Leibniz VI: Leibniz and the New World, and His Legacy Today
Join us for the last in a series of six presentations on the life and work of the great scientist and economist Gottfried Leibniz, who was a key inspiration to the early Lyndon LaRouche. Today, the topic is the New World, and Leibniz's legacy in “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” and his opposition to the terrible ideas of such as John Locke, whose thoughts still pollute American thinking today. Full series playlist.
• Graham Lowry, How the Nation Was Won
• Phil Valenti, “The Anti-Newtonian Roots of the American Revolution” (pdf)
• David Shavin, “Leibniz to Franklin ‘On Happiness’”
• LaRouchePAC Space page
JASON ROSS: Hello, this is May 11, 2016, and you’re tuning in for the sixth, and final, in a series of presentations on Gottfried Leibniz, the great genius, scientist, and statesman. He did it all. In this series so far, we’ve discussed his philosophy, his work on science, his outlook on theology, and some of his original discoveries, including the infinitesimal calculus and vis viva for understanding motion. We’ve discussed his relationship with China—his relationship to the cooperation with China that was really developing quite a bit during his time, as well as with Russia.
The focus for this final presentation is going to be on Leibniz’s legacy, and in particular, on his influence on the New World, during his life, and how his ideas played a role in the founding of the United States of America.
So, I’d like to start with a bit of biography of what Leibniz was up to overall in the last part of his life, in the 1700s. Gottfried Leibniz died in 1716, 300 years ago, and during his last years he really made tremendous progress on many of his goals. One of his patrons / employers, Duke Anton Ulrich, who was in a town near to where Leibniz was based in Hanover, became the grandfather-in-law of both the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles VI, and of the oldest son of Tsar Peter I. And as I had mentioned in the previous discussion, on Leibniz’s relationship with Russia and China, in the 1710s, Leibniz was able to meet with the Tsar when he came to Germany for the wedding of his son, and they were able to meet on two later occasions as well.
Leibniz was made a Privy Counselor in the Russian Government, and in the empire of Vienna he became key in organizing towards setting up an Academy of Sciences in Vienna, in laying out the foundation of what became the Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg. And, to round things off, after the 1701 Act of Settlement was passed in England, his one-time boss, Sophie, his student, his supporter, the Electress Sophie of Hanover, was next in line to become the Queen of England, presuming Queen Anne died without any heirs, which indeed she did. Queen Anne’s 18 children all died, and Sophie was in line then to become Queen of England.
Leibniz has put himself in a position of government in Russia, the Holy Roman Empire, and potentially as a top political personality in England. So he’s not a philosopher sitting at a desk somewhere, coming up with some mathematical ideas on the side. He’s in the center of politics of his time. And he made a particular focus on intervening into the intellectual life of England, in particular, with an attack on the outlook of John Locke, who had come back to England in 1689, in the “Glorious Revolution,” as it’s called, that brought in William and Mary as the rulers of England. In that same year, 1689, and in 1690, John Locke released a book, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, which laid out his view of what it was to be a human being. And we’re going to get into some more detail on that a bit later on.
Opposition to Leibniz
Overall, Leibniz’s work during this time met with some very stiff resistance. He had many enemies. The idea of developing and cooperating and developing science, and promoting the general welfare, is opposed by an outlook of oligarchy that says that most people should remain poor, and ideas shouldn’t be developed, and the status quo should not be overturned. In particular, Georg Ludwig of Hanover—who was to become George I of England—Leibniz’s boss at the time, had specifically written to Charles VI in Vienna, telling him not to hire Leibniz, not to bring him into the government, which Emperor Charles VI did anyway.
In the 1710s, the long-simmering, and ongoing controversy around the calculus got stirred up again, leading to a very major attack and a judgment by the Royal Society, an anonymous judgment. It was actually written by Isaac Newton himself, claiming that Leibniz had stolen the calculus from Newton, that Leibniz was a plagiarist. The importance of these political attacks—and they were political attacks, there was no justification for this attack on Leibniz’s discovery of the calculus—the point was to keep Leibniz out of England. If Sophie were to become Queen, the goal was to make it impossible for Leibniz to have any influence in England, to prevent that outlook from gaining hold in the nation. That’s the reason for the resumption of the attacks on Leibniz on the calculus.
In 1711, then 1712, when Newton wrote this judgment, that Leibniz only heard about later from a friend, who had read about it in a journal. Leibniz wasn’t even contacted to defend himself on this. So, he’s a hot person. He’s very controversial. He’s a very important person. Even after his death, the British government maintained control over his thoughts. His heirs, the Loeffler family, asked, after Leibniz’s death, to get his personal papers, since they were his heirs. And King George I of England refused. He had become King, and left for England, and told Leibniz to stay in Hanover: Leibniz was not welcome to come to England. Two years later after this, Leibniz dies, and his heirs want to get his possessions, including his papers. The King, George I, says, no, forget it, even his personal papers, that weren’t related to the work he was doing for him. He said, no, forget it, you can’t have them. The heirs, they ended up asking King George II, could they have Leibniz’s papers. He said, no. They asked King George III if they could have his papers. King George III said, no. They were kept locked up, and even to this day most of Leibniz’s writings have never been published. They still simply exist in manuscript form, and there’s an ongoing project to publish them, but it’s still going to be, at the current rate, decades before they even all come out.
I meant also to add, that the year of his death, 1716, Leibniz basically had had enough of Hanover, and was considering moving to Vienna, and taking up a position with the emperor there, but he passed away.
The New World
So, with that background, let’s now take a look at what’s going on in the New World during this same time frame, and then we’ll put the two together to consider Leibniz’s influence in the New World.
