What Is It
The intellectual domain of Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz cannot be captured in a single word. For most of his life, he was a jurist, a courtier, a diplomat, and a librarian; he also made huge contributions to the study of logic, geometry, physics, botany, physiology, linguistics, and of course, the infinitesimal calculus. And yet, many of his ideas remain obscure to the modern reader. What in the world is a Monad? Why does Leibniz care so much about the so-called Principle of Sufficient Reason? And how could he claim that this is the Best of all Possible Worlds? John and Ken discuss the most important philosopher you know the least about with Daniel Garber from Princeton University, author of Leibniz: Body, Substance, Monad.
John and Ken note that although most know very little of Leibniz, he actually has very far reaching effects, reaching even into recent innovations in Silicon Valley. Even if he is a genius, Ken finds ridiculous Leibniz’ idea that this world was the best of all possible worlds. John defends the logical soundness of Leibniz’ argument. Ken responds with the argument that simply experience and common sense makes it clear that Leibniz is incorrect, but John responds that our experience might be an insufficient metric to evaluate the overall goodness of the world.
John and Ken invite guest Daniel Garber, Professor of Philosophy from Princeton, and author of Leibniz: Body, Substance, Monad. Discussing the best of all possible worlds argument, Daniel notes that behind it, there is the assumption that the world has meaning, that there is a reason why the world is the way it is. Ken puts this in the context of the Scientific Revolution, when the world began to be perceived as a mechanism. Daniel agrees on the importance of this context, especially since such a perception of the world jeopardized moral absolutes.
Returning to the best of all possible worlds argument, Daniel explains that it’s a purely logical argument separate from our experiences with the world. Ken asks what does Leibniz mean by good? The criterion is not pleasantness for human beings to live in; that is our parochial perspective. It is good in a much broader, metaphysical sense. This does mean that there is no particular comfort in learning that we live in the best of all possible worlds, which is something that Voltaire missed. Clarifying Leibniz for many of those who are unfamiliar with him, John shifts the conversation the what a Monad is and how it relates to the Cartesian conception of the self.
The conversation then shifts to the topic of whether we can have another Leibniz in our own times. Daniel makes the case that individuals of our time can likely never synthesize different fields of thought as was possible during Leibniz’s time, because these fields of thought have gotten much more technical.
To conclude, Daniel comments on Leibniz’s early conception of relativity in space and how it came from his understanding of the Principle of Sufficient Reason with respect to God. Also, Daniel mentions how Leibniz likely had the first conception of the unconscious and its determination of human behavior.
- Roving Philosophical Report (Seek to 6:22): Shuka Kalantari investigates the controversy between Leibniz and Isaac Newton regarding who first discovered calculus. She also covers Leibniz’s rise from obscurity to posthumous fame.
- Sixty-Second Philosopher (Seek to 47:11): Ian Shoales: Discusses Leibniz’s life, intellectual genius, and eccentric personality.
Welcome to Philosophy Talk, the program that questions everything...
...except your intelligence. I'm John Perry.
And I'm Ken Taylor. We're coming to you from the studios of KALW San Francisco.
Monday, June 6, 2022 -- 9:29 PM"It is good in a much broader
""[The world] is good in a much broader, metaphysical sense" (see above).
Yes, that's one way to put it. A very abstract, dry, granola way to put it. Sometimes I wonder if philosophers have have lower parts--in the tripartite sense, as in physical bodies with physical body parts.
Just so you know, the world is good, I mean REAL good. Try it sometime. It's way better than bacon....
Tuesday, June 7, 2022 -- 8:10 AM--Then there must be a
--Then there must be a sufficient reason for it. Is one discernible here? Do you fear a possible world in which you might be eaten?
Tuesday, June 7, 2022 -- 11:57 AMSome people enjoy being eaten
Some people enjoy being eaten. I suppose it's one of those things that are relative to those involved. Sort of like, Do you prefer hotdogs or hamburgers? Oysters or clams? (Personally, I enjoy both.) Reason, being in the middle between the extremes of Plato's tripartite division, fits nicely here. Do you like heads or tails? Tops or bottoms?
Reason prefers both. Reason sometimes leans more or less towards either side on occasion, just to mess around...but mostly stays put between the two opposites...the view from the center position is the best. Very entertaining. Ask Tiresias. Just don't let Hera hear his response. She gets so mad when people out her secrets....
