Oct 15, 2023
“In this model, God is a giant switching station, sharing qualities among myriad monads.”
Gottfried Leibniz (GL): When several predicates are attributed to a single subject and this subject is attributed to no other, it is called an individual substance (monad). Monads must have…qualities; otherwise they would not even be beings…there would be no way of perceiving any change in things…and they would be indiscernible from one another.
Aletheia Today (AT): To be is to be unique, and it is the unique constellation of qualities that constitutes the identity of every novel entity.
GL: There must be a plurality of properties and relations in the simple substance, although it has no parts…It is also necessary that each monad be different from each other.
Change is continual in each thing…the monad’s natural changes come from an internal principle, since no external cause can influence it internally.
AT: Every event is causa sui. It is what it makes itself be, but it does so in the dual context of God and other monads.
GL: There is no external cause acting on us other than God alone, and he alone communicates himself to us immediately…
AT: Universe consists entirely of monads. God is a monad and everything that exists is Imago Dei, the image of God. It is through God that monads share qualities. In this model, God is a giant switching station sharing his qualities on demand, distributing them among myriad other monads.
GL: God has power…knowledge…and finally will…and these correspond to what, in created monads, is the subject, …the perceptive faculty, and the appetitive faculty. The passing state which involves and represents multitude in unity…is nothing other than what one calls perception…the internal principle which brings about change…can be called appetition.
AT: Every monad is its own subject. It is initially constituted by its perceptions, and it becomes what it becomes by virtue of its appetition (its ‘subjective aim’).
GL: Souls act according to the laws of final causes, through appetitions. Bodies act according to the laws of efficient causes (through perceptions). And these two kingdoms, that of efficient causes and that of final causes, are in harmony with each other…According to this system, bodies act as if there were no souls…and souls act as if there were no bodies.
AT: ‘Soul’ and ‘body’ are alternate ways of describing a single phenomenon. (Ryle) That phenomenon is ‘body’ in so far as it is causal, ‘soul’ in so far as it is teleological.
GL: Since something rather than nothing exists, there is a certain urge for existence… in a word, essence in and of itself strives for existence.
AT: Note that this is simply a version of Anselm’s ‘ontological proof’ for the existence of God.
GL: We also see that every substance has a perfect spontaneity (which becomes freedom in intelligent substances).
AT: Universe is characterized by what the 20th Century British philosopher, Alfred North Whitehead, called “creativity”…a primal urge to existence, but Whitehead wisely distinguished ‘creativity’ from ‘essence’.
GL: God is not only the source of existences but also of essences insofar as they are real…Without him there would be nothing real in possibles, and not only would nothing exist, but also nothing would be possible.
AT: This is the sense in which we say, “God is Being!” God makes it possible to be.
GL: For if there is reality in essences or possibles, or indeed, in eternal truths, this reality must be grounded in something existent and actual, and consequently, it must be grounded in the existence of a necessary being, in whom essence involves existence, that is, in whom possible being is sufficient for actual being… The ultimate reason for the reality of both essences and existences lies in one thing, which must of necessity be greater than the world…
AT: Without God, subjects (monads) would not exist, and essences (predicates) would not be real. God is the source of both quantum coherence (potential)…and decoherence (actual), the collapse of the wave function.
Essences by themselves are mere ideas; they do not become real potentiality until they participate in some actual entity. Therefore, if there is a world, and there seems to be, there must necessarily be a real entity (God), logically prior to that world, in whom all real essences participate. We are standing Descartes on his head here: “it is, therefore, He is.”
By the same token, no entity (not even God) can exist unless there are real essences (values) according to which one entity can come to exist in preference to another entity. Otherwise, the existence of all theoretically possible entities would be equally probable…which means that the existence of any actual entity would be impossible.
GL: Beyond the world, that is, beyond the collection of finite things, there is some One Being who rules…for we cannot find in any of the individual things, or even in the entire collection and series of things, a sufficient reason why they exist. We will never find…a complete explanation for why, indeed, there is any world at all, and why it is the way it is.
