Gottfried Leibniz’s doctrine of the Pre-Established harmony is

Gottfried Leibniz’s doctrine of the
Pre-Established harmony is one of the most well-known of all his Philosophical
work. It has split philosophers, some thinking it is absolute genius and
plausible, and others thinking it is complete madness, and arguments for it are
very weak. I must agree with the latter. In this essay, I am going to first
outline the doctrine of the Pre-Established Harmony, and the establishing
principles for it. I will then outline how the doctrine allows Leibniz to deal
with the problem of the mind-body causation. I am going to end by evaluating
the Pre-Established Harmony, hopefully by the end of the essay proving that the
doctrine is false.


a) what is the doctrine of the
pre-established harmony? MAKE SURE IT ANSWERS THIS

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For Leibniz, simple substances are called
Monads. Monads are not spatially extended and have no parts. Thus, they are
immaterial. They cannot be changed by anything. Monads are unable to be created
or destroy by natural causes. They are therefore eternal and impervious, unless
God acts. Monads have both appetites and perceptions. A Monad’s appetite is its
internal principle of change. The appetite contains a detailed knowledge of a
monad’s past, present and future. This means that a monad is perfectly
‘pre-programmed’. Perception, on the other hand, is the way that a monad’s
inner state mirrors reality. Not all these perceptions are conscious, some are
apperceptions. Because of these perceptions, every monad is “a living mirror …
which represents the universe from its own point of view.” (Monadology, 1714, sec 3).

Changes that occur in monads are explained by perceptions and appetites, there
is no causal interaction between monads. However, in many cases it does look
although there is causal interaction, Leibniz argues that this is because of a
pre-established harmony that God perfectly generates at the creation of every
monad. Meaning that whilst it may appear that monads are interacting, it is
just the appearance of interaction. Each thing a monad does follows from a
previous internal state.  So, the
Pre-Established Harmony doctrine, in short, suggests that God made it so all
experiences of a substance are contained within the internal active force of
the substance.


b) how does this doctrine enable Leibniz to
deal with the problem of the mind-body causation?


At the point of creation, minds and bodies
are programmed so that all their natural states and actions are carried out in
mutual coordination. This gives the impression of causal interaction, even
though there is none. Harmony between body and mind has been pre-established by
God.  For example, when I feel a
sensation in my body, like when someone touches my arm, God made the mind and
body in such a way that when I feel a touch on my arm, my mind has a sensation
of me being touched.


It has been suggested that the doctrine of the
Pre-Established Harmony consists of three elements. These being: no finite
substance acts upon any other finite substance, every non-miraculous state of a
finite substance is a causal effect of its inherent active force, and God has
set up the mind and the body so that there is a correspondence between their
states. The second of these elements is also called the spontaneity of
substances, this claims that monads have an internal principle of action, this
therefore means that every non-miraculous state of a monad is because of
something internal to the monad.


All three of the elements of the pre-established harmony are
logically independent from one another. For example, the second could be
considered true whether God exists or not, and if some non-miraculous states
were an effect of some other finite substance. This means that element two is
logically independent from one and three. Furthermore, element one could be
true if the mind and body were not aligned in parallel by God, and every state
of a monad was uncaused. Therefore, element one is logically independent from
two and three. Finally, God may have structured the mind and body so that there
is harmony between their states through one being an effect of the other, and
not the monad’s own inherent force. Thus, element three is logically
independent from one and two.  This
therefore means that, whilst Leibniz has sufficient reasonings for certain
elements of the pre-established harmony, he may not have sufficient reasonings
for others. It is crucial that Leibniz has sufficient reasoning for all of the
elements otherwise the doctrine of pre-established harmony cannot be true.


Is it successful?


As explained before, Leibniz believes that
every monad has a complete inherent active force, full with every predicate of
that monad, its past, present and future. From this belief, Leibniz has derived
the idea that no finite substance can influence another finite substance. This is shown here (find
evidence for this). Due to the fact that all predicates of a monad are internal,
any state had by a monad cannot be explained by an action of another finite
substance. C.D Broad (Broad,
1975) thought this argument was based on an unjustified belief, with no
evidence. This is because it does not follow that just because all the
predicates of a monad are internal, it does not mean that nothing external can
have an effect upon the monad. For example, the inherent active force of a
monad could contain a predicate that says something like ‘going to become A
because of monad Y’. However, Leibniz may respond to this by saying that a
monads inherent active force does not contain these causal predicates. But it
was Leibniz who said that every predicate is contained within a monads inherent
active force, so Leibniz needs another argument to deny these potential causal
predicates, he cannot just say they don’t exist. This means that the first
predicate of Leibniz’s argument, no finite substance acts upon any other finite
substance, is potentially false. This leads us to question the whole doctrine.


However, Leibniz attempts to establish his
doctrine not within its separate parts, but holistically. He does this through
an argument of elimination, he does not believe that any of the other key
arguments explaining the mind body connection are good enough. He suggests that there are 3 key
doctrines explaining the mind-body connection, these are: Interactionalism,
Occasionalism and the Pre-established harmony. As you can see he forgets to
mention Spinoza’s solution, everything is simply an extension of God and
therefore, the mind and body are both the same thing. He starts by denying
Interactionalism, Interactionists believe that there is interaction between the
mind and body, that is what for example, causes our leg to move when we think
about moving our leg. Leibniz believes that if it were the case that the mind
and body interacted, there would be a literal transmission of properties from
one monad to another; a property transferred from the substance that is the
mind, to the substance which is the body. This cannot occur according to
Leibniz because it is impossible for a property to be detached from one
substance and passed on to another substance because no monad can be effected
by something external to it. As suggested before the argument behind this is
lacking in reasoning. Furthermore, this would only be true if Leibniz’s beliefs
about the mind body causation were the truth, further suggesting that this
argument against Interactionalism is weak.