The idea of having what ended up becoming the American Revolutionary War of Independence, of setting up a Republic free from oligarchical control of Europe, wasn’t something that first sprang up because of attacks on tea, in the 1700s. It wasn’t the Stamp Tax, Stamp Act of 1765, that caused people to say, “let’s have our own country.” It goes far before that. This goes back to the aspirations of Nicolaus of Cusa, to Filippo Brunelleschi, his colleague, Paolo Toscanelli, who created the map used by Columbus, in coming to the New World, in the dream of creating a society, a real republic, that was free of oligarchism. This wasn’t a new concept. And it was very explicitly the outlook of many of the colonists who came to the New World, but not all. But this was a very real idea, that far from simply avoiding unnecessary taxation, or purely for pursuit of freedom in religious practices, the objective in setting up colonies in the New World was to develop that sort of ideal republic, of a mission for how human society ought to operate.
Let me read a quote. This is from a letter John Adams wrote in 1807. He said,
I have always laughed at the affectation of representing American Independence as a novel idea, as a modern discovery, as a late invention. The idea of it as a possible thing, as a probably event, nay, as a necessary and unavoidable measure, in case Great Britatin should assume an unconstitutional authority over us, has been familiar to Americans from the first settlement of the country, and was as well understood by Gov. Winthrop [in the 1630s]... as by [revolutionary-era] Gov. Samuel Adams.
So let’s talk about Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Its charter was signed in 1629, by King Charles I, and allowed for a really astonishing degree of self-government. For one thing, the charter did not require that the Government of Massachusetts be based in England. The initial election of officers and all that took place there. But then, the government of the Massachusetts Colony took place in Massachusetts. That was a pretty big shift. Before setting out for Massachusetts, the company elected John Winthrop as the Governor, and in 1630, he, with 800 others arrived in Massachusetts. Winthrop’s view in setting up this society was that “We must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us."
That wasn’t a mission for low taxes. This is a much broader mission. That same John Winthrop had written of the conditions in England at the time. He said of England,
This land grows weary of her inhabitants, so as man who is the most precious of all creatures is here in England, more vile and base than the earth we tread upon, and of less price among us, than a horse or a sheep... and thus it is come to pass that children, servants, and neighbors (especially if they be poor) are counted the greatest burden, which if things were right would be the chiefest earthly blessing.
The independence that Massachusetts had, was opposed very quickly in England. They, in fact, didn’t quite realize what amount of freedom had been given. In 1634, only five years after the creation of the Massachusetts Bay Company, England was already demanding the charter be returned to England. At that time, money was raised in Massachusetts to build fortifications, and prepare arms against England. Five years after arriving, already there’s talk of building up an army to maintain that independence.
In 1638, after another demand to return the charter to England, John Winthrop said:
Lastly, if our patent be taken from us, (whereby we suppose we may claim the interest in his Majesty’s favour and protection,) the common people here will conceive that his Majesty hath cast them off, and that hereby they are freed from their allegiance and subjection, and thereupon will be ready to confederate themselves under a new government, for their necessary safety and subsistence.
This was sort of like a Declaration of Independence in 1638, already. And what was the nature of this independence-minded society? Let me read a quote from an article that John Winthrop wrote in 1645, about liberty. He wrote:
There is a twofold liberty, natural (and I mean as our nature is corrupt) and civil or federal. The first [natural liberty] is common to man with beasts and other creatures ... it is a liberty to evil as well as to good ... and cannot endure the least restraint of the most just authority. The exercise and maintaining of this liberty makes men grow more evil, and in time to be worse than brute beasts. This is that great enemy of truth and peace, that wild beast, which all the ordinances of God are bent against, to restrain and subdue it.
(Schiller had a slightly different view of that kind of natural aspect of man.) Winthrop continues:
The other kind of liberty I call civil or federal; it may also be termed moral, in reference to the covenant between God and man, in the moral law, and the politic covenants and constitutions among men themselves..., it is a liberty to do only that which is good, just, and honest. This liberty you are to stand for, with the hazard (not just of your goods) but of you lives, if need be.
Think about those two kinds of liberty again: the natural liberty to do whatever you want, whether it’s good or bad, simply whatever your momentary desires would urge; and the liberty to do only that which is good, just, and honest. Now, how many people—now clearly, external oppression isn’t something anybody wants—but how many people think about being free to do only that which is just? How many people are able to live lives where they don’t feel compelled to do things that are wrong, that are evil, that are compromised, that they know are wrong? What kind of liberty can a society experience, in reflecting on its actions, on its ideas, and considering them to be free from injustice? That’s a very different kind of liberty than the liberty of an animal to do what it feels like at the moment.
And this is still a fight over the nature of liberty today! What do people mean when they think of the liberty, or the independence, of the United States, what it means to be a free person? Free from what? Is it purely free to do your own thing? Or is there a higher notion here about freedom from error, freedom from injustice, freedom from evil?
In Massachusetts, in 1641, the Body of Liberties is written. This pulls together the nature of the government, including the fact that laws should actually be written out. It shouldn’t be based on precedent, to such a degree, the way laws in England were, or, not laws, or like justice in England was, where it could be a great amount of capriciousness in it.
In 1643, there were the New England Articles of Confederation, among other colonies. In 1646, Massachusetts printed the laws, which was somewhat of a shocking development.
In 1647, the Saugus Iron Works was developed, and within a few years it out-produced any plant in England. This is an astonishing place. It’s about a half hour north of Boston. It’s absolutely worth visiting. It uses water power to power the bellows, and the hammering for this iron works. So this is a tremendous amount of automation, and an incredible output. This is less than 20 years after the founding of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and already there is the most high-tech industrial iron output, that you’re going to find anywhere, out-producing anything in England. Something special is going on here.
In 1652, a Mint was established. In 1664, Britain defeated the Netherlands, so New Amsterdam—New York—was no longer under the control of the Dutch, so this is a unification under English rule of the, now in the region of the United States of the colonies there.
