Monads at the bottom, monads at the top, monads all over

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debate


This paper examines a widely accepted reading of monads as the most fundamental elements of reality. Garber [Leibniz–Body, Substance, Monad, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009] argues that simple monads–seen as mind-like atoms without parts and extension–replace the corporeal substance of Leibniz’s middle period. Phemister [Leibniz and the Natural World–Activity, Passivity and Corporeal Substances in Leibniz’s Philosophy, Dordrecht: Springer, 2005] argues that monads figure also at the top as complete corporeal substances. Building on Fichant [‘L’invention métaphysique’ in G.W. Leibniz, Discours de métaphysique suivi de Monadologie et autres textes, edited by Michel Fichant, Paris: Gallimard, 2004], I argue that, for Leibniz, monads function not only as building blocks at the bottom level of composition (for aggregates) but also at the top, as grounding the unity and hence the being of complete substances and organic unities. Since organic unities or living beings are seen by Leibniz as natural machines with a nested structure, and since monads are likened to living beings, this would imply that the use of the concept ‘monad’ holds not only at the bottom, and not only at the top, but all over the range between them.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)197-207
Number of pages11
JournalBritish Journal for the History of Philosophy
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2 Jan 2018


  • Fichant
  • Garber
  • Leibniz
  • Phemister
  • monads
  • universalization of monads

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Philosophy


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