Monday, April 25, 2011

In praise of Leibniz

Leibniz more than any other philosopher gets the short end of the stick, doesn't he? The man was a genius. He invented binary code, and so many other things. He had all kinds of interesting philosophical ideas. An intellectual powerhouse by any measure.

But some pseudonymous prick makes fun of him for one eccentric (though in my view, surprisingly defensible) belief, and that's what he's remembered for. "Oh, he believed we live in the best of all possible worlds, what an idiot!" What did deist Voltaire ever do other than be the enlightenment, deist equivalent of Christopher Hitchens? Screw him and his poetry, on this count.

Mind you, Voltaire is leaps and bounds beyond the gnus who worship him. But he'll always have a demerit for heaping scorn on a man who was his better.

4 comments:

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

Hear, hear!

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

From Catholic Encyclopedia:

"Leibniz … [exerted] himself in the cause of reconciliation between Catholics and Protestants. At Paris he had come to know many prominent Jesuits and Oratorians, and now he began his celebrated correspondence with Bossuet. … He tried to reconcile the Catholic principle of authority with the Protestant principle of free enquiry. He favoured a species of syncretic Christianity…, which adopted for its creed an eclectic formula made up of the dogmas supposed to have been held by the primitive Church. Finally he drew up a statement of Catholic doctrine, entitled "Systema Theologicum", which he tells us met the approval not only of Bishop Spinola of Wiener-Neustadt, who conducted, so to speak, the case for the Catholics, but also of "the Pope, the Cardinals, the General of the Jesuits, the Master of the Sacred Palace and others." … Leibniz, it should be understood, was actuated as much by patriotic motives as he was by religious considerations. … Indeed, the role he played was that of a diplomat rather than that of a theologian. However, his correspondence with Bossuet and Pelisson and his acquaintance with many prominent Catholics produced a real change in his attitude towards the Church, and, although he adopted for his own creed a kind of eclectic rationalistic Christianity, he ceased in 1696 to frequent Protestant services."

Crude said...

Yeah, Leibniz was fantastic all around. Brilliant, dedicating his life to pursuing peace and diplomacy, in addition to some great philosophical and mathematical insights.

But hey, best of all possible worlds, so clearly he was an idiot. (You'd think he'd get more mockery for his hair. That's one hell of a bird's nest.)

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

Yes, but we must salvage something admirable in him so we can rope into the (Retroactively) Closeted Homosexual Genius Club. That hair should suffice by the Club's standards.