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First, many thanks Matt for sharing your deep understanding of Leibniz in a way that speaks so interestingly to the issues of interest on this blog.

“And it really, really gets worse from there. And no, I don't think Hegel really has a lot to offer.”

Interesting point. For me, the jury is out on what Hegel has to offer; but the same cannot be said of Kant who was – if anything – an even worse writer! I see Kant as standing alongside Leibniz and Spinoza from the 17th/18th century as outstanding philosophers whose thinking is still of great relevance today (Descartes was a figure of equal standing, but – for me – his Cartesian thinking has led Western thinking down a blind alley from which it is still struggling to row back!).

Their thinking, however, does require updating in the light of subsequent scientific developments; and this brings me to the nub of the extent to which I think Leibniz speaks to the current thinking on the role of information and information theoretic interpretations of quantum mechanics. This thinking has been – and still is – so driven by relatively recent developments in both modern physics & technology, that I worry about attempting to map all this directly onto Leibniz’s terminology/concepts.

That said, as this thinking develops Leibniz’s genius clearly has much to offer on how it hangs together at a metaphysical level – and for that reason alone I found your post very illuminating!

"atoms are made of stuff that's smaller ... And those are made of stuff that's smaller... " - Sleepers

I just finished reading Michael Tymn's excellent book, "Dead Men Talking", which is a collection of afterlife communications through some of the best and most thoroughly tested mediums, from soldiers who "died" in WW1.

Some of the soldiers describe quite thoroughly the processes and conditions of the afterlife. What they said is that they do have bodies of kind of material - albeit a much finer material than the atoms here on the earth dimension and a material that "vibrates" at a much higher rate.

It seems that a lot of what is on the 3rd level (or sphere) - the first level above the astral and where most souls find themselves living and learning - is very much a "copy" of what we have here on the earth plane. There are some important differences due to finer material elements and increased mental effects, but there are a lot of similarities. There's a lot more to it as well, of course (read the book!), but what I really wanted to say is that in thinking over what I got from the book, I find that the conditions of the afterlife as described correlate very nicely with each of Matt's final six bullets. I am thinking that Rouge/Leibniz pretty much have to be correct for the afterlife to work the way it does (and this life too for that matter).

Maybe I can flesh this out a little more in a subsequent comment.

I am reluctant to get involved in this discussion because I know little or nothing about Leibniz and had a very limited education in academic philosophy being a biologist and all.

Thanks to Matt for sparking this discussion. I know I would never have considered Leibniz if he hadn't offered him up on this blog.

After reading, several times, the referenced translation of Leibniz's dissertation and contemplating upon it intensively and trying to write a response, I think one can find in Leibniz whatever one wants to find; in a way it is like the emperor's new clothes, one can see elegance when elegance really isn't there.

It would take a Ph.D. dissertation to completely discuss Leibniz's Monadology which is not appropriate for this blog. Overall I think Leibniz is pontificating which becomes evident in the last part of his dissertation when he writes about God. I find Leibniz's use of his term 'Monad' inconsistent throughout and therefore his thoughts are difficult to follow in a logical way. - AOD

Something you could investigate

Amos, we must be sisters under the skin!

Earlier today I posted the following on Ian Wardell's fb page. I had in mind the subject of this very discussion here:

"It's not simply a matter of vocabulary - although the basic rule of grammar is 'never use a big word where a small one will do'. What Ian and the article allude to is complexity for the sake of complexity i.e.pretension. Sadly it's what many - usually mediocre - academics do in order to appear clever and erudite. Of course, the intellectually insecure will praise such bamboozling gobbledegook in 'The Emperor's New Clothes' fashion.

The older I get the less time I have for such games and nonsense. Come to think of it, I never did have much time for it anyway!"

Anyway, I don't wish to argue about this, I'm out of here as of now. But your posting was sooooo timely and, in an important way, reassuring, Amos. :)

Thanks to the kind words from everyone!


Hegel may have some good stuff, but it would have to be carefully mined from his obfuscating prose. I have yet to hear of a good idea or insight that has come from it (i.e., I don't have a favorite philosopher that was influenced by him, etc.). OK, maybe the idea of dialectic. That's pretty interesting.

I agree about Spinoza: lots of insights and a very lucid writer.

