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Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz

One of the most intriguing figures in the history of science and philosophy. He is one of the founders of differential calculus; he is one of the precursors of symbolic logic; he proposed a relational theory of space and time (Leibniz-Huygens correspondence and Leibniz-Clarke correspondence), although he had some difficulties in maintaining some absolutist element in his theory of motion; the notion of possible worlds, the famous monadology, the identity of indiscernibles, and a lot more!

Some of Leibniz's ideas became more feasible or more developed in this century. For instance, logic has definitely become closer to Leibniz's ideals, and become one of the essential foundations of computer science; and in many fields, Leibniz's idea that disputes can be resolved by saying "well, then let's calculate!", became feasible. Goedel's technique (Goedel number) used in his incomleteness theorem, for representing formulas or propositions within the sphere of natural numbers, was certainly envisaged by Leibniz. And Kripke's improvement of "possible-world semantics" was epoch-making in modal logic and related fields.

The general relativity constructed by Einstein, in some way, revived and enforced Leibniz's idea of the relational theory of space and time, and the idea for constructing physics only in terms of relative motions; Ernst Mach's ingenious idea helped this revival, and Einstein thought, at least for some period, that his own theory can fulfill such conditions. But, as it turned out, the general relativity is not quite a theory of relationalism, and there remain pervasive absolutist elements. Some writers even argue that the relativity theories are more unfriendly to relationalism than classical physics is. However, even these writers admit that some of the essential Leibnizian ideas survive in the general relativity.

However, recently I have found that his metaphysics and dynamics (both appeared in 1695) can best be interpreted in terms of the theory of information (which appeared only in 20th century). That is, his metaphysics contains the core of informatics, such as a theory of automata, and a sketch of coded representation of reality in phenomena.  The relationship between the reality (the sphere of the monads) and the phenomenal world, where the law of dynamics governs, must therefore be understood in terms of this informatics. Monadology can best be interpreted this way, and that's my own reading expounded in my newest book (written in Japanese, but English version is posted in 3 parts in Phil-Sci Archive).

See Leibniz-Clarke Correspondence (excerpts with my notes)

Seminar on Leibniz-Clarke

Leibniz Brief Timeline

1646: Born in Leibzig.

1652: Father died.

1661-1667: Studied in Leibzig, Jena, and Altdorf.

1667-1668: Met Baron Boineburg, and employed by von Schönborn.

1672-1676: Lived in Paris on a diplomatic mission, and met academic people, Huygens, among others.

1676- : Employed by Duke Johann Friedrich (Hanover)

Most Important works

1686 Discourse on Metaphysics

1689 Tentamen de motuum caelestium causis (causes of the celestial motions)

1695 Specimen Dynamicum, New System

1710 Theodicée

1714 Monadology, Metaphysical Foundations of Mathematics

1715-1716 Correspondence with S. Clarke


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Last modified Jan. 29, 2018. (c) Soshichi Uchii