« Philosophize This!

Episode #037 ... Leibniz pt. 1 - A Million Points of Light

2014-09-23 | 🔗

On this episode of the podcast, we begin our discussion of Gottfried Leibniz. First, we find out what important invention created a riff between Leibniz and Isaac Newton. Next, we learn about Leibniz’s theory of Monads (which are basically the atoms of the spirit world), and how they are programmed to ensure that we are living in the best of all possible worlds. Finally, we learn about Leibniz’s distinction between “necessary truths” and “truths of fact,” and how knowing the difference can save you a lot of time and confusion. All this and more on the latest episode of Philosophize This!

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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Look it's already off the rails, step aboard my time, machine everybody and come back to a wonderful point in history with me. The year is two thousand for a right throughout the United States and the rest of the world right now there is a technological arms race, on we've all seen it unless, if you're under ten years old, you were there and you experienced it all right and something tells me I'm catering to most of my audience. I don't think I have any ten year old. Listening to the show could be wrong if you live during that time, you saw incredible things happen in the area of technology. The devices that were coming out of a a rapid rate right. We saw things like the Ipod transform the way that people listen to music. The advent of the ipod made listening to music so much more convenient and efficient than had ever had been before we saw things like those old Nokia. Cellphones right, bricks we saw them offer people affordable wireless communication at a level that way
ever seen before, we had all sorts of stuff coming out, we had handheld gaming devices, we had handheld tvs, all kinds of stuff, and the most interesting part about this time period is that we all knew exactly where it was going, but nobody had found a way to get there. Yet you know there's this really strange consensus among consumers among inventors, billion dollar companies, even though what we were ultimately heading four in this time period was the all in one electronic device, the ultimate all encompassing device. Now I want you to imagine your living in two thousand foreign you're sitting in the front room of your house, and you are immersed in this culture you always dabbled in electronics, right, your life, never to serious, have created a few products, but one thing that your confident about set these obstacles at these big companies are facing us. Prevents them from making this all in one device. You solve them, You know how to get rid of those obstacles. He decided you
We're going to make that all include The combination of all these gadgets and the one so for the next six months, your life turns into a montage que the rocky music you're running up upstairs putting on your lab coat wearing goggles your test like coils and back you inventing stuff, you know, and Only after months and months of hard work and conviction, you, finally doing you, create a successful prototype. For an incredible new device that combines a phone web surfing a camera everything. And what do you call this wonderful new device, the by phone? It makes sense because you want people to buy your phone right, the Bible catchy. Do you take your prototype? You take this new incredible thing that you've invented that society societies directed its attention to four years now and you start trying to bring it to market and look. Why wouldn't you
This is what capitalism is all about time to get rewarded for all that hard work you've put in right, but imagine you file for a patent and right before you start mass manufacturing it right before you start selling it to people outcome, Steve Jobs, waddling across the stage and his turtleneck talking about how he just created all in one ultimate device, and he calls but the Iphone. There's no thievery here, there's no deception that went on you guys were both brilliant people. The both independently arrived at the exact same conclusion. The problem is he just arrived at the idea of a little bit before you did? How disheartened would you be. How disappointed would you feel if that really happened, just feel those emotions? For me it would be absolutely devastating. I can't even imagine dedicating that much of my thought- in energy to something just to have somebody else created at the same time as mere a little bit before it would crush me are
And the craziest part about all this is that if you replace the Iphone and our example with be me mathematical study of change known as calculus. This is almost exactly what happened between Sir Isaac Newton, known as the guy that invented Calculus, the Steve jobs of calculus and the guy we're going to talk about today, Gottfried Wilhelm lines, but look we're going to learn all about that story in the context of his life and his relationship with Sir Isaac Newton, we're going to learn about all that and do time. But I've thought about this for a while, and I think we learned best when there's a story to tell about something. You know when there's some found asian of information that we can branch off of and I think when it comes to the philosophy of life nets in particular. The best way to learn about his contributions to philosophy is in relation to his medicine single system, known as the monad ology we're gonna. about the ology as a baseline and then build from there
