Group 1 Questions
1. What is Spinoza’s solution to the mind/body problem? What is Leibniz’s’?
The mind/body problem among the rationalists is an argument trying to determine what
everything on earth is built of and made from. Spinoza was a natural monist, meaning he
believed that everything was made up of one substance and one substance only. The one
substance Spinoza hypothesized that everything was made up of was God (you can also call this
substance nature). Everything can be broken down into smaller and smaller components but
once you hit the level of God, it cannot be broken down any further. Unlike Descartes who
believed that everything is made up of either mind or body, Spinoza believed that God is an
attribute of both mind (thought) and body (extension). This view that everything is made up of
God, sounds very similar to some of the Roman Catholic beliefs that God is everywhere and in
everything. At the same time however, Spinoza’s view goes against the church’s views. Spinoza
reasons that since everything is made up of God and God is special, everything should be special.
If everything is special, then nothing is special anymore, and if nothing is special, then God
cannot be special. Spinoza’s natural monist view of what things are made up of poses one
problem. If everything is made up of the same thing, then is follows that everything should have
some of the same basic properties. God is a thinking being, therefore; anything that is made up
of God or that comes from God (in Spinoza’s case, everything) also should be able to think and
perceive. Thus, we create the trash can that can think. You cannot really prove that a plastic
trash cannot think but common sense tells us that it should not be able to. Spinoza’s monism
creates this problem of everything, biotic and abiotic, being able to perceive things.
Leibniz’s solution to the mind/body problem also falls under the category of substance
monism. Leibniz too, believes that everything is made of the same substance, however; to
Leibniz, that substance is called a monad. Monads are nature’s building blocks and very simple
substances. Leibniz defines them as modes of being. Both mind and body are only modes of
being and God himself would also be a monad. Leibniz, with his theory of substance monism,
also solves Spinoza’s problem of the thinking trash can. He claims that even though everything
is only made up of monads, the monads that make up a thing can differ in one of two ways.
There is one type of monad that can perceive itself and other things and one type of monad that
cannot perceive things. The monads that comprise abiotic objects like rocks, and trash cans
would consist entirely of the non-thinking monads. Our physical bodies would also consist of
these non-thinking monads, but our minds and our sensory organs would contain some of the
thinking monads. Leibniz expands on his substance monism by claiming that monads are
internally programmed. God controls and determines how and when monads interact with each
other, thus taking away free will. 2. In what sense do the empiricists become increasingly skeptical?
Of the three empiricists we studied, each becomes increasingly skeptical as they try to prove
themselves more of an empiricist than the last. Locke, the first notable empiricist, begins by
being skeptical of how we gain knowledge. One of Locke’s first arguments articulately argues
against the possibility of innate ideas. Previously, the rationalists assumed that innate ideas
existed in all of us. These innate ideas had to be drawn out by an outside stimulus (experience).
Locke believes that there cannot be such things as innate ideas or else we would know what
exactly our innate ideas are. He says that both children and idiots, having little to no knowledge
at all show no signs