Changing the cartesian mind: Leibniz on sensation, representation and consciousness

Philosophical Review 110 (1):31-75 (2001)
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What did Leibniz have to contribute to the philosophy of mind? To judge from textbooks in the philosophy of mind, and even Leibniz commentaries, the answer is: not much. That may be because Leibniz’s philosophy of mind looks roughly like a Cartesian philosophy of mind. Like Descartes and his followers, Leibniz claims that the mind is immaterial and immortal; that it is a thinking thing ; that it is a different kind of thing from body and obeys its own laws; and that it comes stocked with innate truth-tracking intellectual ideas and an epistemically troubling habit of forming confused sensory ideas on the occasion of external corporeal events. Nothing is new. Of course, Leibniz adds unconscious perceptions to the mind in the form of his famous petites perceptions, and he offers a unique solution to the problem of mind-body interaction in the form of his infamous pre-established harmony. In the overall scheme of things, however, these look like minor alterations in a philosophy of mind that the Cartesians had been advocating for some fifty years. Or so it appears.



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Alison Simmons
Harvard University

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References found in this work

New Essays on Human Understanding.G. W. Leibniz - 1981 - Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 45 (3):489-490.
Descartes on misrepresentation.Paul David Hoffman - 1996 - Journal of the History of Philosophy 34 (3):357-381.
Descartes on Sensory Representation: A Study of the Dioptrics.Ann Wilbur MacKenzie - 1990 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy, Supplementary Volume 16:109-147.

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