Now, when it comes to learning about the monad ology, I think the best thing to do is just Tell you what it is in a couple sentences and then fill in the gaps from their thought about it. I think this is the best way to go about doing it. So here goes wide. Nitz claims that everything in the universe is made up of these team. Tiny little things called monads your mind is a monad. That is served by the practically infinite number of little monads that make up your body and with each of these monads is a sort of cosmic script, a mirror of the universe, allows the monad to understand one aspect of the universe? It is as well as all kinds of other good stuff, including full knowledge, everything about itself in the past present and future of the universe? Now that's putting it pretty crudely and trust me, I'm not unexplained that at all, but it provides the skeleton that we need to continue with our discussion. I think, having
Baseline is gonna be helpful. The biggest misconception when I tried to describe the Mona knowledge you two people in modern times is for them think of a monad as being very similar to an atom mechanically blame anybody for thinking this way. We had it crammed into our heads, since we were little kids, that the world is made up of these almost infinite number of atoms, smaller micro particles, that make up the more complex for a world that we existed, and you hear about limits talkin about these tiny little monads that make up everything and its natural to equate that to the theory of optimism. But this is far from the case and to give us some context. Let's talk about were licence was coming from during his time period. The central theme, the pivot point, from which all three continental rationalists began, their philosophy was the question of substance. We talk about it. A cup
times before Descartes defined substance as that which its existence explains itself, and from this he arrived at the conclusion that the universe has three substances, mind matter and God Spinoza then picks upward Descartes left off and he disagree to them. He says no, there's only one true substance, and that is everything that exists. God nature, this totality that we're all aspects of that is the only thing that's existed dense explains itself. Therefore, there is only one substance. Now lightness takes a different approach, though he can be seen as similar to both of them in some ways why minutes is like The nose and that he says it there's only one true substance, but that one substance was something called a monad which everything is made up of hell. It's just stop for a second and think about how different Leibnitz is from Spinoza,
I mean Spinoza thinks that there was one substance and that that one substance is everything in the universe. Limits goes the other direction he thinks we have. One substance, but so small, it can't even be said to exist in physical form. Let me explain that for a second by talking about why the question of substance was so important to the continental rationalists. Alright, let's take the Iphone example from a little earlier let's say you have an Iphone and you want to dissect it, and you want to know everything there is to know about that Iphone. Where would you start If you were given that assignment in school, what would you do can know everything about an Iphone by just looking at it by just rubbing your fingers all over it. Do you under and the essence of an Iphone just because you play angry birds on it all day. Well, of course not! So what are you going to do? You're going to break it open see? What's inside of it, let's say
He took a hammer and you beat on the side of the Iphone several times and all the green stuff falls out of it. You know all the circuit boards and transistors it's a ghastly site, would you say that you understand everything there is to understand about that Iphone? Simply because you looked inside of it and saw the parts will know, but you are getting a little closer right. I mean you're, taking something incredibly complex, and you're, starting to break it down into smaller pieces and return to understand the function of each one of those pieces. Maybe do enough observation you could find out that this little green chip, overhear controls the camera and this little green chip controls. The headphones Jack, for example. but even if we do that, we still don't understand anything about the nature of the Iphone. Do we don't know everything No, I mean where did all this green stuff Comfor? Don't we need to
understand all that stuff. Before we can truly say we know what an Iphone is. I mean, isn't the fact that these materials were mind out of a cave somewhere or some guy coalesce them together with dirt? Isn't that an important element of what an Iphone is? We wanted to know we'll just how, in this example, were taking this incredibly complex thing and breaking it down into simpler and simpler parts to try to understand it better? This is the exact same tactic: philosophers used when trying to clean and understanding of our place in the natural world. You think an Iphone is difficult to break down and understand these guys had to do it. The entire universe and this process of breaking complex things down into the simplest pieces, to understand we do this all the time in modern times. We don't even realize it because we've been doing it every day of our lives. You know just, for example, look at the sky