Tuesday, June 7, 2022 -- 2:02 PMYour account here suggests
Your account here suggests that the best of all possible worlds would not include bacon. Is this correct?
Wednesday, June 8, 2022 -- 6:41 AMBacon is fine. It's just that
Bacon is fine. It's just that the world is better than, not equal to, bacon. Personally, bacon is not my thing. But slapped between two slices, covered in tomatoes, perhaps....
Wednesday, June 8, 2022 -- 9:33 AM--Perhaps it's included
--Perhaps it's included because it's fine? Or perhaps it's fine because it's included? Your choice of bacon produces a contingent state of affairs which could have been otherwise. The preference for bacon furnishes a sufficient reason for its existence in the world of its consumer, but not everything that's connected with its existence independent of its consumer, describable as an option chosen by its creator among an infinity of other possible options. What's the sufficient reason in that case? Is it because it was the one which was chosen, or was it chosen because it's the best option even if it wasn't chosen?
Harold G. Neuman
Wednesday, June 8, 2022 -- 2:04 PMThis is an old kerfuffle...
This is an old kerfuffle... so old, this tablet does not like kerfuffle. Oh, well. Old news is better than bad news. i guess. Linguists, take a hike...
Wednesday, June 8, 2022 -- 5:36 PMDo you know the answer? When
Do you know the answer? When a judge rules, does she/he rule because she/he is just, or is she/he just because she/he rules? Did the judge create the standards of justice, or is she/he compelled to submit to whatever the standards of justice already are? As you point out, the question appears in Plato's Euthyphro, but Leibniz was looking for the answer too. It plays a role in his argument for the best of all possible worlds. After all, God wouldn't have to bother creating the world if she/he could just pick one that was already there among the infinity of possible ones, which would of course be the best by objective standards which the Deity itself didn't create. On the other hand, it wouldn't be necessary review all the possible worlds if the Deity could just create one on the spot. So, as your account above shows a thoughtful examination of the subject, and a purely linguistic interpretation has already been precluded, what might your suggestion be with regards to a potential unravelling of this ancient riddle?
Thursday, June 9, 2022 -- 6:56 AMI suggest unrolling the
I suggest unrolling the riddle. Or, better yet, rolling around in the riddle. I love a good roll. I suspect language loves a good roll as well. There are cinnamon rolls, sweet rolls, and rolls in the hay, and then there are the roles we play. Role-play is fun. Let's do that here. What would Leibniz say to the logical positivists, who strictly limited the ability of philosophers to roll around in the hay linguistically with one another? (Talk about a cold shower, that clever Wittgenstein was.) Let's role-play here. Oysters or clams? Or what about that bacon stuff? And tomatoes, let's not forget those pretty pretties...
Thursday, June 9, 2022 -- 2:18 PMThe question has to do with
The question has to do with what one can make and what one finds already made. Take your example of role play. Is the role pleasant because it is played, or is it played because it is pleasant? Here there's clearly elements of both. Without being played the role can have no causal effect on whatever pleasant experience is gotten in relation to it, but if it's a role one doesn't like then trying to play it could have the opposite effect. But what about objects like justice? The U.S. President who resigned in the early 70's famously said "if the President does it, it's not illegal". Was he right when it comes to onto-theology? Your comparison with logical positivism suggests a response which is opposite the answer given by Plato.
Friday, June 10, 2022 -- 8:12 AMOr is it pleasant because
Or is it pleasant because people are playing it right now? Like us two..
Lighting a cigarette...
P.S. Who was Nixon "doing it" with/to? Perhaps he thought he was "doing it" to someone else and "getting the best" of them but in reality he got played by the actual source of justice and power and all that other good stuff...I wonder what Hera would have to say about all this? Hmm...
Friday, June 10, 2022 -- 10:06 AM"All this" seems to refer to
"All this" seems to refer to something a little broader than a simple question. If Hera had been following this brief interchange, it seems to me she would be wondering the same thing I am. Is the question really so complicated that no one can even offer the suggestion of an answer to it? It's interesting that some interlocutors, I'll use your participation as an example, seem to be frightened by philosophy and have to ridicule it or those who take it seriously, presumably as a way in their own minds to dispose of any obligations to think about things which could require some additional effort to what one is accustomed to expending.
