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||Baron Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz (1646-1716) - surname in some sources: Leibnitz|
German philosopher, mathematician, historian and jurist, contemporary of Newton (1642-1727), with whom he feuded bitterly over the invention of calculus. Although Gottfried Leibniz left behind no philosophical magnum opus, he is still considered to be among the giant thinkers of the 17th-century. Leibniz believed in "pre-established harmony" between the outer world and maind, and developed a philosophy of Rationalism by which he attempted to reconcile the existence of matter with the existence of God. Bertrand Russel wrote that Leibniz's intellect "was highly abstract and logical; his greatest claim to fame is as an inventor of the infinitesimal calculus."
…if we were able to understand sufficiently well the order of the universe, we should find that it surpasses all the desires of the wisest of us, and that it is impossible to render it better than it is, not only for all in general, but also for each one of us in particular… (in The Monadology, 1714)
Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz was born in Leipzig, the son of a professor of moral philosophy, and Catharina Schmuck, the daughter of a famous lawyer. When Leibniz was only six years old, his father died and he grew up in the care his mother. At school Leibniz was a brilliant student who taught himself Latin by reading an illustrated edition of Livy. Leibniz received his masters degree from the University of Leipzig at the age of 18, but his academic career was cut short when the university turned down his application for doctoral degree. After receiving his doctorate in law at Altdorf in 1667, Leibniz entered into the service Baron Johann Christian von Boineburg. Never looking back at Leipzig, he moved to Frankfurt, where he threw himself into the world of politics.
In spite of Leibniz's peculiar physical appearance was – he was shortsighted and smallish, his nose was very obvious, his limbs were crooked, and he had a protrusion on his head about the size of a quail's egg – his courtly career in Frankfurt and Maiz was first marked by success. In 1672 he traveled to Paris with his plan for a new crudade, trying to persuade Louis XIV to expel the Turks from Egypt in order to distract the king's attention from the possible invasion of Holland. The ploy did not work, but for Leibniz's Paris years were otherwise productive. Leibniz made in 1675 his most important scientific discovery, the differential and integral calculus, but he also found time to visit craftmen in their shops and develop an idea for a new kind of watch, see a talking dog, and produce 150,000 sheets of writing.
The discovery resulted in a controversy with Isaac Newton over whether he or Newton was the inventor. Nowadays it is generally agreed that they both discovered independently the basic foundations, Newton first but Leibniz's publication prededed that of Newton. Leibniz's system of notation is still in use today. Newton's absolute space also was something Leibniz could not accept: "I hold space to be something merely relative, as time is; . . . For space denotes, in terms of possibility, an order to things which exist at the same time, considered as existing together." As an alternative to Newton's physics Leibniz published an article in the Acta Eruditorum, arguing that the movements of the planets may be explained by the existence of a cosmic fluid.
"Just what would Newton have lost if he had acknowledged Leibniz's originality? Absolutely nothing! He would have gained a lot. And yet, how hard it is to acknowledge something of this sort: someone who tires it feels as though he were confessing his own incapacity. Only people who hold you in esteem and at the same time love you can make it easy for you to behave like this." (Ludwig Wittgenstein in Culture and Value, 1979)
While not being concerned with gaining truth and knowledge, Leibniz had time to think about the idea of founding a public exhibition of scientific inventions and outline the project in Drôle de pensée (1675). After diplomatic missions Leibniz was appointed in 1676 librarian to the Duke of Brunswick at Hanover, a position which he retained until his death. For his disappointment, he had to adjust to the fact that he was not any more living in centers of fashionable scientific and philosophical thought. One of Leibniz's duties was to prepare a history of the House of Brunswick, a task which he found boring compared with inventing a new kind of windmill in the Harz Mountains. In the late 1680s he traveled to Austria and Italy, under the pretencre of collecting source material for his work, but he was also seeking employment elsewhere, including as the histographer of England. Eventually Leibniz was ordered to stay in Germany until the history was complete. In 1700 Leibniz planned the Prussian Academy of Sciences in Berlin and was its first president. Unpopular with George Luis of Hanover, Leibniz was not permitted to go to England, when the Elector moved his court to London as George I.
