Preestablished Harmony

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Preestablished Harmony


a concept introduced into philosophy by G. von Leibniz in 1695 to account for the universal interaction and harmony in the world. According to this doctrine, further developed by Leibniz in 1696, the substantive elements in the world, the monads, being purely spiritual substances, cannot interact with one another physically. However, the development of each stands in a harmonious relationship preestablished by god with the development of all other monads and with the world as a whole. As a result of this essential harmony, there also arises a harmony among phenomena (physical determinism) and a harmony between substance and phenomenon (concord between final and efficient causes and between body and soul).

The theory of preestablished harmony was directed against Malebranche’s occasionalism and Cartesian dualism; within a deistic framework, it upheld the concept of the immanent harmony of natural processes.


Eisler, R. Kritische Untersuchung des Begriffes der Weltharmonie…. Berlin, 1895.
Belaval, Y. Ł’Idee d’harmonie chez Leibniz. In “Studium generale,” 1966, vol. XIX, fasc. 9.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in classic literature ?
This sculpture in the memory is not without preestablished harmony. The eye was placed where one ray should fall, that it might testify of that particular ray.
Ontology is for him the science of being in general, while for Baumgarten it is only of "the more general predicates of a being." Unlike Wolff, Baumgarten embraces Leibniz's monadology and the doctrine of preestablished harmony (for Wolff only a "hypothesis").
They also lacked the theological grounding of natural law and the preestablished harmony this entailed: "Rather than originating all at once as a set and then merely awaiting later internationalization, the history of the core values subject to protection by rights is one of construction rather than discovery and contingency rather than necessity."
Collisions "produce, as if by a preestablished harmony, and apparently purposeful behavior" (246), which results in large-scale coherence, "as though each molecule were 'informed' about the overall state of the system" (171).
17ff.) Natural selection, he now argues, provides the answer, for it induces a "preestablished harmony of perceptual similarity standards" (p.
It is not without preestablished harmony, this sculpture in the memory.
Leibniz's answer is that there is a preestablished harmony between your worldly experience, my experience, and the experience of the innumerable monadic others--a harmony established by the Supreme Monad and Grand Mediator or Go-Between, God.
However, beyond more subtle philosophic objections, for those not enamored by the idea of this best of all logically possible gods, this preestablished harmony of isolated immortals seems an extreme metaphysical fudge--a travesty of our sense of finitude, mortality, and dynamic implication in the world.
This "from the ground up" approach can ease much of the anxiety produced either by the Platonic assumption that one's life is not conforming to a preestablished harmony or by the hedonist assumption that one is not particularly adept at calculating the play of pleasure and pain.
Manfred Kuehn outlines the intellectual situation at Konigsberg at the end of Kant's schooling, with focus on competing accounts of relations among substances--real change physical influx, occasionalism, and universal harmony--arguing centrally that Kant's Thoughts on the True Estimation of Living Forces was an act of rebellion (not discipleship) against Martin Knutzen, leader of the dominating, anti-Wolffian Pietists, who argued for the sufficiency of influx (aligned with Locke and the Aristotelian tradition) and the dangers of preestablished harmony (especially its alleged conflict with free will).
Most of the essays discuss the development of occasionalism and preestablished harmony in major seventeenth-century thinkers and how these theories emerge from the background Cartesian metaphysics, mechanistic physics, revealed theology, and traditional philosophy.
Yolton's sketch begins with the characterization of the so-called three hypotheses, namely the systems of physical influx, occasionalism, and preestablished harmony. Yolton shows that during the first half of the eighteenth century (or roughly from 1730 to 1750) Locke's Essay came to be viewed as being based on the doctrine of physical influx.