Volume 17, December 2007
On Unity and Simple Substance in Leibniz
What is Leibniz’s argument for simple substances? I propose that it is an extension of his prior argument for incorporeal forms as principles of unity for individual corporeal substances. The extension involves seeing the hylomorphic analysis of corporeal substances as implying a resolution of matter into forms, and this seems to demand that forms, which are themselves simple, be the only elements of things. The argument for simples thus presupposes the existence of corporeal substances as a key premise. Yet a theory of simple substances as the elements of things threatens to preclude the existence of corporeal substances for Leibniz, and the extension of the argument for forms into an argument for simples is not cogent. If nothing else rides on the simplicity of individual substances, then perhaps instead of being its most fundamental tenet, the doctrine of simples—the monadology—is something that over-extends and destabilizes Leibniz’s metaphysics.