Leibniz never married. He died on Saturday, November 14, 1716, in Hanover, embittered by ill health, plagued with gout, under secret surveillance, neglected, and labelled as an atheist. His death was not much noted by the academies of which he was a member. The funeral rites were meager; Leibniz was buried in an unmarked grave. Only later it was marked by a simple copper plate. Almost all of Leibniz's major treatises on optics, chemistry, philosophy, economics, mathematics etc. remained unpublished in his lifetime. Neither his two philosophical books, the New Essays on Human Understanding (c. 1705) and Theodicy (1710) only showed the tip of the iceberg. His work in symbolic logic was not resurrected until the twentieth century. Leibniz's philosophical writings, Die philosophischen Schriften, were published in 1857-90 (7 vols., edited by C.I. Gerhardt). Werke (1864-84, 11 vols.), edited by Onno Klopp, included Leibniz's historial and political works. Mathematical works were published in Leibnizens mathematische Schriften (1849-63, 7 vols.). The history of the House of Brunswick was not published until 1843. Leibniz's formalistic poems in perfect meter and rhyme were not openly slaughtered by critics.
Leibniz was a convinced advocate of a Eurasian policy and
published a collection of documents on China (Novissima Sinica,
1679). Leibniz's interest in China was prompted by the Jesuit Claudio
Grimaldi, who had spent seventeen years in Beijing and whom Leibniz met
on on journey in Italy. He saw that China was better than Europe in the
elegance of life, but Europe was ahead in abstract mathematical
sciences and metaphysics. Moreover, for his surprise he noted that
Chinese philosophy in its ancient form looks like his own philosophy.
He announced that "I shall have to post a notice on my door: Bureau of
Information for Chinsese Knowledge."
When Father Joachim Bouvet, who had been in China, described in a letter the I Ching, an ancient book of wisdom and oracles, Leibniz recognized in the enigmatic hexagrams representations of his binary digits. To demonstrate this he wrote Explication de l'arithmétique binaire (1705). "The I Ching was important for its divinatory contents, but for Leibniz it becomes further evidence in proving the universal value of his formal calculus (and in a letter to Father Bouvet he suggests that its inventor was Hermes Trismegistus; as a matter of fact, Fu-hsi, the legendary inventor of the hexagrams, like Hermes was considered the father of all inventions)." (Umberto Eco in Serendipities, 1999)
Along with many Germans of his age, Leibniz conducted his
correspondence mostly in Latin and French. He produced every year
hundreds of letters. To the English philosopher Thomas Hobbes he wrote
two letters (1670, 1674). Most likely Hobbes never got them; he never
replied. Between 1663 and 1672, Leibniz referred to Hobbes in his
notes, writings, and letters 98 times, mostly critically.
During his lifetime Leibniz was a very public figure, characterized by George I of England as a "walking encyclopedia." At that time in the small intellectual world, Catholics and Protestants changed ideas through incessant correspondence in mutual respect, which prepared way to the Enlightenment. Leibniz himself tried to formulate a sound philosophical and theological basis for church reunions projects which arose occasionally. His hopes were high that Prostestants and Catholics would join in a universal church.
Leibniz had a lifelong interest in alchemy, and his system, complex and forbidding, has been seen to resemble in some ways mystical or cabbalistic accounts of reality. Leibniz's fascination with alchemy was inspired by Franciscus Mercurius van Helmont, a physician and Kabbalist, who was the son of Jean-Baptiste van Helmont, the discoverer of gas.