Whilst Leibniz has just about managed to
deny Interactionalism, he still needs to eliminate Occasionalism. Occasionalism
suggests that God is the cause of the mind-body connection, when we think about
doing something, it is God that makes it happen. For example, when we think
about closing our eyes, it is God who makes them close. Many people may have
thought Occasionalism and the Pre-Established Harmony were quite similar, so
Leibniz starts by explaining the difference between the two. To distinguish the
two Leibniz uses an analogy of two clocks, both of which are perfectly coordinated,
and always at the right time. Leibniz suggests there are two ways of achieving
this, the first way (Occasionalism) is by a man constantly winding the clock so
it is always at the right time. The second (Pre-Established Harmony) is that
the clock is built with such precision, so that it constantly achieves perfect
coordination on its own. So effectively, both deny any causal interaction
between substances, all is attributed to God. However, in Occasionalism God is
working constantly and in the Pre-Established Harmony God acts only once at the
start of a life, and then only after if needed to perform a miracle.


Leibniz has three arguments against
Occasionalism. The first objection is that Occasionalism rules out the idea of intra-substantial
causation. This means that even internal states of a substance are just
occasions for God to generate certain subsequent states. By denying this, it
makes God responsible for all our actions, God causes us to act in a certain
way. Furthermore, this makes God responsible for all the evil actions that a
person commits because God is the one who causes everything to happen. However,
this is not a good rejection of Occasionalism because if it were true then
Leibniz’s ideas would make a substance not responsible for its actions either.

It may not be God who is responsible for their actions but if this were the
case then a person committing evil would not be responsible, they would just simply
be a receiver of evil.


The second objection against Occasionalism
is that everything is explained as happening because of a ‘miracle’. Now this
may not make sense at first because how is closing someone’s eye when they
think about it a ‘miracle’? However, Leibniz establishes two definitions of the
word miracle, the first is the popular sense of the word; a remarkable event
that cannot be explained. The second however, the philosophical sense of the
word, is anything that surpasses the powers and forces of all finite or created
beings, and therefore, it is anything that cannot be accounted for in terms of
the powers and forces of finite beings. Thus, from Leibniz’s definition, it is
clear that in Occasionalism, everything is explained in terms of miracles.

However, why is it an issue if everything is explained as a miracle? Well it is
because of Leibniz’s strict ideas about what constitutes a good philosophical
theory. Leibniz believes that we should always try and explain things with
reference to the notion of the subject within the argument, if you are unable
to do this then look for other explanations, like miracles. Meaning, an
argument that uses explanations of powers and forces that are contained within
the notion of the subject, like pre-established harmony, is a better argument.

Occasionalism explains the mind body experience in terms of God’s intervention.

Whereas, Pre-Established harmony, uses arguments of forces and powers that are
contained within the notion of the subject. This is the best argument that
Leibniz gives against Occasionalism, and actually makes a lot of sense.

However, I still do not think that it is strong enough to completely rule out
Occasionalism all together. This is because once again for this argument to be
true it presupposes that Leibniz’s ideas are true, Leibniz’s definition of a
miracle is the correct one.


The third and final objection to
Occasionalism is that; Occasionalism leads to monism. However, for it to be
true, Leibniz’s own ideas must be correct. Leibniz believed that everything
that is a substance acts in some way, so this would mean that in Occasionalism
God would be the only thing that acts, meaning that he is the only substance.

However, why is it considered a bad thing that God is the substance? One reason this is bad, whilst
not related specifically to Leibniz, is that???????????


Above I have suggested three objections to Occasionalism
that Leibniz’s gives. Of these 3 objections, it seems like only the second of
them is actually valid. However, that one is also based on Leibniz’s ideas,
which have to be true in order for the objection to be true. So, overall the
objections that Leibniz gives to both Occasionalism and Interactionalism seem
weak, meaning that his attempt to eliminate all other theories about the
mind-body causation was unsuccessful. Thus, there are still other plausible
theories surrounding the subject, and not just the Pre-Established Harmony.


One further issue with the doctrine of
Pre-Established Harmony, one that many people have wondered, why it doesn’t
lead into Solipsism? Solipsism is the idea that only one mind is known to
exist, and that is your own mind. Surely if all my experiences are already laid
out, I would have these experiences whether there were other substances present
or not. One huge issue with Solipsism is that it’s internally inconsistent. A
complete world, almost simulation, cannot just appear from nothing, especially
within a mind that has never experienced anything external to it before. It
could potentially be suggested that someone else programmed the substance to
experience everything, but then surely you’re disproving Solipsism because
someone else exists. (section 14 and write more)




In this essay, I have attempted to disprove
Leibniz’s doctrine of the Pre-Established Harmony, I have tried to do this in
two ways. The first way was by breaking down his arguments supporting the
Pre-Established Harmony. The second way was through a more holistic approach,
by breaking down Leibniz’s attempts to eliminate other theories surrounding the
mind-body causation, and showing these attempts as false. This meant that
Leibniz’s attempt at an argument of elimination was unsuccessful, so there are
still other valid possible theories surrounding the mind-body causation. Whilst
throughout the essay I have attempted to show Leibniz’s doctrine as false, in
the 17th century, beliefs were very different, meaning that the
Pre-Established harmony was probably a lot more valid then. There is no denying
that Leibniz was very forward thinking, and was incredibly smart, but in
contemporary philosophy his doctrine is no longer valid.