Ideas from 'Letters to Des Bosses' by Gottfried Leibniz [1715], by Theme Structure

[found in 'Leibniz - Des Bosses Correspondences' by Leibniz,Gottfried (ed/tr Look,B/Rutherford,D) [Yale 2007,978-0-300-11804-9]].

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1. Philosophy / E. Nature of Metaphysics / 5. Metaphysics beyond Science
We can grasp the wisdom of God a priori
                        Full Idea: We can grasp the wisdom of God a priori, and not from the order of the phenomena alone. ... For the senses put nothing forward concerning metaphysical matters.
                        From: Gottfried Leibniz (Letters to Des Bosses [1715], 1716.05.29)
                        A reaction: Nice instance of the aspirations of big metaphysics, before Kant cut it down to size. The claim is not far off Plato's, that by dialectic we can work out the necessities of the Forms, to which even the gods must bow. Are necessities really kept from us?
7. Existence / C. Structure of Existence / 6. Fundamentals / c. Monads
Without a substantial chain to link monads, they would just be coordinated dreams
                        Full Idea: If that substantial chain [vinculum substantiale] for monads did not exist, all bodies, together with all of their qualities, would be nothing but well-founded phenomena, like a rainbow or an image in a mirror, continual dreams perfectly in agreement.
                        From: Gottfried Leibniz (Letters to Des Bosses [1715], 1712.02.05)
                        A reaction: [The first appearance, apparently, of the 'susbtantial chain' in his writings] I take this to be a hugely significant move, either a defeat for monads, or the arrival of common sense. Spiritual monads must unify things, so they can't just be 'parallel'.
Monads control nothing outside of themselves
                        Full Idea: Monads aren't a principle of operation for things outside of themselves.
                        From: Gottfried Leibniz (Letters to Des Bosses [1715], 1716.05.29)
                        A reaction: This is why Leibniz has got into a tangle, and is proposing his 'substantial chain' to join the monads together. I suspect that he would have dumped monads if he had lived a bit longer.
Monads do not make a unity unless a substantial chain is added to them
                        Full Idea: Monads do not constitute a complete composite substance, since they make up, not something one per se, but only a mere aggregate, unless some substantial chain is added.
                        From: Gottfried Leibniz (Letters to Des Bosses [1715], 1712.05.26)
                        A reaction: This is the clearest statement in the Des Bosses letters of the need for something extra to unite monads. Since the main role of monads was to replace substances, which are only postulated to provide unity, this is rather a climb-down.
8. Modes of Existence / C. Powers and Dispositions / 4. Powers as Essence
There is active and passive power in the substantial chain and in the essence of a composite
                        Full Idea: I do not say there is a chain midway between matter and form, but that the substantial form and primary matter of the composite, in the Scholastic sense (the primitive power, active and passive) are in the chain, and in the essence of the composite.
                        From: Gottfried Leibniz (Letters to Des Bosses [1715], 1716.05.29)
                        A reaction: Note that this implies an essence of primitive power, and not just a collection of all properties. This is the clearest account in these letters of the nature of the 'substantial chain' he has added to his monads.
Primitive force is what gives a composite its reality
                        Full Idea: The first entelechy of a composite is a constitutive part of the composite substance, namely its primitive force.
                        From: Gottfried Leibniz (Letters to Des Bosses [1715], 1716.05.29)
                        A reaction: For me, Leibniz's most interesting proposal is to characterise Aristotelian 'form' as an active thing, which offers an intrinsic account of movement, and a bottom level for explanations. There always remains the inexplicable. Why anything? Why this?
9. Objects / A. Existence of Objects / 5. Individuation / a. Individuation
Things seem to be unified if we see duration, position, interaction and connection
                        Full Idea: Important relations are duration (order of successive things) and position (order of coexisting things) and interaction. Position without a thing mediating is presence. Beyond these is connection when things move one another. Thus things seem to be one.
                        From: Gottfried Leibniz (Letters to Des Bosses [1715], 1712.02.05)
                        A reaction: [compressed] This is the best account I can find of his epistemological angle on the unity of things. They are symptoms of the inner power of unification, and he says that God sees these relations most clearly.
9. Objects / B. Unity of Objects / 2. Substance / a. Substance
Every substance is alive
                        Full Idea: Every substance is alive.
                        From: Gottfried Leibniz (Letters to Des Bosses [1715], 1712.02.05)
                        A reaction: The most charitable interpretation of this is that substances are what have unity, and the best model of unity that we can grasp is the unity of an organism. The less charitable view is that he literally thinks a pebble is 'alive'. Hm.
9. Objects / D. Essence of Objects / 6. Essence as Unifier
A substantial bond of powers is needed to unite composites, in addition to monads
                        Full Idea: Some realising thing must bring it about that composite substance contains something substantial besides monads, otherwise composites will be mere phenomena. The scholastics' active and passive powers are the substantial bond I am urging.
                        From: Gottfried Leibniz (Letters to Des Bosses [1715], 1716.01.13), quoted by Daniel Garber - Leibniz:Body,Substance,Monad 9
                        A reaction: [compressed] This appears to be a major retreat, in the last year of Leibniz's life, from the full monadology he had espoused. How do monads connect to matter, and thus unify it? He is returning to Aristotelian hylomorphism.
9. Objects / D. Essence of Objects / 12. Essential Parts
A composite substance is a mere aggregate if its essence is just its parts
                        Full Idea: An aggregate, but not a composite substance, is resolved into parts. A composite substance only needs the coming together of parts, but is not essentially constituted by them, otherwise it would be an aggregate.
                        From: Gottfried Leibniz (Letters to Des Bosses [1715], 1716.05.29)
                        A reaction: The point is that there is more to some things than there mere parts. Only some unifying principle, in addition to the mere parts, bestows a unity. Mereology is a limited activity if it has nothing to say about this issue.
10. Modality / B. Possibility / 1. Possibility
There is a reason why not every possible thing exists
                        Full Idea: There is a reason why not every possible thing exists.
                        From: Gottfried Leibniz (Letters to Des Bosses [1715], 1716.05.29)
                        A reaction: This is the kind of wonderful speculative metaphysical mark that we are not allowed to make any more. Needless to say, he doesn't tell us what the reason is. Overcrowding, perhaps.
13. Knowledge Criteria / E. Relativism / 2. Knowledge as Convention
Truth is mutually agreed perception
                        Full Idea: In the mutual agreement of perceivers consists the truth of the phenomena.
                        From: Gottfried Leibniz (Letters to Des Bosses [1715], 1716.05.29)
                        A reaction: This remark is startling close to the 'perspectivism' that crops up in the late notebooks of Nietzsche. Leibniz was keen on relativism in many areas, starting with the nature of space. I personally think Leibniz meant 'knowledge' rather than 'truth'.
28. God / B. Proving God / 3. Proofs of Evidence / e. Miracles
Allow no more miracles than are necessary
                        Full Idea: Miracles should not be increased beyond necessity.
                        From: Gottfried Leibniz (Letters to Des Bosses [1715], 1716.05.29)
                        A reaction: Leibniz defends miracles (where Spinoza dismisses them). This remark is, of course, an echo of Ockham's Razor, that 'entities' should not be multiplied beyond necessity. It is hard to disagree with his proposal. Zero might be result, though.