Not all positive developments were met with praise from England. In 1675, a Committee, the Lords of Trade and Plantations, is set up to oversee the colonies. The next year, an English official comes over to try to get Massachusetts in line, and this man, Edward Randolph, is told, after Massachusetts said that they’re not going to pay any attention to him, “that those that blessed them [the colony] God would bless, and those that cursed them God would curse.” So that’s pretty high authority that they felt they were speaking from.
In 1683, Edward Randolph returned again to put more control over Massachusetts from the crown. And he was told that the General Court, the Massachusetts Legislature, rejected the proposals from England, because to accept them would “offend God” in their view. Increase Mather, added at the time, regarding giving up the charter to England, “We shall sin against God, if we vote an affirmative to it.” That same year, Increase Mather founded the Philosophical Society, continuing a tradition of a connection, or a unification of political leadership, and scientific and philosophical leadership, as in John Winthrop, Jr., the son of that first Governor.
So, in 1684, Charles II simply declares the charter of the Massachusetts Bay Colony void. Increase Mather, I should also mention that he was a professor at Harvard at the time, he told his students that they should not submit, and that they should stick with the only good thing Aristotle ever said, which was, “Find a friend in Plato, and a friend in Socrates.” And I think we know how Socrates dealt with government injustice. He did not give in to it.
So, in the 1690s, Royal rule really was consolidated. This is after the Glorious Revolution. The Dutch William comes in. He’s now running England. They set up the Board of Trade to supervise all of the colonies with John Locke as a founding member of the Board of Trade. And this John Locke, who we’re going to be talking a fair amount more about shortly, he wanted to eliminate all the colonial charters. He wanted to prevent manufacturing in the colonies. He wanted to restrict all colonial trade, to be made only with England. And he even, as we’ll see a little bit later, took his hand at writing a Constitution for Carolina.
This period was bad. In the 1690s, population growth was low, or even negative, in the colonies. Locke writes his Essay Concerning Human Understanding at this same time, and he had a plan for how to deal with poor people in England, including giving child beggars “a sound whipping.” More on that in a little bit.
So, in 1700, the last of Queen Anne’s 18 children has died. There’s a question of the succession to the throne, and this is when it becomes official, that Sophie of Hanover will be the next, she’s next in line to be Queen of England.
During this period, there’s also a push for a change in banking in England, to lower interest rates, to use land as a basis for setting up of land values as a basis for setting up a bank that would have interest rates capped at 4%, and Isaac Newton, as Warden of the Mint, helps put an end to that, in the great re-coinage, which is more detailed than I want to get into now. [For more, see the referenced articles.]
Anyway, so in this period now where William is dead, Anne is Queen of England, in 1702. Some good governors are put in place in the colonies, including Spotswood in Virgina, and Hunter in New York. Peace is made with various of the Native Americans tribes. Alexander Spotswood is moving development further and further inland. He brings in German immigrants to do iron manufacturing, iron production, in a town he calls Germanna (named for the German immigrants and for Queen Anne), on the Rapidan River, named after Anne, as well. At this same period, Handel, famous as the composer of his Messiah goes to England from Hanover. This is in 1710.
So this is then that period where the attack on the calculus comes out. Leibniz is under assault from England.
In 1714, then, Sophie of Hanover dies, not a surprise, she was advanced in years. Two months later, Queen Anne dies in England. She was not an old woman. And then Georg Ludwig become King George I of England, and does not bring Leibniz with him; he tells Leibniz to stay in Hanover.
Despite this shift, to give one example of what’s still taking place in the colonies, is Alexander Spotswood defies what had been the orders from England, not to go inland, not to cross the Blue Ridge Mountains. He does so, and 300 years ago, in 1716, he goes through the Blue Ridge Mountains. He crosses the Shenandoah River, and he has quite a celebration there.
There was a major fight in the relationship of England to the colonies. What will the policy be? Are these colonies merely to produce raw materials to be sent to England for manufacture, and then to be sent back? Is the goal with this New World for it to really develop fully inland? I mean, clearly, the oligarchical view, the empire view of Britain, would oppose, of course, the development of the American colonies, because it would lead, eventually, to great strength, and an ability to develop independence. So economic development was deliberately prevented by the British Empire, by such people as John Locke, in order to keep the colonies relatively poor: a deliberate policy of poverty and underdevelopment.
This is exactly the same outlook that we see the British Empire taking today in the world, through the guise of such things as the global warming fraud, and the demand that nations not produce any carbon dioxide, that they don’t develop, in effect. Or through the demands that the world population is too large, and that Prince Philip and the Queen would much rather see it at two billion, one billion, or even less people. This is that same outlook as represented by John Locke, 300 years ago.
Locke vs Leibniz
So, let’s use this contrast in views, between John Locke and Leibniz, who were both influential, in different ways, in England, and via that in the New World. John Locke was very directly involved in government, and Leibniz was involved in potential. As I said, of course, he didn’t, he never was able to come to England, at the time that the Hanoverians were the monarchs.
So let me begin this comparison by recalling to mind one of Leibniz’s most famous views, namely, that in the act of creation, God, among all possible universes that could have been made, chose the best of all possible worlds, that this world could not have been made better than it is. Among all decisions that were free, the most beautiful, the best, the most full of expression and full of potential, the best: this is the world that we live in. This is his view. Leibniz further held that the mission of the human individual was to act in that similar way. Through the powers of the human mind, through science, through discovery, through socializing discovery, and through social organization, through governments, and other such institutions, for the promotion of knowledge, and for the promotion of implementation of knowledge through new means of production, that by that means, the common good can be developed, living standards can be uplifted. And Leibniz felt that this was the greatest way to glorify God, as well, because the more all of us human souls know about how wonderfully composed the Universe is, by understanding it, there’s that much more glory to God, in having created it. That’s Leibniz’s view. It’s a beautiful view. It’s one that gives a sense of optimism based on the nature of creation itself, and on that nature of the human individual’s relationship to creation itself, as being able to play the role of a sort of creator in that world, in developing new things ourselves.