right now. We look at the sky and we see what air clouds and sunshine right, but what sort of grass, but do we have on the sky? We understand everything there is to know about this guy, now somebody asked you to explain the sky better, you probably something like well. It's made up of oxygen molecules and nitrogen molecules, and hydrogen carbon and not many people would argue with the fact that you're doing a better job of describing the sky right there than just saying that it's a bunch of clouds, air and exhaust from pickup trucks right. The point is when something is complex to understand it fully. One really promising method is to break it down into the simplest parts possible, because typically this gives us some insight into how the more complex things work, and this is why the issue of substance is so important to these philosophers. What, in some thing that we can look at as a starting point, what
material or what thing is so simple that it can be understood on its own without having to refer to something else in the case of the universe, oftentimes that meant breaking things down into the smallest particle imaginable, maybe not in a particle, and this is far from a new problem. I mean people have been talking about this concept since the ancient Greek, some of you were gonna remember. We talked about it on the palm cast Multiple times Zena, when his famous paradox of Achilles running the race and how we can never actually get to the finish line, because before he gets there, he will have had to have run halfway to the finish line, burst.
And what Xeno said is that, even when he gets to the very end of the race he's just gonna have to stand by the finish line in theory having to go half way to the end and then halfway to the end and so on and so forth into infinity. He can never actually reach the end, and the important question that he was bringing up is: can things be infinitely divisible? Can you cut a piece of paper in half a billion times. What's he had everything on your site if you had the proper microscope, if you had the tools and the steady hand of Hawkeye Pierce, could you cut that piece of paper in half into infinity now? This is a good question to ask if you're trying to understand the world better. Now in philosophy, we would say that, if something possesses the quality of extension extension is if something takes up space in the physical World Day card, to find it a little bit further, very different.
Definition of it, but for the sake of right now, if something takes up space in any regard in the physical world, no matter how small it is, it has some sort of length, breadth and depth right now, something has length, breadth and depth. That length can be bisected in theory, right that death can be bisected and to live nets. If something can be cut down into increasingly smaller pieces and therefore simpler pieces then that original thing that you were cutting in half can be the most simple thing that there is. It certainly can't be a substance. You know a thing: that's existence explains itself, because the fact that you can cut it in half in the first place proves that it has at least two parts interact with each other and need each other for the original thing to have existed at all. If you have a piece of paper, that's one.
Billionth of a centimeter wide and you cut it in half and make two pieces of paper that are for billions of a centimeter. The original thing can't be the simplest thing that there is, or else you couldn't I didn't have. This is why the monad of white minutes is nothing like the I am of the ancient Greeks or the atom of today's world. The atom is a particle. It takes up. Space in the physical world possesses the quality of extension. The monad is incorporeal, it's a spiritual entity. A camp possess the quality of extension routes. It could be some divide, It can therefore be broken down into simpler parts. Some translations even call each monad a soul, but let's, like it, the rails, I mean
C Mon out is not what we would think of a soul in modern times. Typically, it's not what a soul is. If you get your idea of what a soldiers from the movies, the way that I like to think about the monads, when George Bush accepted his party's nomination for president by the way, I'm talking about H w, president senior, as they say right way back and nineteen. Eighty eight when he accepted his party's nomination for president. He referred to the p, and vision of America as a thousand points of light. Well, personally, I kind of plagiarize them a little bit when I picture the vision of limits here when I think of this vast web of interconnected spiritual entities, I think of it as a million points of light. Sometimes I say ten thousand points of light if I'm not feeling very sanctimonious that day, but let's just think about what lignans describing here right in reality we're talking about this vision of a universe, that's full of a near infinite number,
of these the souls. These nonphysical interconnected metaphysical points of light that all seem to work together, but none of them actually interact with each other. That maybe I'm sacrificing too much to give that visual of the points of light that are all interconnected because reality, these monads are nothing like light at all. For one thing there, entirely. Nonphysical credit the one monad as one unit that makes up everything one unit of existence right one unit of reality. Now, for anybody that, before this episode was familiar with limits as Mona Ology, you fool understand right now that there are a lot of holes to fill in here for us to completely understand what a monad is and how it explains phenomena in the natural world.
