Leibniz on consciousness and the self as non-materialistic


"In other writings, Leibniz suggests exactly what characteristic it is of 
perception and consciousness
that the mechanical principles of materialism cannot account for. The following 
passages, the first 
from the New System of Nature (1695), the second from the Reply to Bayle 
(1702), are revealing in this regard: 
Furthermore, by means of the soul or form, there is a true unity which 
corresponds to what is called the 
I in us; such a thing could not occur in artificial machines, nor in the simple 
mass of matter, however organized it may be.  
But in addition to the general principles which establish the monads of which 
compound things are 
merely the results, internal experience refutes the Epicurean [i.e. 
materialist] doctrine. This experience is the
consciousness which is in us of this I which apperceives things which occur in 
the body. This perception 
cannot be explained by figures and movements [of materials]. 

Leibniz's point is that whatever is the subject of perception and consciousness 
must be truly one, 
a single "I" properly regarded as one conscious being. An aggregate of matter 
is not truly one and so 
cannot be regarded as a single I, capable of being the subject of a unified 
mental life.
This interpretation fits nicely with Lebniz's oft-repeated definition of 
perception as the representation in the 
simple of the compound, or of that which is outside. (Principles of Nature and 
Grace, sec.2 (1714)). 
More explicitly, in a letter to Antoine Arnauld of 9 October 1687, Leibniz 
wrote that "In natural perception 
and sensation, it is enough for what is divisible and material and dispersed 
into many entities to be
expressed or represented in a single indivisible entity or in a substance which 
is endowed with genuine unity.
If perception (and hence, consciousness) essentially involves a representation 
of a variety of content in a simple, 
indivisible "I" then we may construct Leibniz's argument against materialism as 

Materialism holds that matter can explain (is identical with, can give rise to) 
A perception is a state whereby a variety of content is represented in a true 
Thus, whatever is not a true unity cannot give rise to perception. Whatever is 
divisible is not a true unity. Matter is infinitely divisible. Hence, matter 
form a true unity. Hence, matter cannot explain (be identical with, give rise 
perception. If matter cannot explain (be identical to, give rise to) 
then materialism is false. Hence, materialism is false. "

Roger Clough, rclo...@verizon.net 
"Forever is a long time, especially near the end." -Woody Allen

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