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Monads and Machines

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Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMachines of Nature and Corporeal Substances in Leibniz
EditorsJustin E. H. Smith, Ohad Nachtomy
PublisherSpringer Netherlands
Pages39-60
Number of pages22
ISBN (Print)978 94 007 0040 6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2011

Publication series

NameThe New Synthese Historical Library
PublisherSpringer Netherlands
Volume67

Abstract

Pauline Phemister raises a number of queries and problems concerning the distinction between living and non-living machines. Leibniz contends that the presence of the dominating monad ?in? the mass that comprises the organic body gives rise to the animal or corporeal substance that exists as a living, unified entity. From pre-formed seeds, the organic body of this corporeal substance comes into existence as a living machine that is also a machine in the least of its parts and whose organizational structure and internal complexity sustains and preserves it as a biological entity. However, if, granting pre-formation, physiological functions are explicable solely by appeal to the mechanism of the body, what need is there for the dominating monad? Conversely, how can Leibniz rule out pre-formation in bodies we normally presume to be inanimate and as lacking dominating monads? Examination of common defining characteristics of living machines ? self-motion, self-repair, nutrition, reproduction and inner complexity ? brings into focus some of the difficulties and limitations attached to the use of such empirical data to distinguish living from non-living machines.

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