Leibniz defines monads as simple substances with no parts (Monadology, 1). Later on, we learn that some of those are souls which have memory (Monadology 19) and further others are rational souls having knowledge of necessary truths (Monadology 29). But the souls and rational souls are -as far as I understand- kinds of monads, i.e. they too are simple substances without parts. How would Leibniz explain a simple substance having higher capabilities than another?

Similarly, on article 48 Leibniz states that, analogous to God's power, knowledge and will, the monads consist of the subject, the faculty of perception and the appetitive faculty. How would Leibniz explain the simplicity of a monad with two distinct faculties?

Thanks in advance.

2 Answers 2


I believe Leibnitz could not explain this anomaly. Schrodinger dismisses his monads for being an incoherent idea. Kant had the same problem. He could see the need in metaphysics for a noumenon/phenomenon that has no parts so assigned one to each manifest phenomenon. Having done this he was stumped for how to proceed with any further reduction.

The solution would be to follow the logic and see that a Unity with no parts must be singular. Otherwise there would be an 'outside' for each monad such that it would have an inside and an outside, thus it would have parts.

Schrodinger may be worth reading on this.

"One way out is the multiplication of the world in Leibnitz’s fearful doctrine of monads: every monad to be a world by itself, no communication between them; the monad “has no windows,” it is “incommunicado.” That they all agree with each other is called “pre-established harmony”.

… There is obviously only one alternative, namely the unification of minds or consciousnesses. Their multiplicity is only apparent, in truth, there is only one mind. This is the doctrine of the Upanishads. And not only the Upanishads. The mystically experienced union with God regularly entails this attitude unless it is opposed by strong existing prejudices;…”

Erwin Schrödinger The Oneness of Mind

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    Thank you for your answer. My question was, however, not about the multiplicity of monads, but about the multiplicity of features in a single monad. In other words, how can a single simple monad with no parts exhibit more than one function -appetition and perception? Nov 21, 2018 at 21:13
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    I wouldn't want to downvote the answer, but it really doesn't answer the question itself, but rather attacks the idea of Monads altogether. And by the way, as Schrodinger notes, Leibniz method does indeed work, but it's problem lies mainly in the "pre-established harmony". One should note that without such harmony, the monadology would simply be useless practically, as it would entail that we have no interaction whatsoever with the world (in a way, a direct opposite to Berkley), and this is the main reason why many prefer the "oneness" (although not lacking in issues on its own). Nov 22, 2018 at 16:55
  • @YechiamWeiss - I see your point. In my defence the answer to the question is that Leibnitz did not 'explain the simplicity of monads' but defined them incoherently as suggested. Schrodinger's problem was, as you say, their harmony but also their multiplicity. ,
    – user20253
    Nov 23, 2018 at 12:54

For me the key to understand Leibniz coherently is to comprehend the difference between his "parts" of monad and his "parts" of matter. For him matter has parts with space extensions which is a critical characteristic for matter, while here the parts of monad can be thought of just a part of its complete properties, like an object class code unit in software design, the simple substance unit is called an object which of course has lots of properties and methods as part, but they do not have physical space extensions, they're purely virtual and consciousness like (that's why he's an idealist, not materialist).

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