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Leibniz: Animals And Man Essay

1316 words - 5 pages

G.W. Leibniz seems to suggest that humans are superior to all other creatures. Admittedly, Leibniz’s exact ideas on this matter are somewhat ambiguous, making it difficult to ascertain his position. In some instances, within the Discourse on Metaphysics, Leibniz appears to believe that animals do not have souls. On other occasions, however, he seems to express beliefs to the contrary. For example, Leibniz first expresses doubt on this when he questions “if they [animals] have any [souls]” (Leibniz 11). In another example, on the contrary, he asserts that “the souls … of other bodies are entirely different from intelligent souls” (12). Later, however, Leibniz definitively remarks “that animals have souls” (37). In The Monadology, it appears that Leibniz uncertainty about animal souls vanishes. Here, he first remarks that “nature has given heightened perceptions to animals, from the care she has taken to furnish them organs …” and then a few words later vows to explain “how what occurs in the soul represents what occurs in the organs” (71). What, I believe, Leibniz implies here is that animals have souls which are influenced and impacted by sensory perceptions. Then, in XXVI of The Monadology, he explains that “[m]emory provides a kind of sequence in souls, which imitates reason, but which must be distinguished from it” (71). Leibniz goes on to suggest in this section that animals have some form of memory or perception. In arguing as much, Leibniz gives the impression that since animals have memory, they have souls. Although Leibniz believes that they have souls, he, nonetheless, contends, in the Discourse on Metaphysics, that “all other creatures must serve” man (Leibniz, 12). He also claims, in addition, that “all wise persons value a man infinitely more than any other thing” (39).
Leibniz’s view neglects the inherent worth of all creatures and unjustifiably exalts mankind over other beings. In my interpretation of Leibniz, both animal and man have souls. To then suggest that God prefers the souls of man to the souls of other beings seems highly uncharacteristic of a God who “acts in the most perfect manner, not only metaphysically, but also morally speaking” (1). I will argue in the subsequent essay that humans and animals are equal; God, acting in a morally perfect manner, loves all creatures equally.
Leibniz develops both of his aforementioned beliefs on the basis that our “minds are made in” the image of God (40). Given that our minds are alike, Leibniz suggests that humans “alone can serve him [God] freely and act with knowledge in imitation of the divine nature” (39). Leibniz believes furthermore that God can communicate “his views and will in a particular manner” to humans; other creatures, reputed to be inferior to mankind due to their dissimilar mind, cannot enter into communication with nor understand God (39). Because of this, Leibniz then presumes that we humans “must be infinitely nearer to” God (39). It...

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