And we're going to spend the rest of our time here today, trying to fill in those gaps. But first I want to talk about something that I know at least a few of you guys are out there thinking right now, and that is the question of. Why do I care about this whatsoever?. What does this have anything to do with me? This is similar to last week when, when you talk John Locke, in his little seventeenth century theory, of how the senses knowledge? Oh, that was interesting interesting. They ended up completely wrong and they essentially filibustered. My life five minutes forcing me to spend my time listening to one failed, hyper This is from the seventeenth century after another you're gonna. Do that again to me. Why do you do this to me, Stephen West? Let me address that for a second, while you're, both right and wrong in different ways, yet
ultimately lightness and his theory of monads is widely denounced by science. Today, though, it should be said that nobody is actually ever refuted. The existence of monads dislike nobody's ever actually refuted the existence of the Easter Bunny. I mean really they could discover Under the fabric of reality that we think exists right now, but there was a non physical round like this, that dictates the physical world. Let's go out on a limb and address what these people talking about. Let's say that it is complete garbage that doesn't mean that every detail that I tell you about these monads is completely useless to you.
Make no mistake. There are a lot of things. I could tell you about these monads. It would be a waste of your time. I could talk about it for the next three hours about all the ins and outs of his vision of this collection of monads, but certain things about these monads when viewed in the full context of his metaphysical system have deep implications in philosophy and the very important lightness when it be an influential part of philosophy if he just came up with a clever story, so I promise I won't wax on about the minutiae, but Let's talk about these little monads and what they are exactly maybe the best place to start is at all. Monads are not created equal, in fact, they vary. Sid terribly from one monad to another light myths, talks about how just how there are no two beings, that are perfectly alike. There are no
Two monads- that are perfectly alike in that same way after all, that's how we perceive things at all to limits by spotting differences between things. If everything was the same, how can we tell the difference between things? Live minutes points out that, because of the the differences between these monads, they can be arranged in terms of a hierarchy. There is a hierarchy of monads Colitis Some are more important than others. Some monads have more a bill these than other monads, and this hierarchy can be broken down into a simple three tiered system created monads monads, with perception memory and monads resembling what we now know as a rational soul. Human mind, for example, is a moment and that Monad has a body that corresponds with it, but as complex beings that can be broken down into simpler parts like the eye
that we were talking about before. We are the sum total of the endless number of monads that make us up, and we have a script, that's programmed inside of each of those monads. That also makes us up now. This can be kind of difficult to get a grasp of, but the vision that he describes of the true nature of the universe. It starts. Sound, very fractal. Much like what seems to be the case in modern physics, he says quote each portion of matter
be conceived as like a garden full of plants were like a pond full of fish, but each branch of a planet each organ of an animal. Each drop of its bodily fluids is also like a similar garden or a similar pond end quote my bits famously talks about these monads as not having any windows and what he means by that is that nothing can come in or go out of these Mona. They already possess everything that they need when their created, and this may be the most important part these monads already contain when their created everything that their use. There is no direct interaction between these monads. There is no, what philosophers would call secondary causation where a monad, you know it runs into another monad and they get crushed up and causes something else to happen or
Mona senses something around it and adapts to it. There's none of that. Just think about how beautiful this concept is for a second right. Each and everything in the universe to liveness has a certain distinctness about it. As an aspect of the universe. It has a certain completely unique concept that it is and inside of itself, it contains from creation everything that it has ever been is now or will ever be at any point in the future. These monads have in them programmed by God to likeness a broadway script, so to speak, every beat that they're going to hit
the duration of the universe. You know tomorrow, you're gonna be at stage right and you're gonna be dancing around sing in Oklahoma and then the next day, you're gonna be dressed up like a flamingo on the other side of the stage dancing around their God, programmed into them a sort of broadway script of everything that there ever going to do or have ever done, but just think for a second about this sort of broad waste crept being applied to the most fundamental of substances in the universe. What sort of assignments would they get by God now bear with me? for a second and think about the implications of this right? What you were one of these spiritual monads if you're given up Broadway script part of knowing everything that you need to know about performing in a part of knowing where on stage need to be and what lines you need to read in everything That part of that is knowing where you're going to be in relation to everything else, it's gonna be on stage in the law.