So, I think, for more detail about that, the third class in this series discussed in more detail, Leibniz’s view of setting up industrial and scientific societies, and even his own work on doing this himself, with some of his work on mines and pumping and windmills, and developing the economy in that way. So let me read a quote here. This is from Leibniz. This is in his Theodicy, which was the only book printed during his lifetime, the only philosophical or scientific book he printed during his life. He said,
I also tried to show that there is in God as much goodness, as there is greatness, in order to give human beings reason to imitate his beneficent nature, as much as possible, as the best way to please him.
So this is the theme, power and goodness. What’s the basis of the state? Is it the power of the ruler to enforce compliance? Is that the justification for a state’s continued existence? Is it security, and that sort of power, as Thomas Hobbes wrote in The Leviathan? Or is it, as Leibniz is saying, to do the good? That the justification of a state in the eyes of history, and as Leibniz would view, in the eyes of God, is in pursuing that development of the human species. So let’s compare these two men here.
One of John Locke’s ideas is that the reason that we… You might wonder, why am I talking about John Locke? One of the reasons is, simply, that he was a very influential thinker at the time, and one that Leibniz took the effort to refute in a multi-hundred page book-length report, called New Essays on Human Understanding, which Leibniz had written as a refutation of Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding. This book was basically complete in 1704. With Locke’s passing in 1705, Leibniz wasn’t able to, he didn’t print it, and in fact, it wasn’t published until 1765, due to that control I was mentioning, over Leibniz’s work after his death.
So, what’s the point of the state? Let’s compare. Leibniz, he says,
To contribute to the public good, and to the glory of God, is the same thing. It seems that the aim of all mankind should chiefly be, nothing other than the knowledge and development of the wonders of God, and that it is for this reason, that God has given to humankind dominion over the globe.
He thought the most perfect society is that “whose purpose is the general and supreme happiness.” He wrote:
For so much is our life to be valued as a true life, as one does good in it. Who now does much good in a short time, is equal to him who lives a thousand times longer. This occurs when those who can cause thousands and thousands of hands to work with them, through which, in a few years, more good can happen, than many hundreds of years could otherwise bring.
Think about the social organization of a major project, for example.
So Locke, in contrast, said that the basis of forming a society is this. He wrote that the individual
seeks out and is willing to join in society with others who are already united, or have a mind to unite for the mutual preservation of their lives, liberties, and estates, which I call by the general name—Property.
You may have noticed that almost sounds like something in our Declaration of Independence, about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. For John Locke, it was life, liberty, and property; that was the foundation of a society. He wrote: “The great and chief end, therefore, of men uniting into commonwealths, and putting themselves under government, is the preservation of their Property.” That’s John Locke.
He sounded actually a lot like Newt Gingrich, or somebody today, with these very basic ideas of economics. Locke wrote “It is with a kingdom as with a family. Spending less than our commodities will pay for, is the sure and only way for the nation to grow rich.” It’s like Phil Gramm, or somebody, saying, you got to run the government like you sit around your kitchen table and balance your checkbook. Locke again: “Government has no other end but the preservation of property.” And, “The great and chief end, therefore, of men uniting into commonwealths, and putting themselves under government, is the preservation of their property.” You get the point. And here’s what he had to say about slavery. Again, his view on property.
These men having, as I say, forfeited their lives and, with it, their liberties, and lost their estates, and being in a state of slavery not capable of any property, cannot in that state be considered as part of civil society, the chief end whereof is the preservation of property.
So, by virtue of not having, or being able to own any property, a slave is no longer a human being. There’s Locke.
In his book, Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Locke wrote, in a way like Aristotle’s view of the tabula rasa, the blank slate of the mind, that there are no particular characteristics to the human mind, that everything that we become, all that we learn, comes to us through experience of the external world, and that the mind doesn’t bring anything to it. In fact, that there are no innate ideas, and that even good and evil, those concepts, derive their meaning simply from the basic perceptions of your eyes, and nose, and tongue, and that sort of thing.
So, recall though, that having seen something occur in the past, the idea of induction, of how do experiences create knowledge, this is an idea known as induction, as expressed very famously by Bacon, or Paolo Sarpi. Leibniz points out, that having seen things occur in the past, does not, in itself, provide the necessary reason for why they would still continue into the future. In fact, it doesn’t explain why they occurred in the past either! That it happened, isn’t why it happened. There’s a different world of cause, that’s open to you, when you consider that the human mind is actually able to discover and verbalize, or understand, a cause, and something different than a generalized series of effects, that are observed. Here’s what Leibniz had to say about Locke on this:
I am in favor of innate lights against this tabula rasa [blank slate]. In our mind, there is not only a faculty, but also a disposition to knowledge, from which innate notions can be drawn. For all necessary truths draw their proof from this internal light, and not from the experiences of the senses, which merely give occasional thinking about these necessary truths, and could never prove a universal necessity, since they only give knowledge from induction, from some examples, and the probability of other sense experiences, which have not yet been tested.
In this view, Leibniz is in the tradition of Plato, of Cusa, as against Aristotle, or, in modern terms, Bertrand Russell, or artificial intelligence. The notion that there’s something in the mind that is able to develop ideas that haven’t arisen from past thoughts, that there’s a creative ability to come up with something new, that’s frankly inexpressible, in terms of the past, is something that artificial intelligence won’t do, that logic won’t do, that animals won’t do. Human beings are unique. And, just as Aristotle, in trying to explain the uniqueness of human beings—if all knowledge comes from the senses, then what makes human beings so much smarter than the other animals? And Aristotle had said, well, it’s our sense of touch, because we can feel better than animals: that’s where our intelligence comes from. Right… That’s the kind of stupid conclusion you come to, when you explain where human intelligence comes from, if all knowledge comes from the senses, since our senses aren’t particularly special.
