Leibniz's System of Individual Beings

Dissertation, The Catholic University of America (1985)
Leibniz frequently refers to his philosophy as a "system"--most notably, perhaps, in the title of the New System , the first publication of his mature philosophy. As Chapter 1 shows, that system is, first of all, a thinking together or harmonization of diverse doctrines. Among the many diversities or quarrels Leibniz sought to harmonize, one in particular stands out as most fundamental: the quarrel between ancient and modern philosophy. Leibniz sought to reconcile this quarrel in a new doctrine of substances that are permanent individual beings. ;This harmonization proceeds, first, through a reinterpretation and correction of Aristotelian-Scholastic "form" and final cause, on the one hand, and of Cartesian physics and modern atomism, on the other, in terms of Leibnizian dynamics, or in terms of a new principle that Leibniz calls "form," "entelechy," or, "perhaps more intelligibly," "primitive force" . This reinterpretation is presented in Chapter 2. "Entelechies" or "primitive forces" are introduced in this context in order to account for bodies and their properties. That of which the entelechy is a constitutive principle, however, is not a mere aggregate but a "compound substance," a compound or composite of that entelechy and an organized body. Thus, as Chapter 3 shows, while Leibniz sometimes speaks of the entelechy in "Cartesian" fashion as a soul or mind which is itself a substance, in the more precise sense the Leibnizian entelechy is not itself a substance but the "constitutive form" of a "true substance, such as an animal" --i.e., of an organized living being. In this respect, Leibniz would seem to acknowledge the superiority of the Aristotelian-Scholastic account of living beings as substantial wholes--with the important difference that the Leibnizian living being is both sui generis and imperishable. Finally, however, the Leibnizian entelechy is also to account for perception, awareness, and thinking. Chapter 4 argues that the entelechy as soul or mind, i.e., as the principle of awareness and thinking, is to be identified with the entelechy as the constitutive principle of body, i.e., with "primitive force," which is therefore the one principle that corrects both sides of the Cartesian dualism--the res extensa as well as the res cogitans--the quasi-Aristotelian principle by means of which Leibniz seeks to reunify modern thought.
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