Leibniz's Mill Argument Against Mechanical Materialism Revisited

Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy 1 (2014)
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Section 17 of Leibniz’s Monadology contains a famous argument in which considerations of what it would be like to enter a machine that was as large as a mill are offered as reasons to reject materialism about the mental. In this paper, I provide a critical discussion of Leibniz’s mill argument, but, unlike most treatments, my discussion will focus on texts other than the Monadology in which considerations of the mill also appear. I provide a survey of three previous interpretations of the argument and a partial defence of one of them, namely the one that Marc Bobro and I offered in Stepping Back Insider Leibniz's Mill (The Monist, 1998). However, I also argue that a fourth interpretation is necessary to account for the appearances of Leibniz’s mill in at least some of his writings.

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Paul Lodge
Oxford University


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