So, let’s also look at that political outlook. I think I had said enough about Locke’s view on the colonies, in terms of his position on the Board of Trade, opposing manufacturing, opposing the development of the colonies. He wrote a Constitution for Carolina, which, at the time, included more than what are today’s North and South Carolina. This Constitution of Locke’s included hereditary nobility. It included serfs, in addition to slaves, serfs, or what he called leet-men. He said, “All the children of leet-men shall be leet-men, and so to all generations.” Serfdom.
He also wrote, “Every freeman of Carolina shall have absolute power and authority over his negro slaves, of what opinion or religion whatsoever.” That’s part of Locke’s view. Voltaire, who mocked Leibniz in his Candide, said, “Cast your eyes over the other hemisphere, behold Carolina, of which the wise Locke was the legislator.” That’s one quote from Voltaire about that.
So, what else did Locke do? He also promoted the Navigation Act, which prevented the colonies from trading with any nation besides England, and the Woolen Act, saying that no wool could be produced in the colonies. It all had to be done in England. And in that year, he demanded that all colonial charters be revoked, and that the colonies be under the direct control of Britain.
Let’s hear from Locke in terms of how a nation develops. So how does the economy develop? How does a nation become rich? Here’s John Locke’s view. “In a country not furnished with mines, there are but two ways of growing rich, either conquest or commerce. By the first the Romans made themselves masters of the riches of the world; but I think that, in our present circumstances, nobody is vain enough to entertain a thought of our reaping the profits of the world with our swords... Commerce, therefore, is the only way left to us.” By which he means, trading.
Now, contrast that with Leibniz’s view of how it is that new technologies are the source of wealth, and the work that he did in setting up scientific academies and societies, which united scientific, and new technical work, along with the economic application and implementation of those technologies, to improve production. That was Leibniz’s view of how wealth is created. For Locke, it’s a zero-sum game. You can either mine it, get gold out of the ground, and you become rich by getting this metal. You can steal it from other people. Or, you can buy something from somebody, and sell it to someone else for more, and by that means, grow wealthy. There’s no human economy there at all. There’s no humanity there.
Contrast that then with Leibniz’s view, as discussed in the previous discussion about China, about Russia, about the potential for cooperating with China, of learning from them, of bringing economy there. Remember, Leibniz said that,
I judge that this mission [with China] is the greatest affair of our time, ... this is a commerce of light, and which could give to us at once their work of thousands of years and render ours to them, to double so to speak our true wealth for one and the other. This is something greater than one imagines.
Contrast that with the later British view of the Opium War, in terms of relationship with China. Also, in improving the economy, Locke, in terms of why poverty existed, had said that the reason for all of these poor people in England, was “nothing else but the relaxation of discipline, and the corruption of manners.” And so he put forward a law, where he said that, “anybody between the ages of 14 and 50, begging in a county along the coast, shall be sent to the next seaport town, there to be kept at hard labor, till some of His Majesty’s ships coming nearby, give an opportunity of putting them on board, where they shall serve for three years under strict discipline.” Or, “if any boy or girl under 14 years of age shall be found begging… they shall be sent to the next working school, there to be soundly whipped, and kept at work till evening.” Or, if they live more than five miles off from the place where they are taken, “they will be sent to the next house of correction, there to remain at work, for six weeks.” Now that’s a really charming person here.
Compare that to Leibniz’s excitement, in his early years in Paris, with his time at the French Academy of Sciences, and seeing how a nation could work deliberately to develop new technologies, and improve its economy that way. This is a totally different outlook.
And these aren’t just these two individuals. These are representative and champions of two different outlooks, and Locke’s outlook really became the ideology of the British Empire, and Leibniz’s, in its best parts, here, became with the ideology, the outlook, followed by the creators of the United States.
So let me, I think that might be enough. I had even more. I think the point might be clear at this point about them. But let me read one more part about pleasure versus happiness. So, as I was saying, the ability for Locke to say what’s good or evil, here’s what he says, “Things then are good or evil, only in reference to pleasure or pain... Happiness, then, in its full extent, is the utmost pleasure we are capable of, and misery the utmost pain.” So pleasure is the basis of what’s good, for Locke. He explains that you might learn what’s good or bad for you by, if you break the law given by the powerful lawgiver, you’re going to suffer punishment, and so you’ll learn that for you to do that is evil, and you should do other things that are good, that that will allow you to enjoy the pleasures of life. That’s the kind of conditioning that he viewed.
Leibniz, on the other hand, said, “I do not know whether the greatest pleasure is possible. I rather believe that it can grow ad infinitum... I believe then that happiness is a lasting pleasure, which could not be so without there being a continual progress to new pleasures... This shows that it is the reason and will which transport us toward happiness, but that feeling and desire merely lead us to pleasure.” And: “The less desire is guided by reason the more it tends to present pleasure and not to happiness.” Seeking pleasure at every moment is not the path towards happiness, no matter what Adam Smith says.
OK, and let me read a short quote from Leibniz, in general, where he gives a short summary of his conflict of Locke, in his New Essays. Leibniz wrote in the Preface,
Our differences are on subjects of some importance. The question is to know whether the soul, in itself, is entirely empty, like the tablet on which nothing has yet been written, a tabula rasa, according to Aristotle, and the author of the Essay [locke], and whether all that is traced thereon comes solely from the senses and from experience. Or, whether the soul contains originally the principles of several notions and doctrines, which external objects merely awaken on occasions, as I believe, with Plato, and even the school men, and with all those who take with this meaning the passage of St. Paul, where he remarks that the law of God is written in the heart.
