Hyponoetics - Philosophy of Mind

This blog discusses ideas and concepts that I am currently thinking about for my book on Hyponoetics as an integral philosophy of mind and matter.

Leibniz's Distinct Perceptions and Paranoesis

Nov 21, 2022 - Category: Metaphysics  Epistemology - Tag: Perception  Paranoesis  Mind  Knowledge

Leibniz uses the term 'perception' in a technical sense and defines it as follows:

The transitory state which enfolds and represents a multiplicity in a unity, or in the simple substance, is exactly what one calls perception. One must distinguish this from apperception and from consciousness...
[Monadology, sec. 14]

So it is well to make a distinction between perception, which is the inner state of the monad representing external things, and apperception, which is consciousness or reflective knowledge of this inner state itself...
[Principles of Nature and Grace Based on Reason, sec. 4]

Leibniz postulates two kinds of perceptions. Conscious perceptions are the affections of our body and mind that we are aware of in consciousness [apperception]. Unconscious perceptions, or what he calls petites perceptions, are insensible and occur in our body and mind without our awareness. Perceptions are nothing more than the plurality of modifications that constitute the state of a simple substance at a given moment.

To understand perceptions, we have to understand first the concept of 'monad' or 'simple substance':

Every simple substance embraces the whole universe in its confused perceptions or sensations, and the succession of these perceptions is regulated by the particular nature of this substance, in a manner which always expresses all the nature in the universe.
[Theodicy, sec. 403]

Monads are self-contained entities which reflect the entire universe constrained by its structure or disposition. Monads do not interact with other entities or monads. Intermonadic relations are the "results" of perception which express their relatedness to the other monads in their world.

The majority of a monad's perceptions are unconscious. Conscious perceptions can be distinct or confused:

But since each distinct perception of the soul includes an infinity of confused perceptions which envelop the entire universe, the soul itself does not know the things which it perceives until it has perceptions which are distinct and heightened.
[Principles of Nature and Grace Based on Reason, sec. 13]

To be sure, this representation is only confused regarding the detail of the whole universe. It can only be distinct in regard to a small part of things, namely those that are nearest or most extensively related to each monad. Otherwise each monad would be a deity.
[Monadology, sec. 60]

Each soul knows the infinite, knows everything, but confusedly...Only God has a distinct knowledge of everything.
[Principles of Nature and Grace Based on Reason, sec. 13]

All monads, all actual substances, perceive essentially the same thing - the actual universe as a whole. But they perceive it from different points of view, and accordingly with different degrees of clarity.

The monad's perception has certain constraints. These constraints do not come in the completeness of a monad's representation of the universe, but in its capacity to extract meaningful information – in the form of distinct perceptions – from that representation.

Thus, distinct perceptions of the entire universe are theoretically possible in Leibniz's doctrine of perceptions, although he was never able to express this explicitly at the time he lived (17th century). The authority of the Catholic Church would never have accepted such blasphemous statements. But in my opinion, the capacity of the human mind to access any information in the universe clearly is implicit in Leibniz's philosophy. His concept of distinct perceptions is very similar to my own concept of Paranoesis, which is a superior faculty of the mind that allows non-local direct access to any information in the universe.

In several places in his writings, Leibniz hints at this possibility of a superior mind, or the divine in us, that can see and understand everything with distinct perceptions:

But it is impossible that the soul can know clearly its whole nature, and perceive how this innumerable number of minute perceptions, piled up or rather concentrated together, shapes itself there: to that end it would need to know completely the whole universe which is embraced by them, that is, it must be a God .
[Theodicy, sec. 403]

Nothing can be taught us of which we have not already in our minds the idea...This is what Plato has excellently brought out in his doctrine of reminiscence [anamnesis].
[Discourse on Metaphysics, XXVI]

This shows that the soul virtually knows those things and needs only to be reminded (animadverted) to recognize the truths. Consequently, it possesses at least the idea upon which those truths depend. We may say even that it already possesses those truths, if we consider them as the relations of the ideas.
[Discourse on Metaphysics, XXVI]

Leibniz thus leaves it open that an unlimited intelligence could "read" in the perceptions of any created monad a complete account of the relatedness of its body to the rest of the universe and would thereby have the information needed to establish the correlations that determine the aggregation of monads.

"Every monad is omniscient, but confused", Leibniz tells us. The monad is a microcosm that encapsulates (albeit imperfectly) the entire universe.

...there is something divine in mind, which is what Aristotle used to call the active intellect, and this is the same as the omniscience in God.
[De Summa Rerum: Metaphysical Papers 1675-1676, Yale University Press 1992, p. 43]

Leibniz thinks, that because of the finiteness of the human being, the mind cannot perceive all perceptions as distinct and clear. Most of the infinity of perceptions remain confused, that is, they are not known by the mind. It does not mean that these perceptions are confused in themselves, but only in relation to the perceiving subject, that is the mind endowed with reason and rationality. Only perceptions made distinct can be truly known by the mind.

Leibniz does not elaborate on how unconscious or confused perceptions can be made distinct, as far as I know. According to my philosophy, our mind has a special faculty that has the ability to perceive things previously unknown anywhere in time and space, similar to certain psychic abilities, like telepathy and remote viewing. Leibniz hints at the possibility of such abilities in this paragraph:

The result is that a sufficiently penetrating spirit could, in the measure of his penetration, see and foresee in each corpuscle everything which has happened and will happen everywhere both within and outside of the corpuscle.
[Die philosophischen Schriften von G.W. Leibniz, Vol IV, 557]

It's an interesting concept that was way ahead of its time and re-emerged a hundred years later in the writings of German philosophers, especially the Romantics, as 'intellectual intuition'. More about that idea in a future blog.