I've seen you want to do in your flamingo costume is the trip over somebody else and just face plant right out at the stage You gotta know where everybody else is gonna be in relation to you, even though these monads don't directly interact with each other. They don't need to. By knowing their place in this giant cosmic Broadway script, they know exists we were all the other. Monads are gonna, be in relation to them each and every monad at each and every point in time understands its relationship to everything else in the universe. The point of all this is that guy, to light nets by riding into these monads, a complete script of the past present and future of the universe and every detail about themselves created a universe in a state of pre established harmony.
He says quote: if we could understand the order of the universe well enough, we would find that it surpasses all the wishes of the wisest people and that it is impossible to make it better than it is not merely in respect of the whole. In general, but also in respect of ourselves in particular, no, we probably all heard at some point in our life that famous quote attributed to live nets where he says that we are living in the best of all possible worlds. We probably heard that before. Well. There's another quote, and I forget who it was by, but it's one of my favorite quotes. If you're an optimist, you believe that we're living in the best of all possible worlds and if you're a pessimist, you believe that it may be true kind of clever anyway, now God's preestablished harmony, the best of all possible worlds and what that means, what this means about free will and do
determinism and the problem of evil. This is all going to be ironed out on next week's episode, and if the concept of these monads is still a little bit confusing, don't worry about it. These these abstracts systems of thought can be kind of hard to fully understand when there aren't any examples of things that happen in the real world as a result in them and next week, we're going to have plenty of the this whole subject is very difficult to talk about in a short period of time, and I promise, by the end of it it's going to make a lot more sense, but right now I want to talk about one other thread in this tapestry. That's gonna eventually make sense, and that is that I want to talk about this interconnectedness of the universe, and this pre programmed
script of the past present and future, and what that has to do with the way that we arrive at knowledge as humans. So because the human mind is a moment because every monad has in it a complete explanation of itself and how that self relates to everything else in the universe. Limits believes, at least in theory, Can use our ability to reason to analyze the relationships between all of these different aspects of the universe and arrive at a complete and total web of knowledge to use a very crude example, because, luckily, comes to the universe, we're talkin about many many more moving parts and when I can give, but just hypothetically, if you could understand exactly how you related to some concept. You could learn a lot about right and therefore control it lets. You could learn about how you related to the concept of cancer. Let's say you could understand how it was.
