Leibniz’s view of living beings: Embodied or nested individuals

Ohad Nachtomy

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Leibniz's theory of organic emboîtement is well known, but seldom analyzed in detail. The model of embodiment Leibniz deploys is not a material one, not the kind of physical emboîtement that we find exemplified in Russian dolls, which are physically encapsulated one within the other, or the view of living things as subtle machines advanced by Descartes. This paper will examine several models of embodiment: physical, logical, expressive/representative, as well as a model of functional organization. I will conclude that the latter captures most adequately the Leibnizian view of a living being as a nested individual and the kind of embodiment it involves. What makes all these nested individuals components of a single individual is that they all follow one dominant program of action which may be seen as composed of many subprograms. But they all serve a single end (telos) that informs the developmental program of an individual.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEmbodiment
Subtitle of host publicationA History
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages26
ISBN (Electronic)9780190490447
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Oxford University Press 2017. All rights reserved.


  • Descartes
  • Emboîtement
  • Liebniz
  • Monad
  • Nestedness
  • Telos


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