The excellence of God’s works can be recognized by considering them in themselves…it is by considering his works that we discover the creator…Thus when we see some good effect or perfection occurring or ensuing from God’s works, we can say with certainty that God had proposed it.
AT: God is the solution to the “Problem of Good”: How is it that anything good exists? Why aren’t all things morally or aesthetically neutral…or worse? The answer is God. When we see Good, we see God. What is Hell other than a world without God?
GL: Every substance bears in some way the character of God’s infinite wisdom and omnipotence, and imitates him as much as it is capable. For it expresses, however confusedly, everything that happens in universe, whether past, present, or future…
AT: According to Whitehead (above), Universe consists exclusively of events, but every event is in turn an expression of the entire universe. Every created monad reflects in part, but only in part, God’s essence. If a created monad imitated God perfectly, then it would be God and not a created monad. (This is a metaphysical version of the doctrine of ‘Original Sin’.)
GL: He (God) views all the faces of the world in all ways possible…The result of each view of the universe, as seen from a certain position, is a substance (monad) which expresses the universe in conformity with this view…
There are, as it were, just as many different universes, which are, nevertheless, only perspectives on a single one, corresponding to the different points of view of each monad. Every substance is like a complete world and like a mirror of God or of the whole universe, which each one expresses in its own way…Thus the universe is in some way multiplied as many times as there are substances…
AT: Does Leibniz anticipate Hugh Everett’s Many Worlds Interpretation of QM (1966)? There is one Universe and one God who perceives (or reflects) that Universe, but Universe may be perceived internally from innumerable perspectives. Each such perspective corresponds to a unique monad, a unique version of Universe. According to Everett, everything that can happen does happen…in its own universe.
GL: Our soul expresses God, the universe, and all essences as well as all existences… The notion of an individual substance includes once and for all everything that can ever happen to it…If I were capable of considering distinctly everything that happens or appears to me at this time, I could see in it everything that ever will happen or appear to me. This would never fail…provided there remained only God and me.
AT: God exists outside of spacetime, and each monad is a reflection of God. Therefore, each monad per se exists outside of space-time. Space-time is an emergent property of the multiplicity of monads. Everything that is, was or will be, everything that might be or might have been (real possibles), is reflected in some way in each created monad. The perpetual change that characterizes all monads pre-exists in each monad…but only insofar as there is just the one created monad and God. Novelty is a function of plurality; I can only become ‘me’ in the context of you becoming you. (Buber)
GL: Each substance (monad) is like a world apart, independent of all other things, except for God; thus all our phenomena, that is, all the things that can ever happen to us, are only consequences of our being…
God alone…makes that which is particular to one of them public to all of them; otherwise, there would be no interconnection. This, then, is how one can conceive that substances impede or limit each other and…act upon one another and…accommodate themselves to one another… God alone brings about the connection and communication among substances, and it is through him that the phenomena of any substance meet and agree with those of others, and consequently, there is reality in our perceptions.
AT: Each monad relates to God and God alone. But God is also a medium through which the unique ‘properties and relations’ that characterize each monad are shared with every other monad. Therefore, each monad relates to every other monad, albeit only through God.
GL: God alone operates on me…the other substances contribute only…because God…requires them to accommodate themselves to one another.
AT: Absent God, Universe would either be silent or, which amounts to the same thing, cacophonous. God is the ordering principle that allows the one to emerge from the many and the many to incorporate the one.
GL: A monad rightly demands that God take it into account in regulating the others from the beginning of things. It is in this way that actions and passions among creatures are mutual. For God, comparing two simple substances, finds in each reasons to adjust the other to it.
AT: Note that this is a highly non-linear process of perpetual co-modification.
GL: This interconnection or accommodation of all created things to each other, and each to all the others, brings it about that each simple substance has relations that express all the others, and consequently, that each simple substance is a perpetual, living mirror of the universe.
