Leibniz’s Doctrine of Reincarnation as Metamorphosis

Sophia 59 (4):755-766 (2020)
  Copy   BIBTEX


The Russian philosopher Nikolai Onufrievich Lossky considered himself a Leibnizian of sorts. He accepted parts of Leibniz’s doctrine of monads, although he preferred to call them ‘substantival agents’ and rejected the thesis that they have neither doors nor windows. In Lossky’s own doctrine, monads have existed since the beginning of time, they are immortal, and can evolve or devolve depending on the goodness or badness of their behavior. Such evolution requires the possibility for monads to reincarnate into the bodies of creatures of a higher level on the scala perfectionis. According to this theory, a monad can evolve by being progressively reincarnated multiple times through a sort of process of metamorphosis from the level of the most elementary particles all the way up to the level of human beings or even higher. Lossky argues that the works of Leibniz contain scattered elements of such a systematic doctrine of reincarnation. He attempts to reconstitute this doctrine in an article that appeared both in Russian and German in 1931. The Russian version, ‘Ученiе Лейбница о перевоплощенiи какъ метаморфозѣ’, was published in the Сборникъ Русскаго института въ Прагѣ, vol. 2, 1931, pp. 77–88. The German version appeared under the title ‘Leibniz’ Lehre von der Reinkarnation als Metamorphose,’ in Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie, vol. 40, n. 2, 1931, pp. 214–226. The content of the Russian and German versions is roughly the same, except for the omission, in the German version, of a mention of David Hume in the second sentence and of one paragraph and a half at the end of the article. The following is a translation of this article. I translated the text from the Russian version, which was in all appearances written first, but I also took the German version into account. The original pagination is added in angle brackets. Angle brackets are used wherever the additions are mine. — Frédéric Tremblay.

Author's Profile

Frederic Tremblay
University at Buffalo (PhD)


Added to PP

1,253 (#10,254)

6 months
390 (#4,717)

Historical graph of downloads since first upload
This graph includes both downloads from PhilArchive and clicks on external links on PhilPapers.
How can I increase my downloads?