[time 1115] RE: [time 1109] Monads (Re: [time 1105])

Lancelot R. Fletcher (lance@interactive.net)
Sun, 12 Dec 1999 12:55:06 -0500

Dear Hitoshi, et al.,

These are exactly the questions I most enjoy discussing in relation to what
underlies the question of time, so it is painful to me that I lack the
leisure at present to engage with them as I would like to do. Right now I
am about to leave for a visit to Washington. When I return on Tuesday I will
try to say at least something about the context of the idea of monads. Let
me make just a couple of quick remarks now:

> I think from these statements that, as a "simple existence"that
> is a true atom
> of nature, monad must not be sensible to the outside, and hence must be
> windowless by definition.

This is correct, but I think one should add that Leibniz made a particularly
poor choice of words when he said that monads are "windowless." The reason
is that we have a pretty good notion of what a windowless enclosure would be
like. Hitoshi could give us a precise topological definition, but suffice
it to say that we imagine a closed, continuous membrane with two sides, an
inside and an outside, but no holes or channels that would allow anything to
move from the inner surface to the outer, or vice versa. This image is a
complete falsification of the idea of a monad, because a monad not only has
no windows, it has no outside! What Leibniz says is that every monad
includes the entire universe. Its finitude consists, crudely speaking, in
its including the entire universe from a particular point of view.

> My interpretation is that a monad in the context of Leibniz is a
> local system
> without disturbance in my context. Simpleness which Leibniz
> requires monads does
> not contradict the plurality of the elements in a local system: A
> local system
> becomes a different local system if it is divided, so it is
> indivisible as local
> systems and is an elementary unit of existence. "Monads have no
> windows, by
> which anything could come in or go out." is true for local
> systems in the sense
> that: a local system becomes a different local system if
> "anything could come in
> or go out" with respect to the local system, and therefore, as
> far as a local
> system remains the same, it has "no windows."

This may well be a good way to link the idea of monads with that of local

On the question about dualism that Hitoshi posed in another message, let me
offer this suggestion: Consider the possibility that, even in Descartes,
the idea of mind-body dualism as a dualism of two different substances is
either a myth or a joke. It is an incomplete formulation of something. It
is at least possible that the reason Descartes allowed himself to be
understood as advocating a mind-body dualism was that the alternative, which
he perceived, was something similar to what Spinoza said out loud, and
Descartes foresaw the scandal that Spinoza would cause by saying that
extension is an attribute of God, and therefore, being very cautious,
decided to disguise his meaning at the expense of making it appear

But Hitoshi asked what was behind the dualism. The key idea that pushes
Descartes in this direction is the notion of "res extensa." This is
singular. In other words, what Descartes realized was that his own
mathematical representation of nature required denying the multiplicity of
bodies. Nature is a continuum with various properties and relations among
its parts, but no part or section is fully distinct from any other. Of
course, if there is only one body, then it seems odd for there to be a real
plurality of thinking things or minds, and in fact that is also Descartes'
conclusion, although one less fully appreciated by readers.

You could say that the so-called "mind-body dualism" is really a reification
of the subject-object distinction. I am not sure whether that is very
helpful, but, to the extent that the subject-object distinction is a
characteristic of Western thought that is much less present in Asian
thought, this may be a way of accounting for the peculiarily Western
character of the mind-body problem.

I apologize if the preceding is obscure. I will try to do better after my

Lancelot Fletcher, President
The Free Lance Academy Foundation

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