As my example here is just of what something seems, not necessarily is, perhaps the question can be phrased in tripartite form (ala Plato), for purposes of clarity:
1) Do cigarettes kill you because you like them, or do you like them because they kill you?
a) Here the answer favors the former.
2) Does wine help your problem with student debt by making you feel better, or does student debt produce your wine problem because you feel rotten?
a) Here the answer favors the latter.
3) If Zeus was arrested for public intoxication and Hera was subsequently angry with him, was she angry because he violated a just law, or was she angry because he didn't have the foresight to make public intoxication legal before he got drunk?
a) Which possibility is favored here?
--Perhaps in this way the question can be fitted into a context in which you've expressed familiarity, so that, in the event of your reply, your readers and by extension the field of philosophy as a whole can be thereby enriched.
Friday, June 10, 2022 -- 8:11 AMLeibniz was queer.
Leibniz was queer.
His society buried him in an unmarked grave. He wore funny wigs. Only about half his papers are known. The book if there ever is one, is only partially written.
Newton and Leibniz were both queer.
LGBTQ liberation, still more promising than reality today, would have possibly limited the genius of these two “universal” icons. Their incredible output comes from their sexual identities and expression; much is between the lines and not the sheets, as there is plenty of evidence of limited activity.
Do humans need to transcend the paths of our desert fathers and uncelebrated mothers? I don’t know. Sometimes it helps. It is a driving force in Leibniz’s life and legacy, which is the UI you are staring down at this moment. A word of thanks is in order, but we should hold off on the party.
Neither Ludwig nor Isaac were “Universal” geniuses, there is no such thing, and the talk here of this idea is neither helpful nor thoughtful. Daniel Garber’s lateral to Einstein is wildly misleading. Leibniz never approached influence like Einstein, though Ludwig’s impact will be far more significant if we attribute his notations to scrutiny, for good or ill. The ill here is subtle and convenient.
Semantic knowledge was characterized by Robert Anton Wilson, former editor for Playboy magazine, in Jesus units (the amount of semantic information at ~30AD.) In the time of Ludwig, there were 2 Jesus (unfortunately for his homeland, in a double entendre.) When I was born, there were 64 Jesus, and my back-of-the-envelope calculation says there are well over 3000 Jesus today. Jesuses of semantic information speak to Ken’s point about the specialness of Leibniz’s time. Those, and antiquity to boot, were simpler times that allowed small people to loom large.
Their parents also abandoned both Isaac and Ludwig. They were left to pick up their adult sensibilities from medieval scholastic traditions that parented and misled both men in a time when more was possible than either achieved.
Newton was bitter and small in a way Leibniz’s irenicism couldn’t fathom. Newton burned down the world and took Leibniz’s optimism with him. The fire glints in our modern sensibility that evil is an argument against the existence of God. Ludwig didn’t understand that argument and never lost his faith or fundamental premise that God was great. That ignorance is where Leibniz met Dr. Pangloss. Where Spinoza and Montaigne retreated, Leibniz advanced. It would have been sound to look for monads, and it did happen eventually. We don’t have to travel that path.
Leibniz read Lady Anne Conway and could have been more generous in his debt to female philosophers but had his cross to bear. There is a story where Leibniz is the mouthpiece of a feminine school still taking root, and I like that view.
Friday, June 10, 2022 -- 1:13 PMWith respect to the sixth
With respect to the sixth paragraph, second and third sentences above regarding the relation to Einstein, doesn't Leibniz argue for the relativity of space against Newton's contention that space must be "absolute", that is, identical independent of any particular location? In that case, Leibniz would seem to be a forerunner of Einstein's reinterpretation of cosmological data, once instruments for precision in observation became sufficient for its confirmation. In this respect, at least, your critique of Garber's comparison appears to be in error.
Sunday, June 12, 2022 -- 11:15 PMKen asks Dan for examples of
Ken asks Dan for examples of modern-era universal genius, not scions of Leibniz.
Einstein was respected in his day, unlike Leibniz, beyond his ken but was hardly a universal genius in the sense used here. He did not write deeply about many different subjects, nor did his interest wonder broadly.
More importantly, Einstein had an annus mirabilis, like Newton, then labored a decade mastering the Rieman maths required for his masterwork. Leibniz only read math in his early thirties and never slowed or suffered fools until confronted with Newton’s pettiness.
My critique is dead on in that respect even while possibly offbase and flat out wrong in others.
