Abstract: Leibniz standardly associates “mechanism” with extended material bodies and their aggregates. In this paper, I identify and analyze a further distinct sense of “mechanism” in Leibniz that extends, by analogy, beyond the domain of material bodies and applies to the operations of immaterial substances such as the monads that serve, for Leibniz, as the metaphysical foundations of physical reality. I argue that in this sense, Leibniz understands “mechanism” as an intelligible process that is capable of providing a sufficient reason for a series of changes. I then apply these findings to enrich our understanding of Leibniz’s well-known mill argument in Monadology ¶17: although material machines and mechanisms cannot produce perceptions, the perceptual activity of immaterial monads is to be understood as “mechanical” according to this analogical sense.
Abstract: For the mature Leibniz, a living being is a created substance composed of an infinitely complex organic body and a simple immaterial soul. Soul and body do not interact directly, but rather their states correspond according to a harmony preestablished by God. I show that Leibniz’s theory faces challenges with respect to the question of whether substances need to possess knowledge of how they bring about their effects, and I argue that to address these challenges, Leibniz turns to a concept of “divine preformation” that he attributes to both soul and body. Insofar as divine preformation provides Leibniz with an explanation for how soul and body can both act without possessing explicit knowledge of what they are doing, it serves a key tool for justifying the theory of preestablished harmony.
Abstract: The young Spinoza and the mature Leibniz both characterize the soul as a self-moving spiritual automaton. Though it is unclear if Leibniz’s use of the term was suggested to him from his reading of Spinoza, Leibniz was aware of its presence in Spinoza’s Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect. Considering Leibniz’s staunch opposition to Spinozism, the question arises as to why he was willing to adopt this term. I propose an answer to this question by comparing the spiritual automaton in both philosophers. For Spinoza, the soul acts as a spiritual automaton when it overcomes imaginative ideas and produces true ideas. For Leibniz, the soul acts as a spiritual automaton when it spontaneously produces its perceptions according to the universal harmony preestablished by God. Thus, for Leibniz contra Spinoza, the spiritual automaton is a means to render intelligible a providential order in which everything happens for the best.
“On Analogies in Leibniz’s Philosophy: Scientific Discovery and the Case of the Spiritual Automaton,” in The Continuing Relevance of Leibniz, ed. Charles Joshua Horn, special issue, Quaestiones Disputatae, 7, no. 2 (Spring 2017): 8-30.
Abstract: This paper analyzes Leibniz’s use of analogies in both natural philosophical and metaphysical contexts. Through an examination of Leibniz’s notes on scientific methodology, I show that Leibniz explicitly recognizes the utility of analogies as heuristic tools that aid us in conceiving unfamiliar theoretical domains. I further argue that Leibniz uses the notion of a self- moving machine or automaton to help capture the activities of the immaterial soul. My account helps resist the conventional image of Leibniz as an arch- rationalist unconcerned with methods of empirical discovery and contributes to ongoing discussions on the nature of immaterial substance and mind in Leibniz.
Peer-Reviewed Book Reviews:
Pauline Phemister, Leibniz and the Environment, June 2018 issue of Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie.
Hermeneutics between History and Philosophy: The Selected Writings of Hans-Georg Gadamer, at Phenomenological Reviews