Question #8 – Leibniz and Berkeley both endorse metaphysical phenomenalism but each for different reasons. With Leibniz, phenomenalism follows from rationalist scruples (substances must be simple, and no corporeal thing is simple), while with Berkeley, phenomenalism follows from empiricist scruples (corporeal things are collections of qualities, and no collection of qualities is “ipso facto”-(by the fact itself) a substance). Did Leibniz and Berkley reach essentially the same position by way of different argumentative routes, or are their respective phenomenalist systems divergent throughout?
- It is absurd to think that an object could exist outside of perception. (Try to imagine it)
- All objects exist only in the mind. The only things that exist are sensations. Objects are just combinations of sensations. We can see a rock, feel a rock, smell a rock, and hear a rock. All of the sensations we get from the rock make up the rock. However, the rock has no existence outside of these perceptions and outside of the mind.
- The things which perceive are called spirits.
- Only ideas (sensations) cause ideas, therefore an incorporeal substance must be producing our ideas. So God is the governing spirit who causes ideas in us.
More on Leibniz’s Monads
- The universe consists of monads which each reflect the universe from a different perspective.
- Every monad imagines space from the inside.
- Monads require Internal Properties
- Monads are different from each other because they have different perceptions of the universe. Perception is the representation of events from the world played out in the mind (each monad has a mind).
- Monads all differ qualitatively and occupy different points of view. This means that each Monad mirrors the world in a slightly different way and with different levels of clarity. Rocks and dirt are made of colonies of “low level” monads that have only dull and confused perceptions as they mirror the world. Every monad has a psychic life. Each monad has an internal state which represents external things.
- Those monads whose perceptions are more distinct and are accompanied by memory are on a higher level.
- Whereas human bodies are colonies of lower monads, the dominant monad in a person is a spirit because it is capable of performing reflective acts. Spirits are also capable of knowing the universe and of entering into a relationship with the chief monad, god.
- Each soul represents the universe to itself according to its point of view, and through a
relation which is peculiar to it.
Although Leibniz and Berkeley are both phenomenalists and do not believe that matter exists, their views radically differ. Leibniz believes all things can be divided into simple substances and that no corporeal thing is simple; therefore, substance cannot be corporeal. Berkeley is an empiricist and believes that we can only have knowledge through sensation. Berkeley comes to his view by holding that it is impossible for a thing to exist without being perceived.
Not only do Leibniz and Berkeley come to their conclusions in radically different ways but their conclusions are also radically different. Leibniz believes the universe is composed of monads who perceive the universe in its own special way, and this perceptual point of view is what gives a thing its quality. The monads kind of mirror the world in slightly different ways and with different levels of clarity. So in Leibniz’s view, even a rock is composed of perceiving substances. However, the rock’s view of the universe is a muddy view, whereas a human has a higher perception of the universe and is therefore a greater representation of the world. Monads that have memory are distinguished as higher monads. A spirit in a person is capable of reflective acts, which makes it a higher monad, but it is God who has the clearest perception of the universe.
In Berkeley’s view our sensations (including rocks) do not exist, except as a collection of sensations (rather than collection of monads). While Berkeley believes the world is exactly as we perceive it, Leibniz believes everything perceives the world through a different point of view. Berkeley does not believe in a collection of things like monads. Berkeley believes that only spirits and the sensations which God, the governing spirit, puts in the spirits exist. Objects of
sensations, he argues, are simply combinations of sensations, such as color and extension.