Monday, June 13, 2022 -- 10:53 AMBut what about the difference
But what about the difference between absolute space and space relative to location? Doesn't Leibniz share the latter position with Einstein?
Tuesday, June 14, 2022 -- 10:33 AMSorry, Daniel - I got
Sorry, Daniel - I got sidetracked. You are on point here regarding Leibniz and Einstein and space. Leibniz was never in one boat or another, a point I have learned reading Garber’s book.
If we were to gift three camping chairs, three fiddles, three cell phones, and a Starlink to Newton, Einstein, and Leibniz, along with a cool summer campfire, all three would agree to the loose concept of relative space by morning.
Leibniz, by himself, would not likely come upon space as a semi-Riemannian manifold if he were given a couple of hundred years to contemplate it. It was a door unlocked by Einstein with the help of Reiman and Ernst Mach (and no small part due to his first wife, Mileva Maric.)
Leibniz pushed back on absolute space in a different context. That pushback alone might have sparked the idea for Einstein to find, I don’t know. Intellectual history is lost in forgotten moments and found in speculative campfires.
Tuesday, June 14, 2022 -- 1:13 PMSo where does that leave
So where does that leave Poincare's 1870 observation that the speed of light-propagation and the propagation of magnetic waves are roughly equivalent? Would that not support Leibniz's view that no two spaces can be exactly the same, and that even the relations between them become internal properties within them?
Tuesday, June 14, 2022 -- 5:41 PMYes, there's only one.
Yes, there's only one.
Saturday, June 18, 2022 -- 2:41 PMPoincare is to Einstein as
Poincare is to Einstein as Hooke is to Newton.
It is one thing to suggest an idea. No person is an island in that respect, including Leibniz, who suggests he sprang forth without parentage.
It is a different matter to present a new model. In this case, Poincare suggests and Hooke suggests and Leibniz suggests. The real proof and statement happen when suggestion becomes thesis become models that make predictions.
I could be wrong, I don't think Poincare disavowed Newtonian space nor took relativity seriously in that respect. Nor did Poincare make pointed and testable predictions. Einstein himself credits Poincare, but so did Newton credit Hooke. Doing the work, even if theoretical, is the issue. In these two cases, Einstein and Newton, the work is definitively borne by them and not by Poincare or Hooke.
The nature of light and relativity are getting muddled here. Maxwell and Faraday predate Poincare in the unification of light and electromagnetics. Relativity and space weren't a part of that unification, while the relative speed of light was. Einstein made relativity simple so that anyone who can read his work can understand special relativity, light, time, and space.
Tuesday, June 21, 2022 -- 8:42 AMQuite the contrary. Special
Quite the contrary. Special relativity is classical relativity given a privileged frame of reference. The parsimony in expressing it derives from what is expressed, without needing to refer to an individual researcher. But you're right to say that special relativity, as a theory, is not part of what Poincare observes in his discovery, as that was rather a law of motion demonstrated by the correspondence. As an example of such a correspondence closer to ordinary intuition, consider the fact that water boils at a particular temperature and freezes at another. Present at any time is the possible transition from a liquid state to a solid state in ice, and a gaseous state from a liquid state in steam. But these two possibilities are never present at the same time. Only when one interprets them together as belonging to the immanent properties or constant possibilities of water, can one express this behavior in terms of a law of nature. What Poincare is purported to have observed is the speed of causal transmission of the lines of force communicated to iron filings in the proximity of an approaching magnet, to be equal or very near equal to the speed of light. And since this transmission occurs not in a kind of matter but (in principle) empty space, the law of nature which can be claimed to be expressed concerns the behavior of space relative to matter or the motions of particles.
Thursday, June 23, 2022 -- 10:59 AMWe would need to agree on
We would need to agree on “classical” here, and we are not.
Einstein was no universal genius, but he was a genius.
Light travels at different speeds through different materials but only at a maximum speed through a vacuum. The maximum speed, as observed from any frame of reference and not one of privilege, is what is “special” here.
Air viewed as a vacuum is as deceptive as that of space as absolute. I would have to read much more about Poincare to understand Einstein’s debt to his insight, and Einstein did this himself in his later years.
I would not understand space, time, and spacetime without Einstein. Whether others would have made those leaps, I don’t know, but it is likely. Did previous thinkers like Poincare? No, they did not, even as they might have suggested it.
