Issue #37 February 2021

Leibniz’s “The Monadology”

Leibniz’s “Monadology” sets itself the question “What is everything made of?” Very quickly the proposition emerges that the simple substances from which complex, composite things are composed cannot be extended, because to be extended is to have shape, and to have shape is to have parts and be, in theory, divisible. The text then develops this position – that extended things are seemingly composed from non-extended simples – and explores how it is possible, and what must necessarily be the case concerning these simples, dubbed “monads”.

Three major conclusions emerge, firstly that despite not having extension, monads must be differentiated from one another on the basis of their qualities, and the transformations among these. The idea of simple, non-extended substances populated by shifting qualities is directly correlate to what we refer to as minds, populated with perceptions, which become one species of monad, differing in degree from all the others, but not type. Secondly, that the monad is a possible perspective upon the universe, the relative clarity of which determines our entire notion of causality. To be an active cause relative to other things is merely to be a perspective from which this caused event is perceived more clearly and distinctly. In truth, all monads perceive all the others, because they are ideally affected by them, but they differ from how clear their perspectives are in articulating these others.

Finally, because the non-extended simple cannot be derived from the extended composite through an endless division, there is then no scale of description in which one does not find structure and parts, down to infinity. Microcosms within microcosms with microcosms, nestled, fractal like, in even the tiniest grain of matter.

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Read more about The Monadology here.


Credits: Video editing and soundtrack by John C. Brady.

Soundtrack available for download here.


February 2021


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Leibniz's "The Monadology"