This Week in History
With Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz
by David Shavin
Monday, November 14th, 2016, marks the 300th anniversary of the death of the universal genius, Gottfried Leibniz.
The death of Gottfried Leibniz marks the single greatest event in the consolidation of ‘Venetian’-imperial power in Great Britain, an event that made the American Revolution necessary. Four years earlier, in 1712, Leibniz stood as the key advisor to Russia's Peter the Great; the newly-appointed Imperial Privy Councilor to Emperor Charles VI; the longtime strategist and teacher of the heir-apparent of Great Britain, Sophie of Hanover; the key philosopher and diplomat for Duke Anton Ulrich, in his attempts to end the sectarian strife of Christian Europe and reunify the churches; and the recognized leader at the frontiers of science – and especially one with the epistemological talent for how to push forward those frontiers. He had set up a national scientific academy in Berlin, had initiated one in Vienna, and was laying the groundwork for the same in St. Petersburg. He had major scientific, diplomatic and epistemological inroads into the French Court and into China.
The intensive assault upon Leibniz, from 1712 until his death in 1716, was that of a desperate imperial faction, hell-bent upon silencing his voice. England’s King George I, who was nearby Leibniz’s Hanover at the time of his death, made it clear that one should not even be seen at Leibniz’s funeral – despite the obvious fact that Leibniz had been the chief counselor for his mother’s court for decades. King George I, the II, and the III would spend the next half-century enforcing a lockdown of Leibniz’s writings, until 1766 – 250 years ago! – when Benjamin Franklin met in Hanover with Leibniz’s intellectual descendants, and deliberated over Leibniz’s concept of happiness (‘Felicitas’). In brief, the world was created, bent toward happiness. That is, the necessities of life required new, qualitative scientific revolutions to define whole new bases of ‘resources’, lest society fall into a war of each against all for shrinking resources, a Malthusian – that is, a genocidal – crisis. The world was created where the necessities of life required the freedom of man to deliberate over the created world, to make those creative scientific revolutions, and steer it into a closer representation of the Creator. That man was capable of acting in the image of God (and was not wired as an automaton, to do so); that his free choice to do what was necessary brought him nearer in focus with the image of God – this was the definition of happiness. Any other choice by the Creator as to how to create would not have been a happy choice. Franklin’s deliberations of 1766 would be echoed in the concept of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” at the core of the new experiment introduced into the world in 1776.
Of the few today who pretend to know something of this Founding Father of America, most of what they think they know is somehow wrapped up in the manufactured controversy between Leibniz and Isaac Newton, as to who first discovered the calculus. It is true that in 1712/3, the Royal Society of Great Britain issued a ruling that Leibniz had plagiarized Isaac Newton. However, Leibniz never thought his ‘analysis situs’ method reduced to the number manipulations of Newton, and never had any interest in taking credit for what Newton was involved in. Further, the infamous 1713 ‘ruling’ was written by the claimant, Isaac Newton himself. Newton courageously decided in favor of himself, and then put forward, anonymously, the ‘ruling’ as the deliberations of an objective body. (The following year, Newton would go on to publish, surprisingly, a favorable review of the 1713 ruling – but, of course, this review was again presented as that of an anonymous bystander. Wells Fargo Bank could take lessons from the master!) In 1713, a year before assuming power, George I was already stabbing in the back both his mother, Sophie, and her philosopher-statesman, Leibniz. George wrote to the Emperor, using the language of the Royal Society report, in an attempt to force the Austro-Hungarian Empire to sever relations with Leibniz and his Academy of Science project.
Much more could be said, as an indication of the naked politics behind the ‘invention-of-the-calculus’ controversy; but what is missing from that contrived squabble is what Leibniz was actually doing, which Newton never even contemplated doing. Leibniz took very seriously that man was made in the living image of God; that the world was created, as per Plato, with a moral arc bent toward the Good; and that science flowed from the investigation of the healthy interplay of the Maximum (God) and the Minimum (Man). Johannes Kepler’s ‘subjective’ hypothesis that the solar system would have been composed along harmonic lines, along the same causal principles by which we sing and hear and think, was anathema to Newton, but was at the core of Leibniz’s classical identity. An honest investigation of one’s own most cherished and deepest thought processes was at the core of ‘objective’ scientific revolutions. This emotional and moral nature of fundamental scientific work was in stark contrast to the pretense of ‘objectivity’ of the hard-core materialists.
Leibniz came dangerously close to pulling off a strategic miracle for Western Civilization, one that would have left the world a much different place – where more developed and less developed nations realized their harmonic underpinnings; where such childhood diseases of imperialism, ‘power politics’, geopolitics et al, had gone the way of smallpox. Today, the strategic miracle of Lyndon and Helga LaRouche’s relentless, scientific optimism, e.g., in their “EurAsian LandBridge” concept, has found expression in the seemingly miraculous birth of intelligent nation-building, centered around China’s “Silk Road” grand strategy. This development has caught a morally and intellectually bankrupt Western elite completely offguard.
No better appreciation of November 14th, 2016 could be imagined than to honor Leibniz by thinking and acting on a level that would make Leibniz smile.