No molecule of water is solid, gas, or liquid. That transition happens in relation to other molecules, reference frames, environment, and emergence.
Science is prescriptive on the level of theory and law. Describing any science as parsimonious is emblematic of the conflict between Newton and Leibniz. That this conflict never need have been is as regrettable as using parsimony to explain the theory of special relativity.
Intellectual history, science, and philosophy are three different links in the chain of understanding. Leibniz’s time and gifts are links in that chain, while his scholastic upbringing isn’t so vital.
Friday, June 24, 2022 -- 10:40 AMPoppycock. Occam's razor is
Poppycock. Occam's razor is a scholastic principle, and Leibniz arrived at space-relativity in very large part by reducing the number of elements to explain his position to one. Poincare's famous observation showed that light need not be understood in terms of waves, but could be better described by the motions of particles, and therefore doesn't require a medium of transmission, like an aether which fills space. The notion that the speed of causal transmission can be, in the case of light, constant in all directions without reference to the motion of its source, is understood in the context of movement in a vacuum, and has nothing to do with saying air has to be a vacuum also in order to sufficiently demonstrate the premise under terrestrial conditions. But your remarks which are most pertinent to my point occur in the third paragraph from the end. Let's say Leibniz gets caught in the rain on his way to the office, getting his wig wet so that he has to go back to his residence and get a dry one. Are you asserting that this would be a mistake on Leibniz's part, and that his wig never really got wet, because he hadn't read Dalton?
Monday, June 27, 2022 -- 7:36 AMYou are welcome and
You are welcome and privileged to your view.
Occam's razor is not a peg to hang a wig on nor a pillar of scholasticism. Instead, it is a heuristic, meaningful in context only, and not a tenet or creed, be it scientific or scholastic, even if the razor is attributed to a scholar. Taking the simpler path is only as good as it is sufficient; in science, that is sufficient to explain observation; in scholastic disputation, it is sufficient to explain a thought, point of faith, or doctrine in light of the rediscovered classical text.
So now we have to agree on "scholastic" and "classical," we likely will not get to Leibniz at this rate.
What is vital, re: Leibniz, is that he turns from the scholastic to the modern. He doesn't choose a scholastic life. He turns at an early age, and the insights he sets forth and the notation he uses are the vital gifts he bears. Gottfried is not remembered for his defense of Aristotle, faith, or the late scholastic movement. He was capable of pursuing that path, maybe better than anyone in history. Leibniz did defend these views in his only published book in his lifetime, defending God as the creator of the best of all possible mechanisms. But his works in science, math, and logic are what people most cherish. That is what I mean by vital. I mean no slight or underestimation of Leibniz's scholastic upbringing and its influence on his thought. Scholasticism was his lens.
What I did mean by vital was his modern view.
In a blog on Leibniz, discussing the priority of Poincare and Einstein is ironic, given the turns of Gottfried's life. An excellent play or movie could be made of the negativity and wrong done to Leibniz by so many, his tutors, his classmates, his father's school, Voltaire, his mistress - Emilie Du Chatelet, Hooke, and Newton, as well as many others.
I see what you are saying about Poincare. Nonetheless, there is little there to reflect on Leibniz.
I don't want to get sidetracked on phase transitions either (we left out sublimation, no wonder I lose the point.) Let me take that one step elsewhere, that I will regret, and say wetness is not the best example of essential nature. Wetness, too, is an emergent property contingent on perspective, and no consult or divergence to Dalton is required.
I appreciate the points you have made here. Garber's book tells me Leibniz was a constant blaze of thought and change. Saying what Leibniz was need be footnoted to the year and season and can't be captured in a blog post.
You are entitled to your view. I'm not sure about Poincare. The more I read there; it seems like there isn't enough evidence one way or the other. We are back to camping chairs, fiddles, and Starlinked cell phones
Monday, June 27, 2022 -- 11:09 AMIt's a fascinating question,
It's a fascinating question, and is as relevant today, in my view, as it was in the seventeenth century. What got Leibniz's wig wet? Was it the water molecules whose wetness is an emergent property of their cohesion which does not belong to the molecules themselves? Or was it the rainbow appearing in the rain as he returns to his residence? On the one hand there's a theory of what water is, but a theory can't get anything wet. On the other hand there's the chromatic phenomenon appearing in association with a raindrop collection, while the rainbow itself is not transmitted in any way to the wig. And it's no use to say the raindrops got it wet, for that tells us nothing about why or how such a transformation occurs. A Leibnizian solution would be, by my reading, as simple as it is elegant: The wig was never completely dry. It had to already be wet in order to become wet. Wetness had to be already present at the wig's creation as one of the potentially infinite possibilities of how a wig can be. The trick is to say that the change in the object occurs not in itself but in the progress of its entry into explicit perceptual contents. By this, the wig was already wet the moment Leibniz put in on. He just didn't notice it until it started raining. Is this plausible?