On the difference between human beings and animals, and on the source of wealth, Leibniz wrote, “Men become more skilled, by finding a thousand new dexterities, whereas deer and rabbits, of the present day, do not become more cunning, than those of past time.” I think that’s reminiscent of the famous speech Lincoln gave on inventions and discoveries.
So, which way is England going to go? There’s a live fight here. On the one side you’ve got Locke, who has just put forward this really barbaric view of human beings. You’ve got Isaac Newton, who is playing a role through the Mint, in preventing economic development, in England, and also, through his, let me temporize this a bit, but through his physics, indicating that the way of looking at the world is in terms of individual objects, with characteristic interactions with others. There is no sense of a larger harmony involved.
Just in terms of whether there exist fundamental hard atoms or not, here’s Leibniz. He said, “There always remains in the depths of things slumbering parts which must yet be awakened and become greater and better. And hence progress never comes to an end.” There’s always going to be more principles to discover, and more to find out about the world, no matter how small we go. That was Leibniz’s view.
So, which way does England go? George I is totally opposed to Leibniz. Remember, he doesn’t allow him to come to England. He hides his papers. The wife of his son, the future George II, Princess Caroline of Ansbach, was one of Leibniz’s closest students. She was very much in touch with him, when she was growing up. They discussed quite a bit together. She tried to get Leibniz’s Theodicy translated into English and published in England. She was told that the best person to do the translation was Samuel Clarke. Needless to say, that never happened. And the Leibniz-Clarke correspondence, the letters between Leibniz and Samuel Clarke, this Newtonian, those letters were exchanged via Princess Caroline. So this is organizing around the wife of the next ruler of England. So, even from Hanover, he is involved in this exchange with Clarke, right up till the end of his life. The last response Leibniz wrote in that series letters was in 1716. So, which way would it go? Leibniz’s ideas did not gain ascendancy in England.
In the United States, in the colonies, the greatest thinkers were definitely on the Leibnizian side, as for example, James Logan, who held almost every position in Pennsylvania. He was a follower of Leibniz, and as I had mentioned, Leibniz’s New Essays on Human Understanding were first published in 1765, almost 50 years after Leibniz’s death. That next year, 1766, Benjamin Franklin is in England. He’s at the Parliament. He’s testifying about the Stamp Act, a rather famous testimony he gave there about how the colonies would oppose British assertion of the ability to order any tax they pleased.
Shortly after leaving England after this testimony, Ben Franklin goes to Germany and he meets with the two publishers of Leibniz’s New Essays on Human Understanding, Baron Gerlach Adolf von Münchausen and Rudolf Erich Raspe. Shortly after that, he goes to Göttingen. He meets with Kästner, teacher of Raspe. Kästner was a follower of Leibniz. Ben Franklin is there, discussing with him his work on electricity. There’s quite a celebration at Göttingen University, which, I should also add, was set up by Princess Caroline, that wife of the future George II and Leibniz’s student. She had set up Göttingen University in Germany. When Ben Franklin arrives there, people are eager to see him. There are set-ups of his various electrical experiments. Ben Franklin was known in the world, world-wide, as a leading scientist, for his work on electricity. This wasn’t a side thing for him. He was known as an expert on this, who developed real theories. Franklin figured things out.
So, in Göttingen, he’s there. He meets with Kästner. He brings back absolutely this Leibnizian idea to the United States. In the writing of the Declaration of Independence, where Thomas Jefferson had drafted “life, liberty and property”—that’s what he originally wrote—this is where Franklin, not the only one, it’s unclear exactly who proposed this change, but Franklin was on the Committee, which gave us, as we know, “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” There’s a fight, even in the drafting of that document, very directly, between the formulation of Locke, and the outlook of Leibniz.
What is the purpose of a society? Is it to preserve individuals’ ability to do what they want, and maintain their property? Or, is it to serve a higher function, and promote happiness, to promote, as the Constitution puts it, the “general welfare,” the upward motion of mankind?
Leibniz’s Scientific Legacy
To follow up on Leibniz’s legacy in the scientific world, I had mentioned Kästner, the Leibnizian. Kästner had another student, a very famous one, Carl Friedrich Gauss, who was known as the absolute leading mathematician in the world during his life. Gauss also worked on electricity and magnetism with Weber. He worked on a ... he was a real defender of the notion it’s possible to know things, against the symbolic type of mathematics of people like Lagrange (as in his 1799 proof of the fundamental theorem of algebra). Gauss, towards the end of his life, also chose the topic for Bernhard Riemann’s habilitation paper and oversaw his lecture. Riemann, in his habilitation dissertation “On the Hypotheses that Underlie Geometry,” laid out the difference between, laid out the notion of how could we determine the shape of real physical space, compared to all the imaginable, possible, mathematical spaces that we could write down. For Riemann, the basis of real physical space, lies beyond space, in the physical principles that bring about effects; ideas actually exist, physical principles actually exist.
That was put into practice by Einstein, who, although I don’t know how much he saw himself as a Leibnizian explicitly, Einstein put into practice a specific view of Leibniz on space, where in his debate with Clarke, for example, Leibniz had stood up against the notion of absolute space and time, saying that space was rather a relationship of things. Time was a relationship, but space doesn’t exist on its own, as some fixed flat box in which things occur, that that notion was actually antithetical to God’s wisdom, the way Leibniz expressed it. And that’s precisely what Einstein ended up doing. He followed through on Riemann’s view, created a space-time, based on physical principles of gravitation and of light, rather than the a priori notions of a flat space, or of a uniform time. Einstein followed through on the work of this train of thought from Leibniz, and in fact, on a specific polemic that Leibniz had made.
The other great scientist of the early 20th Century, Max Planck, cited Leibniz’s work on the calculus, and on least action, which really held the title of the most fundamental of all possible physical principles, least action does. It survives relativity intact through relativity, for example.
