The Matrix and Monadology: Leibnizian Themes and The Matrix
Greenberg (Sean)
Source: Website
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Summary

  1. Leibniz’s mature philosophical system — the monadology — is a remarkable baroque construction. From its fundamental constituents, the monads, to the doctrines that constitute that system, such as the thesis that there is no causal interaction between mind and body, or even among individual things, Leibniz’s views have proven endlessly fascinating. Yet many readers have shared the sentiment expressed by Russell in the first epigraph1 of this paper; Leibniz’s presentation of the monadology in The Principles of Philosophy, or The Monadalogy does little to dispel the sense that his philosophical system is arbitrary.
  2. The Monadology is a work in metaphysics, that is, a work that tries to uncover the nature of reality, and although it was written in 1714 as a kind of summation and popularization of Leibniz’s philosophical views, the work neither makes those views readily accessible, nor does it go very far in convincing readers of Leibniz’s account of the nature of reality, as Russell’s remark shows. Leibniz does not seem to give arguments for the positions that he presents in the Monadology, apparently contenting himself with assertions as vatic and mysterious as those of the Oracle in THE MATRIX, and the unfamiliarity and complexity of his views is a further block to understanding.
  3. Leibniz’s readers find themselves in much the same epistemological position as Neo when he begins to learn about the reality of the Matrix: a strange new world is revealed to them, one quite different from the world that they experience, and they (understandably) resist entering that world. In this paper, I try to guide readers down the rabbit hole of Leibniz’s philosophy and in the process to illuminate some aspects of THE MATRIX.
  4. I believe that looking at these works together not only yields new insights into THE MATRIX, but also provides a relatively painless introduction to certain distinctive features of Leibniz’s philosophy.
  5. In what follows, I will try to elucidate the evidential support for the views presented in the Monadology, and show, pace Russell, that it is not merely a ‘fantastic fairy tale’. I do not of course mean to suggest that the monadology is an accurate account of the nature of reality, but I will argue that from a Leibnizian point of view, it is the Matrix, not the monadology, that is the ‘fantastic fairy tale’.


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In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 1:
  • I felt — as many others have felt — that the Monadology was a kind of fantastic fairy tale, coherent perhaps, but wholly arbitrary.
    → Bertrand Russell, The Philosophy of Leibniz, p. xvii

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