Wednesday, June 15, 2022 -- 10:34 AMNo. Leibniz's view is that
No. Leibniz's view is that two different things, including parts of space, can not differ, as he puts it, in number only. And this is based on the principle of Identity of Indiscernibles. Just to review, this is the principle that, if two things share every predicate which applies to them, they are the same thing. With regards to parts of space, then, even if they are empty and the of the same size and dimensions, they must differ at least in their relation to each other, with one above it with regards to a particular location, one below it, one to the side, and so on. While this is clearly contrary to Newton's view of space as "absolute", that is, with all its parts identical regardless of what's in them or from where they're observed, how closely it approximates and/or is compatible with Einstein's is still a bit controversial.
Wednesday, June 15, 2022 -- 12:20 PMThis sounds like a linguistic
This sounds like a linguistic matter, not a real dispute. "Parts of space" introduces a logical notion of difference that may or may not in fact exist. Einstein's E=mc2 basically translates into Narcissus looking at himself in the water. Are Narcissus and his reflection two different things, two equal things, or the same one thing? We could speak about this subject in all three ways. What's super interesting is the role light plays in this picture scientifically and even symbolically. Light is luminescent energy in science, and it is consciousness in intellectual symbolism. The two things/"things" are intimately related, and yet whenever we try to discuss their interrelation, we stop making logical sense and get into fights (poof gone, sorts of fights). I'll shut up now and be good, so people don't get mad at me and poof me and my naughty words gone...
Wednesday, June 15, 2022 -- 12:36 PMNot if you take into account
Not if you take into account observer-location. It's not decisive that a given part of space, or conversely something which occupies it, is observed, but only that it in principle can be. Any two spaces, or even all of them together, must therefore differ, each one from the other, in the various ways each can be observed from the locations in other spaces from which they're observed. And there's another interesting valence. Let space b and space d be qualitatively identical in everything that can be said of them, --equal in size, shape, volume, etc., and let person A be sitting between them in space c, so that their positions constitute the series bcd. Now let's assume that an infinity of worlds is possible but only one is actual, which is the existing one, chosen by its creator. If the spaces b and d shared all the predicates which apply to them, then there would be no difference between the series bcd and another series dcb. But that would mean that there could be no good reason for choosing one series rather than the other, constituting a situation in which the creator would lack sufficient grounds for choosing the world in which the first series is the case and the second is not, violating the principle of sufficient reason. In the discussion of relative space, then, Leibniz brings together three of the principles ascribed to him in a surprisingly systematic way, that of Identity of indiscernibles, sufficient reason, and best of all possible worlds.
Wednesday, June 15, 2022 -- 4:21 PMSo it is the presence of a
So it is the presence of a conscious observer that introduces both number (identity, something), and difference (separation, nothing)?
Wednesday, June 15, 2022 -- 5:40 PMAn observer is not required
An observer is not required for a space and its contents to exist, but only that it in principle can be observed. Berkeley had the same idea but tied it to the observation itself, not its mere possibility. Thence for him a miracle of the creation of exactly what is perceived is required on the occasion of perceiving it, to preserve the truth of its reliable correspondence. While Leibniz doesn't need such miracles, he does tie space and everything in it to perception in the sense that it has to be in principle perceivable. Consciousness is however another matter. While it's clear to common sense that a dragon fly, for example, perceives the space in which it flies, whether or not it is conscious in any explicit sense is not clear.
Wednesday, June 15, 2022 -- 9:03 PMYes, not clear. Fuzzy. Like
Yes, not clear. Fuzzy. Like language...
Thursday, June 16, 2022 -- 11:19 AMOf course. But what follows
Of course. But what follows from that? Consciousness in a dragon fly is possible but unknown, therefore fuzzy. Language is used to express such a possibility, but can not be completely clear without unequivocal quantification, and is therefore also fuzzy. You reference, then, two kinds of fuzziness: one of a possible object, another of an actual representation in a subject. How do you tell them apart? Does the fact that an object of representation shares a characteristic of its representation make it nothing more than its representation?
