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Has the monadology of Leibniz any influence on contemporary philosophy?

Note. I do not ask about its historical importance but about its present influence.

  • Deleuze's philosophy is influenced by Leibniz (in particular you may wish to look at The Fold) – Joseph Weissman Aug 24 '15 at 16:55
  • @Josef Weissman Before searching for his book: Is Deleuze influenced specifically by monadology? If yes: Does he make explicit why? – Jo Wehler Aug 24 '15 at 17:18
  • Yes, he is and does; and this margin is far too short :) Here is a lecture by Deleuze on Leibniz, however, just to give you a sense of the character of the analysis – Joseph Weissman Aug 24 '15 at 17:40
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I'm going to attempt an answer, though it will be---necessarily---incomplete. First, I'll note that there's a kind of ambiguity in the question. The text known to us as "The Monadology" by Leibniz was originally written as a summary of his views for Eugene of Savoy, and not really a full explication of them. Modern editions have tended to add a series of references from one of the drafts Leibniz wrote, largely to his Theodicy. "Monadology" as a text refers to a broader context that we might call "monadology," though few of Leibniz's texts that might be taken as being important to constructing this "monadology" explicitly use the word "monad." The question might be asking, therefore, either does the "Monadology" have a relevance for philosophy today or does Leibniz's philosophy have a relevance to philosophy today.

Both Whitehead and Deleuze, as has been mentioned, make extensive use of Leibniz. I think @jobermark has adequately pointed to the elements of Leibniz in Whitehead. In terms of Deleuze, I'd simply point out that The Fold, his text on Leibniz (which has a rather novel but convincing exegesis of monads) is hardly the only thing he wrote on Leibniz. Leibniz also importantly infiltrates Deleuze's Expressionism in Philosophy: Spinoza and Logic of Sense both of which deal less explicitly with "The Monadology" though they do deal with "monadology." In particular, Deleuze is fascinated by a range of things which culminate around the notion of what he terms in The Fold "perspectivism" and its relation to monads. Perspective winds up defining both what it means for monads to express something and, perhaps more importantly, the notion of event.

Gabriel Tarde, although perhaps not fitting the notion of "contemporary philosophy" for several reasons, was deeply impacted by Leibniz's monadology and saw in something consistently being reconfirmed by the science of his day.

Walter Benjamin also takes up and reinvigorates the concept of monad in an entirely different way, particularly in his Origin of the Trauerspiel, which continues to have knock-on effects in the spheres that Benjamin influences.

Hiroshi Kojima has published a study that links Leibnizian monads to Husserlian phenomenology.

Leibniz's monadology has to be importantly understood as follow-on to Aristotle's notion of substance. In this sense, Leibniz is often in the cross-hairs of the Object-Oriented Ontology-ish types of recent thought. In particular, Graham Harman has introduced Tristan Garcia recently published Form and Object as an antidote to a certain form of Leibnizianism, though it retains some elements that seem quite "monadological." Thus, for Garcia, each object has its sort of inverse, which is much like Leibniz's notion that every monad expresses the entire universe.

In a less continental vein, it might be worth mentioning Ian Hacking who, early in his career, had attempted, among other things, a Leibnizian account of space based on Leibniz's monadology. More than that, Leibniz's concept of monads, particularly following the ways it can be read into his correspondence with Clarke has become one way that some people attempt to rethink the idea of relativity.

Certainly other aspects of Leibniz's thought, deeply bound to his conception of monads, remain current. "Possible worlds," for example, owns its coinage, and much of its meaning to Leibniz, and is intimately connected to both "The Monadology" and "monadology" more broadly. So, too, his principle of the identity of indiscernibles, important for establishing monads, remains an active area of interest in contemporary metaphysics.

None of this is to say that there is some sort of great Leibnizian moment going on or in the more recent past. Nevertheless, Leibniz's monadology hasn't completely left the world without some sort of traces.

  • "More than that, Leibniz's concept of monads, particularly following the ways it can be read into his correspondence with Clarke has become one way that some people attempt to rethink the idea of relativity." Do you think you can point me in the direction of those people, because I have been thinking a lot about that for a number of years. – Richard Anthony Hein Oct 6 '16 at 21:06
  • Well, I just googled a bunch of results, so no worries, but if there's some nice summary out there of the ideas, that would be nice. – Richard Anthony Hein Oct 6 '16 at 21:11
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In 'Science and the Modern World" Whitehead makes a good case for the idea that a helpful way of looking at modern science can be captured in terms of an extended monadology based upon Leibniz's.

Our awareness that a lot of our lives are driven by intersubjective psychological forces can be captured in the idea of reflection and mutual constitution that underlies the monadology. We all constitute most of one another's experience and, therefore our minds are basically built out of one another's minds.

The day-to-day function of the mind is the level of examination of experience that really matters most. So it makes sense, if you are building a whole system, to start from this place and work outward, rather than starting somewhere more abstract and hoping to recapture something that allows for psychology to be possible.

Whitehead's impenetrable "Process and Reality" attempts to put forward such a system, but he then simplifies it for mere mortals in "Science and the Modern World".

Establishing this kind of mutually independent context and looking more broadly, our notions of how theories develop are coming to reflect an understanding more and more like those interpersonal intersubjective interactions.

Looking the other way, some sort of intersubjective model might be the best way of incorporating quantum mechanics and relativity into our thinking in a systematic way, so that we can metabolize them and move on.

Wrapped up altogether, this can be a reasonable form of idealism for a modern mindset which neither competes with our physics, nor writes off subjectivity.

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In monadology,Leibniz says consciousness I.e.force is the ultimate reality called monad.there are infinite no. Of monads.whole worldly things whether living or non living are made up of these monads.this Leibniz's monadology can be co related with Einstein's theory of relativity,in which matter and energy are two side of one coin and can be converted in another. According to Leibniz whole worldly things seeing in matter form are actually made up of force or energy or consciousness but due to resistance of force ( matter prima) and collectionism ( matter secund) they seems to have extension property and looks like a matter.theory of relativity says if energy becomes static,it is changed into mass I.e. matter.

  • Welcome to philosophy.SE! I do not see how this try of an explication of the theory of Leibniz answers to the question wether it has influence in contemporary philosophy. Would you be so kind and edit your answer so that it refers to the question directly? Sources and references appreciated. – Philip Klöcking Nov 11 '15 at 7:44

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