Leibniz had a direct train of influence on the future path of science, leading into the greatest discoveries up till today. He had a direct influence on politics in his day. He would have liked to have had a much greater impact, there’s no doubt about it. But he wasn’t a philosopher who did a little bit of armchair political work on the side. He was a member of the governments of Russia, of the Holy Roman Empire, very nearly of England; if Anne had died earlier or if Sophie had lived longer, he would have been in England as part of the government. And his outlook on the purpose of the nation was influential in defining the nature of the United States.
His impact continues very much into the present, through the work of Lyndon LaRouche, whose early intellectual life was shaped by reading Leibniz’s refutations of John Locke and others. In Leibniz, LaRouche saw a real genius, who helped shape his thinking, as a young man.
So let me read a, let’s pull it all together. Here’s Leibniz. He wrote:
All these things are connected, and they have to be directed to the same aim, which is the glory of God, and the advancement of the public good, by means of useful works and beautiful discoveries.
Now there’s a mission for us. So, think about it today. Think about how the potential of the space mission for the United States, for example, represents a very key opportunity for the United States, as a nation, to play a powerful, necessary, and positive role in the world.
Here at LaRouchePAC we just launched a very excellent page on this outlook, at LaRouchePAC.com/space. I encourage you to read through it. It’s really tremendous. That for us today, the opportunity to bring all these things together, to act on the public good, by means of useful works, and beautiful discoveries, it really lies in making a complete about face in economic thinking here, in repudiating the political decisions that have been made over the recent decades, with an increasing intensity over the past two presidencies, and play a role in the world as a force for good and for development, as seen in a very sharp way through our potential with the space program.
So, let me open it up for discussion. I just also want to mention that this being the 300th anniversary of Leibniz’s passing, and the fact that the LaRouche Movement, EIR, The Schiller Institute, etc., have done really a tremendous amount of work over the decades on Leibniz, that we’ll be pulling together some compilations of the very unique work that we have done, as a celebration and as a resource force today in this 300th anniversary of Leibniz’s passing. So let me end it there, and see what we have in terms of discussion.
BENJAMIN DENISTON: Well, I don’t want to jump back too much, but you mentioned the conception of “life, liberty, and property” versus “life, liberty, and happiness.” And maybe this is kind of a passive question, but I think given, we’re going into a presidential election of these jokes called candidates, what do you think the importance of this is for the American people today to really find their roots in this specific outlook that went into shaping America and was core in America’s foundation? You look at where we’re at today, you don’t see many Americans that show that level of insight.
ROSS: Well the thing is, it’s never been uniform in the United States. Benjamin Franklin had a certain outlook for the nation. I mean, people are individuals, right? Ben Franklin had an outlook. George Washington had an outlook. Alexander Hamilton had an outlook. Thomas Jefferson didn’t share that outlook, for example. He agreed with Locke. He definitely had… in other words, the U.S. has always been sort of mixed in that way. It’s never been 100% great, good, everyone in the government was wonderful, and there weren’t any fights, or anything like that. George Washington was sick of his Cabinet, at times, so, from the beginning. Or think of Abraham Lincoln.
So, I think it’s important to do the study, not to have a some sort of sense of our tradition, per se, what it means to be an American, per se. What does it mean to be right? What are the right ideas? And I think that trying to simply reflect on, that somewhere in America’s history, the absolute best concept must exist, and that we can use it as our history, per se, I think is a mistake. That actual knowledge, actual thought about economics is required.
So you bring up this presidential campaign, for example. A lot of people think that the key to progress is just, get the government away from me, etc. Sure, there are plenty of government regulations that are unnecessary and stupid: the EPA regulating a puddle in your backyard, or this or that, or whatever. But that key concept of the potential for a united society to create great works, that couldn’t of possibly been done by individuals, that takes hold in things like, where’s our high-speed rail system? Where is our power grid? What’s the state of our transportation infrastructure? Where is our space program?
I was thinking how astonishing it is. The amount of time that’s passed since Kennedy: This has been 50 years now. The amount of time between the ending of World War II, and human beings on the Moon, it’s been twice that long now, since the Presidency of Kennedy. World War II ends, and 25 years later we’re on the Moon. What have we done in the last 50 years? So I guess I kind of got away from responding to you, but, some of these simplistic nostrums of free-market, free-enterprise, my property, and all that, it misses the point. Entrepreneurship is fine, sure, good, yes, but what about the big things? The role of government isn’t purely to secure your property, and provide police and military, or some like libertarian kind of dream. You have to have a mission. And I think that’s one of the things that sometimes people look for, how can we create some sort of, by a disregard or a dislike for how government’s behave, just try to get rid of it all together.
But you’re really responsible for developing a mission for the United States, which is why the work that we do is so unique. We operate as a PAC in the United States. We’re not supporting, certainly, we’re not supporting these candidates, obviously. But, what’s your mission? What’s the policy? People have to think about these things. Work on it. Do the research. Actually, read through these things in your off-time. You’re responsible for knowing everything, everything that you need to.
After World War II, LaRouche developed the confidence and knowledge required to match what he took up as an initiative on his part, what he took up as a responsibility, which both came from his knowledge, but then required him to do more.
[pause] Here comes somebody.
REY: My question was on Leibniz’s economics. I don’t know if you touched on that earlier, but the question of currency, which is kind of controversial, but I know he was talking about like more of the philosophical outlook of how a nation should direct itself. But, I was wondering if he thought of a central location for finance, like what you see now in London and Wall Street versus sovereign nation states having their own currency. Did he get into that type of approach on economics? Do you know?
ROSS: Let me repeat that a bit too, because the connection was bad. I’m not sure everyone heard it on the Internet. Rey was asking about how much did Leibniz get involved in thinking about the specifics of currency, creation of currency, in the centralization of finance. I think that’s that sums it up OK.