Thursday, June 16, 2022 -- 9:10 PMNothing follows. Nothing is
Nothing follows from that. Nothing is really something that way...
Friday, June 17, 2022 -- 1:33 PMAgain, that's obvious. There
Again, that's obvious. There's always a context for any use of the term "nothing", which is itself not nothing. Here it refers to a characteristic and not at all uncommon dislike of philosophy, similar to that of Anytus at the end of the Meno.
The question however is an interesting one. It goes back to Aristotle's De Anima at 429a15, where the philosopher wonders how the soul and an object of perception are related. He rejects the idea that there must be an intervening medium between them (424b29), anticipating Descartes's corpuscularianism, since then there could be no contact between what's perceived and its perceiver. Rather, he opts for a Mitlaufer approach, where both the perceiver and the object of perception occur together, and must therefore in some sense be the same thing. From this deduction he moves on to a further premise on the example of auditory perception: Although hearing and a sound which is heard occur together, hearing exists as a capacity even without any sound, but sound does not exist without an action upon the ability to hear. In this way, as Aristotle puts it, the soul is "potentially everything" (431b20). Now that appears to be very near to what Leibniz says with regards to the monadological explanation of physical phenomena. Has Aristotle provided the foundation of an account of representational fuzziness here which excludes the requirement of having to make it an intervening object between the mind and its potential perceptual contents?
Thursday, June 23, 2022 -- 9:00 AMIf nothing exists in the
If nothing exists in the world but that which is self-predicating, and no external denomination of what exists is permissible, as Leibniz argues, then any movement in space of what's represented as an extended body, even one's own, is a matter of internal properties of what perceives, understands, or represents to itself as being moved. Therefore it would be inaccurate to say that Leibniz thinks motion isn't real, or constitutes a mere phenomenal bi-product of the ontological source from which it derives. The existence of motion on the contrary is accounted for by the claim that bodies don't do it, but only minds exclusively. This seems to be reasserting Aristotle's idea of an "unmoved mover", but that would also be a mistake, since by simple observation one can determine that the mind is rarely at rest. A boulder rolling down a hill doesn't look much like a movement of one's own mind, but it should be conceived on this view as mind-like nevertheless.
An example of mind-likeness (or, similarity to what minds do in reality) can be taken from visual experience. When one is deprived of sufficient light to see well, as when walking at night in a forest, optic sensitivity is increased as one's eyes become adjusted to a decreased light source. It seems that along Leibniz's lines of reasoning, inanimate objects can be partly explained by analogy to minds which have very little resources from sense-stimulation, but nevertheless are capable of perception in the sense of being affected by all of what's possible to perceive, even if in this case no clear distinctions can be supposed in this affectation. Rocks therefore may not look like a mind, but they must have to be enough of one to reflect all the others by their own internal predicates by what's possibly perceptible, like the sounds of a brook which is not noticed by some adjacent picnickers, without the picnickers.
But how to describe what's possible to perceive? According to the principle of parsimony of explanatory elements, if a single element does the job better or equally to what two can do, the former should be preferred. So if space and time could be accurately referenced by a single term, as with space/time, it should have methodological priority. And this holds for the distinction between soul and body as well. This latter is one of the problems which Leibniz had with the Mechanists, as giving rise to the irresolvable problem of their correspondence, and a dichotomy between free will and pre-determination. But one can talk about bodies as mind-aggregates without having to deny their existence. Instead, a body's relationship to the mind, or the volume of minds of which it is composed, is analogous to a rainbow's relationship to the droplets of which it consists (Leibniz's metaphor). What's seen is its chromatic series of colors, but it's the drops of water which cause the effect of getting wet in the rain, and constitute therefore a more accurate description of what it is. This dispenses with the mind/body dichotomy by joining both to a singular ontological account. And something similar can be seen to occur in the case of time as an internal predicate of what is represented as occupying a space, especially one's own, while retaining its ontological status as an objective content of perception, and generates no obligation to distinguish between time and space as separate objects or different categories of intuition. Might one say, then, that Leibniz has made a similar metaphysical adjustment on methodologically deductive and logical grounds as was required by the objects of Special Relativity and non-Euclidean geometry, pre-dating them by several centuries?