I agree about Kant as well. I think in a way he *has* been mined for all he's worth and has had considerable influence.


I think Leibniz is a very good springboard for further thought. I think his ideas will have to be integrated with modern quantum mechanics, etc., but the non-local nature of both bears further study in my opinion.

I think Leibniz's Mill may be one of his best contributions. I think the idea of Monads gives us a hint of trying to take a reality that extends beyond intellectual abstraction and put it into language.

It's important, as it's a good way to try and bridge the language of science, which looks at relations between things, with our intrinsic aspects - consciousness & other mental the least it's important at a societal level.

I think my biggest issue with Leibniz's conception is it's too neat, too much like the NDE perfect love talk that I remain suspicious of. Which isn't to say malevolence is involved, but rather ignorance + unwillingness to consider the chaotic aspects of reality.

SPatel wrote,

||I think my biggest issue with Leibniz's conception is it's too neat, too much like the NDE perfect love talk that I remain suspicious of. Which isn't to say malevolence is involved, but rather ignorance + unwillingness to consider the chaotic aspects of reality.||

Yes, in his longer work, Theodicy, he really wants to make everything neat and perfect to line up with his conception of God. It's definitely a case of arguing from a conclusion one wishes to achieve. This approach somewhat clouds The Monadology as well.

I will guess from your name that your are Indian. Apologies if I am assuming incorrectly. I think that the content of the Monadology lines up rather neatly with Indian thought, actually, including Buddhism. The main line of Buddhist thought does not see the soul as an object, and in essence Leibniz does not either. Superficially, yes, monads are all created by God, and there is a "chief monad" that rules in a particular organism as the "soul." But Leibniz *really* seems to be talking about a non-local, distributed soul. This seems to jibe with the Buddhist notion of the "five aggregates," and so on.

For that matter, Leibniz seems to jibe with Dennet's concept of a distributed consciousness, which for all his materialism and negativity I think is true.

What are your thoughts on that? Thanks!

Excellent comments, Sleepers: "atoms are made of stuff that's smaller ... And those are made of stuff that's smaller... " That's often how I think of it. The universe just isn't how it appears the majority of the time. And, though cynics may shake their heads in disbelief (I know) the after-death apparition I believed I saw when I was about five didn't have a physical body as we know it - it glowed, or was made of light. Interestingly, I recently spoke about this to a relative who is about 10 years older than me, or about 15 years old at the time, staying with us, and she remembers me the next day telling everyone about it, I was apparently really impressed about it.

"too much like the NDE perfect love talk that I remain suspicious of.." - SPatel.

Nice. I share your suspicions. ADCs don't confirm the insta-feel good quasi-religion built up around cherry picked NDEs.

“I agree about Kant as well. I think in a way he *has* been mined for all he's worth and has had considerable influence.”

Yes, in particular through the Neo Kantian tradition (for me, Ernst Cassirer is one of the most interesting 20th Century Continental philosophers). In that regard, those here sympathetic to an information based approach might find the French physicist/philosopher Michel Bitbol’s Neo Kantian take on interpreting quantum mechanics of interest. Here’s his wiki page:

Yes Patel, I thought the 'Mill' metaphor was interesting too. It reminded me of a discussion about the brain and neurons and that consciousness could not be found by examination of the neurons or the neuronal gaps. - AOD

Yes Julie, the older one gets the less time there is for pretension. After having read a number of pretentious dissertations and well as some that effectively communicate ideas, one begins to be able to differentiate between those writers who have a great intellect and those who are just feeling their way along trying to impress. Just don't give up Julie, apparently you have read enough so that you are now able to differentiate the good from the bad. Others will catch up with you eventually. - AOD

@No One: Yeah, the idea of a perfect afterlife seems contrary to the larger map of potential realities we seem to have.

@Matt: Yup, Indian. It does seem unclear what the pre-established Harmony of Leibniz is meant to point to. Was he truly talking about Yaweh, as would be expected in his time, or was he talking about a kind of undifferentiated Ground of Being like that found in certain strains of Hindu/Buddhist thought.

I can see it going either way but honestly I have trouble understanding the concept of Monads.

I see some merit in Leibniz's idea of Monads:

When we some thing has changed we mean is is partly different(hence talk of change)
and partly the same (we are still talking about the same thing).

