Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz has the view that the mind of a substance, including humans, is not a composite entity. To Leibniz, the mind is similar to a mill, in the sense that it is like a machine where all of the parts of it work together. When, in reality, the mind is something that is complex, and needs both an intellectual and a technical side to it for it to function –quite unlike the machine Leibniz claims it is. His argument, known as “The Mill Argument”, states that if a person were to walk into a mill, he or she would observe the inner workings of it, and not know what the parts are made of, or how they are related. Nothing about the parts of the mill would provide insight as to how it works. Leibniz concludes that the mind is merely a mechanical substance, because there is no proof that there is a consciousness connected to the properties of the mind. However, the mind is composed of neurons, which allow the body experience sensations. This means that everything that composes the mind also composes thoughts and feelings, which makes humans not only material, but also thinking beings.
In Reflections on the Soul of a Beast, Leibniz writes:
“we also may easily conclude that in any mill or clock considered
by itself no perceiving principle is found that is produced in the
thing itself; and it makes no difference whether solids, fluids or
mixtures of the two are considered in the machine”
(Leibniz, Rutherford, Philosophy.ucsd).
Leibniz uses the example of the mill to illustrate the fact that there is a difference between the mechanics, and the mental state of the mind. For instance, an analysis of the mind would show that there is nothing that connects the material substance of the brain, to the perceptions it produces. Instead, all that would be found are the mechanical parts of the mind working correspondently with each other. Here, he argues that what we perceive cannot be mechanical, as it is not a part of the functioning mind, resulting in perceptions not being a physical act. But it is our minds that tell us what we feel, taste, smell, see, and hear. It is our minds that help us perceive everything that is going on around us, and it does this by working with the other “mechanical” properties that make up the mind.
Unlike Leibniz, John Locke has the notion that thought is something that is connected to the mind of a human, as we have a characteristic that makes us material thinking beings. Locke attributes
“substances the Almighty has been pleased to give [humans]
the power of thinking, which can be in any created thing only
by the good pleasure and bounty of the creator” (Locke, IV.iii.6).
Locke describes this as God having “superadded” the ability to think to our material bodies. He states that God has the ability to give us free thought, even though he cannot explain the basis for God giving humans the ability to think. Locke’s argument is not to state how a substance is able to think, as he admits to not being able...