me with a natural explanation of the union, or rather the conformity between the soul and the organized body. The soul follows its proper laws, and the body likewise follows those which are proper to it, and they meet in virtue of the preëstablished harmony which exists between all substances, as representations of one and the same universe.

79. Souls act according to the laws of final causes, by appetitions, means and ends; bodies act according to the laws of efficient causes, or the laws of motion. And the two kingdoms, that of efficient causes and that of final causes, harmonize with each other.

80. Des Cartes perceived that souls communicate no force to bodies, because the quantity of force in matter is always the same. Nevertheless, he believed that souls might change the direction of bodies. But this was because the world was at that time ignorant of the law of nature, which requires the conservation of the same total direction in matter. Had he known this, he would have hit upon my system of preëstablished harmony.

81. According to this system, bodies act as if there were no souls, and souls act as if there were no bodies; and yet both act as though the one influenced the other.

82. As to spirits, or rational souls, although I find that at bottom the same principle which I have stated—namely, that animals and souls begin with the world and end only with the world—holds with regard to all animals and living things, yet there is this peculiarity in rational animals, that although their spermatic animalcules, as such, have only ordinary or sensitive souls, yet as soon as those of them which are elected, so to speak, arrive by the act of conception at human nature, their sensitive souls are elevated to the rank of reason and to the prerogative of spirits.

83. Among other differences which distinguish spirits from ordinary souls, some of which have already been indicated, there is also this: that souls in general are living mirrors, or images of the universe of creatures, but spirits are, furthermore, images of Divinity itself, or of the Author of Nature, capable of cognizing the system of the universe, and of imitating something of it by architectonic experiments, each spirit being, as it were, a little divinity in its own department.

84. Hence spirits are able to enter into a kind of fellowship with God. In their view he is not merely what an inventor is to his machine (as God is in relation to other creatures), but also what a prince is to his subjects, and even what a father is to his children.

85. Whence it is easy to conclude that the assembly of all spirits must constitute the City of God—that is to say, the most perfect state possible, under the most perfect of monarchs.

86. This City of God, this truly universal monarchy, is a moral world within the natural; and it is the most exalted and the most divine among the works of God. It is in this that the glory of God most truly consists, which glory would be wanting if his greatness and his goodness were not recognized and admired by spirits. It is in relation to this Divine City that he possesses, properly speaking, the attribute of goodness, whereas his wisdom and his power are everywhere manifest.

87. As we have established above, a perfect harmony between the two natural kingdoms—the one of efficient causes, the other of final causes—so it behooves us to notice here also a still further harmony between the physical kingdom of nature and the moral kingdom of grace—that is to say, between God considered as the architect of the machine of the universe, and God considered as monarch of the divine City of Spirits.

88. This harmony makes all things conduce to grace by natural methods. This globe, for example, must be destroyed and repaired by natural means, at such seasons as the government of spirits may require, for the chastisement of some and the recompense of others.

89. We may say, furthermore, that God as architect contains entirely God as legislator, and that accordingly sins must carry their punishment with them in the order of nature, by virtue even of the mechanical structure of things, and that good deeds in like manner will bring their recompense, through their connection with bodies, although this cannot, and ought not always to, take place on the spot.

90. Finally, under this perfect government, there will be no good deed without its recompense, and no evil deed without its punishment, and all must redound to the advantage of the good—that is to say, of those who are not malcontents—in this great commonwealth, who confide in Providence after having done their duty, and who worthily love and imitate the Author of all good, pleasing themselves with the contemplation of his perfections, following the nature of pure and genuine Love, which makes us blest in the happiness of the loved. In this spirit, the wise and good labor for that which appears to be conformed to the divine will, presumptive or antecedent, contented the while with nil that God brings to pass by his secret will, consequent and decisive,—knowing that if we were sufficiently acquainted with the order of the universe we should find that it surpasses all the wishes of the wisest, and that it could not be made better than it is, not only for all in general, but for ourselves in particular, if we arc attached, as is fitting, to the Author of All, not only as the architect and efficient cause of our being, but also as our master and the final cause, who should be the whole aim of our volition, and who alone can make us blest.

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This work was published before January 1, 1928, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.


This work was published before January 1, 1928, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.