"Bubbles are the seed of everything," Leibniz stated in one of his early writings. Noteworthy, the obscure idea resonates with the modern inflationary universe model, in which our universe has been seen as a bubble floating in an ocean of other bubbles. In his Monadologie (1714) Leibniz maintained that the divine order of the universe is reflected in each of its parts, each part being called a monad, a term that means 'unit' or 'unity' – or a counterpart of atom. Monads are incorporeal automata and adre called by Leibniz "entelechies": "There is a world of created beings – living things, animals, entelechies and souls – in the least part of matter. Each portion of matter may be conceived as a garden full of plants, and as a pond full of fish. But every branch of each plant, every member of each animal, and every drop of their liquid parts is itself likewise a similar garden or pond." Leibniz concluded that there must be an infinite number of substances, monads. They are not material particles and the only way in which two monads can differ is in having different properties. The whole range of monads can be divided into stages from inanimate world to rational minds. This idea he had formulated in other words in a letter to Burcher De Volder: "Considering matters accurately, it must be said that there is nothing in things except simple substances, and, in them, nothing but perception and appetite. Moreover, matter and motion are not so much substances or things as they are the phenomena of percipient beings, the reality of which is located in the harmony of each percipient with itself (with respect to different times) and with other percipients."
Rational monads are capable of self-consciousness, but because their position in the universe is fixed (i.e. there is no choice of action), there is no such thing as free will. Evil exist, but only to accentuate goodness, one cannot be without the other. Each monad perceives all the other monads more or less clearly, but only God perceives all monads with utter clarity. God have pre-established a harmony between the monads, and the world that these monads compose is the best possible. "I must be shown that God is a person, i.e., an intelligent substance", he concluded as an answer to Spinoza, whose God was Nature.
God is all-powerful and morally perfect, hence, of necessity, whatever possible world created by God is the best possible world. Whatever states of affairs obtain in it, they do so of necessity. It has often been said, that Leibniz's optimism was later ridiculed by Voltaire in Candide (1759), but the real target was possibly Pierre-Louis Moreau de Maupertuis (1698-1759), a philosopher and scientist, whose writings attracted wide attention at that time. In Candide, after guiding his protagonist through a number of disasters, Voltaire showed justifiable the question that if God cannot make a better world that the one we know, is his powers or goodness limited? However, Leibniz intended a metaphysical concept that applied to a world of absolutely fixed, predeterminated order. From Candide's last remark, "We must cultivate our garden", one may conclude that Voltaire considered work far more profitable than metaphysical speculations. - "Whatever is, is right" (see Voltaire)
Or, as poet Alexander Pope wrote:
All nature is but art, unknown to thee;
For further reading: Critical Exposition of the Philosophy of Leibniz, by Bertrand Russell (1900); Logic and Reality in Leibniz's Metaphysics by G.H.R. Parkinson (1965); The Philosophy of Leibniz by N. Rescher (1967); Leibniz: A Collection of Critical Essays by H. Frankfurt (1972); Leibniz's Philosophy of Logic and Language by H. Ishiguro (1972); Leibniz, ed. by R.S. Woodhouse (1981); Leibnitz by S. Brown (1984); Leibniz by G.M. Ross (1984); The Philosophy of Leibnitz by B. Mates (1986); Leibniz: Language, Signs and Thought by Marcelo Dascal (1987); G.W. Leibniz's Monadology: An Edition for Students by G.W. Leibniz, Nicholas Rescher (1991); The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque by Gilles Deleuze (1992); A Critical Exposition of the Philosophy of Leibniz: With an Appendix of Leading Passages by Bertrand Arthur Russell, John G. Slater (1993); The Cambridge Companion to Leibniz, ed. by Nicholas Jolley (1994, paperback); Leibniz and the Rational Order of Nature by Donald Rutherford (1995); Leibniz's Universal Jurisprudence by Patrick Riley (1996); Leibniz's 'New System' and Associated Contemporary Texts, ed. by Richard Francks (1997); Liebniz: Representation, Continuity, and the Spatio-Temporal by Dionysios Anapolitanos (1998); The 100 Most Influential Books Ever Written by Martin Seymour-Smith (1998); The Universal Computer: The Road from Leibniz to Turing by Martin Davis (2000); The Courtier and the Heretic: Leibniz, Spinoza, and the Fate of God in the Modern World by Matthew Stewart (2006). Leibniz's law: If one thing is identical with another the anything that is true of the one must also be true of the other. See also: eLogic Gallery: Ancient Greece to the Enlightment by David Marans (an open-access pdf ebook) & Pantheon of Logic: Insights, Images, Bios, Links From Ancient Greece to the Twenty-First Century (full text eBook) by David Marans