Connected to you and every other monad an existence for that matter. If you could do that you would have a lot of information about it. You would certainly be able to determine the cause of cancer and, ultimately how to destroy it, but practically speaking even to liveness. This is virtually impossible. I mean just think of the number of calculations you would have to do just to make the most simple of connections in this There's a veritable infinity of monads, just making up your body alone. How could you ever actually be able to do the calculations necessary to fully? And understand how each one of the monads in your body reacts with all the other monads in the universe in the past present and future? It's impossible
Leibnitz understands this and he knows it. It's impractical. He knows it's virtually impossible, but it's not impossible. He talks about for us existing in the world that we live in, trying to find out all the ins and outs of cancer and how each monad relates to another monad is ridiculous. It's much more efficient for us to just run experiments in using our senses and through pattern, recognition and enough trials. We can come to a conclusion about what causes or heels cancer based on the way those trials went. But the important part of all this is that the theoretical
concept that it's possible to arrive at, that sort of information is an extremely powerful one see when we arrive at the truth as human beings Linett thinks that it's very important that we make the distinction between what he calls the two different kinds of truth. This is one of the most important parts of this philosophy and it's going to have very real implications on next week's show limit says that whenever something is true, it is either a truth of seasoning or a truth of fact. Now what we're talking about here is going to feel very familiar. If you remember back to what we talked about on the Vasina show where we talked about necessary existence versus contingent existence well truths of reasoning are necessary truths and truths of fact are contingent truths. Let me explain a necessary truth is a truth that needs to be true. There is no possible
way that it can't be true because to suggest anything otherwise would be a contradiction based on the definition of the thing itself. For example, if I say, pentagons have five sides that is a necessary truth. All right. There are no four or six sided pentagons, because if they did have four or six sides, they wouldn't be Pentagon anymore. Pentagon's by definition, have five sites to say anything, otherwise, be a contradiction. My favorite one that I've heard and look it's a very common one philosophy books. I D make this one up, but it's all bachelor's are unmarried see. This is a really good one, because it's not about like a triangle are something we can apply to us in the real world. We can see what they're talking about when they say necessary truths. You know you can't be a bachelor and be married If you were married, you would lose your membership to the bachelor club. You wouldn't be a bachelor anymore if somebody said all
bachelors are married. There's no, reason for you to run all around the world and make sure that all the bachelors are still definitely not married, because if they were married they wouldn't be a bachelor anymore. This is a good example of a truth of reason to live is the important part is that truth can be arrived at through rational reflection alone. Here now, on the other hand, a contingent truth or a truth of fact, as Ligne would say, is one that may be true right now, but stating the opposite of it would not be a contradiction. You know the opposite could also be true. For example, I could, that I left the light on in the other room sure I could get up. I could walk into the other room and see that I left the light on
It certainly is a true statement, but the inverse of that can also be true right. I cannot let the light on. This is what limits cauzee truth of fact, and its much different than the all Pentagon's have five sides, truth or the all bachelor's are unmarried truth, because those are always true. Now, if you were going to try to arrive at knowledge about our place in the natural world, which kind of truth, would you want in an ideal scenario which one of those would you choose one interesting thing to think about how many of our modern day scientific truths are based on truths of reasoning and how many are based on observation truths of fact very easy to see what live mints is getting at her. We could run And to a lot of problems I mean just imagine living in a city no room in one of these giant sprawling mansions on the countryside in one of these homes at has over a hundred bedrooms surroundings
all sides and for your entire life. You ve only lived in that room and one You decide that you're going to move outside of your room and you're going to try to understand a little bit more about this mansion that you live in now, you're, going to start conducting your own scientific method, you're going to observe the mansion around you and try to arrive at conclusions about it. Now imagine if, in every room that surrounds euro, some really inconsiderate person that stay there, the night before left alive but in every other room in the mansion, the lighter off you might Do your scientific experiments about the mansion around you get to the rooms that are immediately surrounding your room, and you might conclude that you exist in a mansion where every single room in the mansion has the lights on, but you don't actually live in that
Now one of the janitor just randomly wandering around the mansion notices at the lights are on, and that turns a mile off one day or turns one of them off one day. How confused would you be? How much time have you wasted in the process of arriving at these scientific truth that are based on what limits called proves a fact and here's a better question was the time truly wasted. Some good questions to think about this week, as you wait for the next installment, where all of the starts to make real sense. Alright, thank you for sticking with me today. It's tough to do this, sometimes in an episode form, but I look forward to continuing this conversation with you on next week's episode. Talk to you soon. You can follow me on twitter at I am Stephen West. You can join in the discussion on Facebook. We find me
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Transcript generated on 2020-09-30.