Leibniz on Mind-Body Problem

Leibnizs approach to the mind-body problem is that there is no interaction between the mind and body in the strict sense. Instead, there is only a non-causal correspondence between the mind and body (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2007). It is important to consider his views on substances in order to assess how he solves the mind-body problem. According to him, there is only a one kind of substance in the world. This view is basically opposed to the dualistic conception of substance advanced by Descartes. Leibniz conceives of the mind and body as composed of a similar kind of substance even though he contends that the mind and body are metaphysically different. With this view in mind, it is important to explore how Leibniz conceives of the coordination between particular bodily states and events, and how events are on the other hand coordinated with particular bodily states. For Descartes, the body can be causally influenced by the mind while the mind can also causally influence the body. Leibniz sees this Cartesian mind body interactionism as unintelligible.

Leibniz conceives of bodies as phenomena and minds as real. Following this conception, it may be assumed that the mind body problem would disappear. However, Leibniz is not satisfied with living it at that. He has much to say about bodies. Since phenomena have no actual existence, his propositions can be to some extent analyzable into statements concerning the perceptions of monads. However, Leibniz does not provide any hint as to how such reductions can be achieved. It can only be assumed that he would have adopted phenomenalistic arguments. When he explicitly looks at the mind-body problem, he veers off in another direction.

For instance, when his view concerning how the soul acts on the body is considered, he is of the opinion that the manner of action is similar to the way that God acts on the world. In other words, it is through mechanistic claws rather than through miracles (Ariew  Watkins 1998, p.223).  Leibniz account of the mind body problem is rather confusing and unsatisfactory in several respects. He invites us to consider the possibility of what would occur if the realm of bodies did not change but in the absence of minds. Owing to the fact that he conceives of bodies as merely phenomena, such that arguments concerning bodies can be substituted for arguments concerning how things appear to the mind, his hypothesis appear so self-contradictory to the extent that there is no significant criteria for deciding what follows from it. He does however categorize it as impossible but this is not due to the view that bodies are only phenomena. Rather, he ignores this dimension of the matter and provides as his explanation a claim that laws that govern bodies are edicts of a mind, a mind that saw it best to arrange things in such a way that the physical world proceeds in an entirely regular manner.

There is also confusion as regards the view that special laws that govern an individual persons body or any other entity are the edicts of the mind of that individual or entity, even though they are meant to proceed from the general laws of mechanics which are edicts of God. According to this argument, it would appear that every person is issuing various edicts that we are completely not aware of. However, apart from these confusions, it appears that Leibniz is of the position that the mind does not act on the body. The body follows its way in accordance with the physiochemical laws while the mind establishes itself according to ethicological laws. Any likelihood of causal interaction must emanate from the pre-established harmony between the states of a monad and those of its body (Mates 1989, p.207). The implication is that Leibniz conceives if the interaction between mind and body in a psychophysical parallelism perspective.

What appears to be real causal link between mind and body for Leibniz are the mutual correspondence of mind and body in metaphysical reality. In order to provide an explanation for the occurrence of a particular event in the physical world, there is need to make reference to laws that link them to the occurrence of other events. On the same note, there is need to cite other mental events in explaining mental events. A specific derivative harmony of the states of a particular mind and of its body is induced by the pre-established harmony among the states of monads. This harmony is what provides the foundation of Leibnizs arguments for the existence of petite perceptions. This further made it possible for him to answer the question of the possibility of the mind and body affecting each other, which according to him, is not possible.

He explains that he arrives at this view by reflecting that there is no manner of explaining how the mind gives acceleration to the body, or how the body, acting in accordance with the laws of mechanics, can establish a perception. He adds that he founded his general philosophy of the pre-established harmony on the harmony of the mental and physical (Ariew  Watkins 1998, p.228).


Post a Comment