Everybody is affected by everything that happens in the universe, to such an extent that he who sees all can read in each thing what happens everywhere, and even what has happened or what will happen, by observing in the present what is remote in time as well as space.
AT: This is the ontological premise that underlies the work of James Joyce (Ulysses).
GL: Our body receives the impression of all other bodies, since all the bodies of the universe are in sympathy. “All things conspire,” said Hippocrates.
AT: Each monad reflects Universe from a unique vantage, and each monad undergoes a process through which its content is adjusted to the content of every other monad. Therefore, each monad is unique, but each monad also templates in a unique way all other monads. Ultimately, no two monads conflict, but every two monads contrast.
In the language of Quantum Mechanics, monads might be seen as universally ‘entangled’ (John Bell). Measuring one local quantum can immediately reveal information about another, remote quantum. (Note: Bell’s non-locality is not causal.)
Ultimately, this model of Universe is holographic. The whole is imminent in each of its parts (David Bohm) but with less and less definition (clarity) as the part grows smaller in relation to the whole. There is no such thing as ‘scale’, only ‘focus’.
GL: No substance perishes, although it can become completely different… Where there are no parts, neither extension, nor shape, nor divisibility is possible…there is no conceivable way in which a simple substance can perish naturally…there is no conceivable way a simple substance can begin naturally…they can only begin or end all at once, that is, they can only begin by creation and end by annihilation.
Minds…are to persist as long as the universe itself does, and they express the whole in a certain way and concentrate it in themselves so that it might be said that they are parts that are wholes. God had ordered everything in such a way that minds not only live always, which is certain, but also that they preserve their moral quality so that the city does not lose a single person, just as the world does not lose any substance.
We may say that although all substances express the whole universe, nevertheless the other substances express the world rather than God, while minds express God rather than the world. Thus one can state that not only is the soul (mirror of an indestructible universe) indestructible, but so is the animal itself.
AT: A mind cannot perish because it is, in a sense, the whole. This whole is reflected in God and reflects God, and God is imperishable. Therefore, the ‘whole’ must be imperishable, both ‘mind’ and ‘animal’. God is both the primordial essences that define him and the created monads that are reflected in him; in God, essence and existence, origin and destiny are one.
Leibniz appears to distinguish mental monads (minds) from physical monads (bodies). Alfred North Whitehead (referenced earlier) takes a different approach: every actual entity has both a “mental pole” and a “physical pole”.
Each monad perceives essences as they inhere in God primordially (mental pole) along with existences (other monads) as they are reflected in God consequently (physical pole). There is nothing else. Therefore, every monad aims to imitate God but in a unique way: life as liturgical dance. The monad projects (Superject) itself into the community of created monads in order to play a certain role vis-à-vis the other monads in that community. That is the Objective Immortality of the particular monad.
The monad’s contribution of a functional contrast is the objective expression of subjective conformation to God’s values. In the New Testament, the Letter of James puts it this way: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows.” (Jas. 1: 27)
Further, the monad’s appetitions influence its perceptive selections just as much as the monad’s perceptions help form and define its appetitions. We can learn everything there is to know about a monad simply by focusing on the dialectic that occurs between those perceptions (Actual World) and those appetitions (Subjective Aim).
Finally, we know that through God’s agency, monads are adjusted to other monads. Since a monad consists only of perceptions and appetitions, these adjustments must be reflected in those perceptions and appetitions…and nowhere else.
The hunger to imitate focuses on God directly, while the hunger to innovate focuses on the other monads as they are reflected in God. Like the Federal Reserve, we have a ‘dual mandate’; we are called upon to imitate and to innovate. That tension is what we call ‘Life’.
David Cowles is the founder and editor-in-chief of Aletheia Today Magazine. He lives with his family in Massachusetts where he studies and writes about philosophy, science, theology, and scripture. He can be reached at email@example.com.