The same thing can be said of us; we undergo change.

Once we accept that we stay partly the same and also become partly different (undergo change) we conclude that we are composed of parts.

The question is ; what are the basic parts?

The problem of using terms such as Atoms , Matter , and Information, is that people have preconceptions associated with these terms and these preconceptions are not easy to let go of.

Here is the advantage of Leibniz's terminology of Monads and Entelechies; these are fresh terms describing the basic parts- the units of reality , free of preconceptions.


Good comment!

||we conclude that we are composed of parts.||

In Buddhism, the fact of being composed of parts is called "sankhara":

In fact, there is even a particular type of pain callled "sankhara-dukkha," the pain that comes from such a state:

I think the concept of monads can jibe well with this Eastern concept.

"Further, nothing but this (namely, perceptions and their changes) can be found in a simple substance. It is also in this alone that all the internal activities of simple substances can consist."

I think what Leibnez is saying here is 'that nothing but perceptions and what they thought up or created', make up the information source that is the universe or elements of all things.

Thats what I think he is clearly saying, and if thats the case, I agree with this whether monads or other semantics are used.

Here's and article on philosopher David Chalmers view that he espoused at a gathering of scientists on the subject of consciousness in 1994, and some of the entailing scientific arguments for and against it. And although this covers much of what we debate, its a good summary to the various sides of human conclusions.

The article states, that scientists have no problem accepting fundamental aspects of the universe like strings and black holes etc. There is no reason to suggest that consciousness is not a panpsychism.

Dogs, monkeys, therefore, and even molluscs, insects, or perhaps a rock. Although insects and rocks with monads may not have what appears as a biological brain, they may have a form of awareness within a conscious scale.

I think the double spit experiment experiment shows we are inherently connected to our universe by thought. So I don't think it can exist without our thinking. Nor possibly even the universe without gods thinking- from which we were born. So it is all awareness and its creations, and all interconnected.

What we learn when we pass, is that we can expand our consciousness now free of our egoic limitations and beliefs, to encompass all souls and their experiences. I don't think perhaps the universe contains anything other than what we thought or experienced and retained by individuals there.

Over time I think inadvertently we have discovered thought's effects on matter- the placebo affect for example. You can give a pill to someone and if they think it will help their body it will, much the same as someone who ingested the pill. So belief changes matter. Similarly remote viewing suggests we can connect our consciousness with other areas of the universe and see without the phenomena of sight. This article also suggests this by mentioning the case of a guy with a blind spot in his visual field, who when shown his blind spot, was able to guess what was there 90% of the time.

So I don't think it's much different here on earth really, as opposed to when we pass. We are just limited by our thinking. Remote viewing for example and the placebo affect show that consciousness has many guises.

Therefore when we die, consciousness survives as it is inherently a part of and makes up the universe. Is consciousness alive, and spirits alive? I'm not sure as I'm really not sure how to categorise awareness. Cheers Lyn.

Weiss agrees that Leibniz makes space-time about relationships ->

"What is needed to replace the old Newtonian understanding of spacetime? The first sign of a shift in thinking about spacetime was articulated (to my knowledge) by Leibniz, who proposed that spacetime is not a container but rather a relationship among individual entities. Leibniz has a beautiful argument for this view of spacetime which is grounded in the doctrine of the “identity of indiscernibles.” This doctrine says that if we are considering what we take to be two entities, but we can find nothing whatsoever that distinguishes them one from the other, then we are actually considering one and the same thing. Applying this principle to the notion of space as an infinitely extended substantial nothingness, we could represent space to ourselves as an infinite array of points. The problem with this way of imagining space is that, in the infinite extended emptiness, there is nothing whatsoever to distinguish any point from any other point."

(2015-02-19). Beyond Physicalism: Toward Reconciliation of Science and Spirituality (Kindle Locations 9013-9019). Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Kindle Edition.


Thanks for finding that! Quite interesting.

Information is in fact altered all the time. Information also involves interpretation.

I agree, Jim. Trying to relate monads and entelechies to information is surely a rubber band stretched beyond its elastic limit.

Information is noughts and ones, organised by Laws or by a Mind. If it is not organized, it is just noise, like the Big Bang background radiation.

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