The mind body connection IV


Following my three last posts on the mind body connection dilemma, it is interesting to present the Monadology as a monistic approach to answer the question of this connection between two highly different dimensions, the body and the mind.

The Monadology (a monad means a single unit) is one of the 17th century German philosopher Gottfried Leibniz’s best known works representing his later philosophy. He tried through his work to answer the question of the mind body connection as asked through dualism by 17th century French philosopher Rene Descartes as you can check by clicking on the link of my post: The mind body connection II

The monad, the word and the idea, belongs to the Western philosophical tradition and has been used by various authors. Leibniz declared that there are indefinitely many substances individually ‘programmed’ to act in a predetermined way, each substance being coordinated with all the others. This is the pre-established harmony which solved the mind-body problem, but at the cost of declaring any interaction between substances a mere appearance.

The system of Leibniz is monistic. The universe is made of monads that are simple substances interacting with one another by following a certain hierarchy. The degree of perfection in each case corresponds to cognitive abilities and only spirits or reasonable animals are able to grasp the ideas of both the world and its creator. Some monads have power over others because they can perceive with greater clarity, but primarily, one monad is said to dominate another if it contains the reasons for the actions of other(s). Leibniz believed that any body, such as the body of an animal or man, has one dominant monad which controls the others within it. This dominant monad is often referred to as the soul.

Being directly influenced by the 17th century Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza ( to check Spinoza’s philosophy, please check these links: Ethica Spinoza, and What Spinoza taught me about my body ), Leibniz uses his theory of monads to support his argument that we live in the best of all possible worlds. He uses his basis of perception but not interaction among monads to explain that all monads must draw their essence from one ultimate monad. He then claims that this ultimate monad would be God because a monad is a “simple substance” and God is simplest of all substances not being able to be broken down any further.

Leibniz offered a new solution to the mind-matter interaction problem by positing a pre-established harmony between substances: the body is mere perceptions, which are all contained in a soul’s complete concept. The soul and body interact and agree in virtue of the pre-established harmony, maintained by God.