I don’t really know. I haven’t read anything, that I can recall, from Leibniz, specifically on money in that way. That doesn’t mean he didn’t think about it, and I know that during his life, for example, some people associated with him in England were working on this plan for a Land Bank in 1691, where they were.
John Locke helped set up the Bank of England, and that was in 1684, I believe. In contrast to the Bank of England, there was this proposal for a Land Bank in 1691, in England, and I know that those were two very different views of banking. One was more specifically for the goal of making credit available for the economy, as opposed to making money off of loans, although it would also make money off of a loan.
But, I just don’t know. I keep my eyes peeled for anything from Leibniz on that in particular, but I haven’t seen anything on that specifically.
[pause] Anything else?
DENISTON: Why do you think this Plato-Aristotle blank slate idea keeps coming up? Leibniz comes to it. I know Kepler comes to it. It seems to be a recurring theme in science. It just struck me, because I didn’t realize, I wasn’t familiar with that particular piece. I didn’t realize that it was that clear up front in Leibniz’s mind. So it’s just interesting that it seems like a recurring reference point for Western scientific thoughts, or fights over it.
ROSS: Well, why does the Plato versus Aristotle innate ideas versus blank slate keep arising as an issue? That’s a decision that hasn’t been… two reasons. One is the objectives outside of that debate itself, in having one of those ideas reigning. So, at first start by bringing up what’s the political impulsion that would, what’s the political benefit of having one of those views? For example, if human beings are animals, if there’s nothing particular about the human soul that has a correlation to the Universe, as a whole, or to its Creator, or to an ability to develop ideas that really match how the Universe works, then you’ve just dramatically cheapened the value of the human individual. So if you were pursuing an economic policy of an empire, where human beings aren’t really worth anything, or poverty’s OK with you, and you don’t care, you’d rather whip poor children, than try to improve the economy—
This view of the human soul is really no different than an animal. It is one that coheres with that view that’s really coming from somewhere else. I mean it’s coherent with it. I believe John Locke actually believed that. But it’s just tied in to much more than this debate itself. And people come to have thoughts on these issues, not arising from thinking through that debate itself. Like people might very easily believe, oh, human beings are a plague, this is a common thought today, right, where a plague or a bad impact on the planet. We should have less impact, etc. Where does that come from? It’s a general outlook of what it is to be a human. What’s your view of the human species? So, I think that the way this sort of thing gets decided then is you have to see well, what’s its effect?
In other words, what kinds of thoughts are generated by people holding these two different views? In other words, is it a necessary… one way of testing it, is to ask “is it a necessary view for science?” People who take that outlook of Leibniz, are they better positioned to make discoveries? What was the view, for example, of Planck or of Einstein, about the relationship between the human mind, and the Universe that they were exploring? Did they believe it was possible to actually know what real causes were? Absolutely, they did. And this is that central fight that Einstein had with Bohr, with the Copenhagen interpretation. It kept coming down to “is cause something that we can know, or not?” So, that was Einstein’s view. He was clearly a genius. He was undoubtedly a great discoverer.
I also think it’s in part tied to the fact that the political fight hasn’t been decided. We have nation building, and we have oligarchism on the planet. There hasn’t been a total victory by either side at this point. And there’s a lot of live debates like that, including this tabula rasa versus innate ideas of the human mind.
Russell, he took this one on really directly. Bertrand Russell, in 1900, saying, no, there are no innate ideas.
Q: OK, Jason, you have invited a question when you mentioned Winthrop, and his idea of he called it a federated notion of lawfulness, and [inaud 1:11:34] and you said that might conflict with Schiller, or something. Anyway, but the following thing that comes to my mind is that like, I’m reading Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography, and one of the things he goes through, is how he set up for institutions, like the libraries. The library, he went around, and if he could find 50 people who were readers, who had the resources to actually set up a library, alright. So they did, and one of the things he discovered in doing it, is that if he did things in his own name, people were envious. So he had to be kind of devious in order to get them to do institutional things that were good for society as a whole.
There was another book, Washington’s Crossing, where he goes through Washington, and his meetings with the General’s Staff, and one of the things that Washington realized, which was new for him, was that a free [inaud 1.12.44] Army in a Republic, couldn’t be pounded the way that they did in Europe, that he had to develop a new style of leadership that would be fitting for man, generally. And I see the same idea in Lincoln, that Lincoln, one of the things that he said was that the vastness of the situation that he found himself in, he couldn’t be petty, he couldn’t be vengeful, he had to almost discipline himself, to the higher mission. I guess the point I’m getting to, is that this historic man, which is what I think Winthrop was talking, of man, of humanity, as opposed to the “natural man", like that the “natural man” has like an animal [inaud 1.13.41] I do what I want. I’m just a natural, that it’s in conflict with [inaud 1.13.51] historic man. And that one of the things that Lincoln seems to be getting at now, is that the situation we find ourselves in, we have to reorganize the human species, on a basis that it’s never been organized before. And therefore, these examples from our own history are certainly enlightening in terms of the creative temperament that you have to have, but we’re in a position like none of these others. It’s totally new, and therefore, what Putin just did, that’s kind of an example on it. Anyway, I’d like you to comment on that.
ROSS: Well, thanks, I mean, I think I see what you’re saying. The reason I had said that about Schiller might not agree with Winthrop, was that… to review, Winthrop had contrasted our natural sense of liberty with federal liberty, in this speech on Christian Liberty. And he had said that in common with the beasts, our natural liberty doesn’t necessarily lead us towards good. It can lead us just as well towards evil, compared with that moral sense of liberty, which is the liberty to do only that which is good, just, and honest.
I’ll say why I said that about Schiller, and then respond to your other points. The reason I said that about Schiller was that Schiller’s view of art is that it has the ability to touch us in a way that isn’t, it’s different than the reason, than reason itself. And, I’m going to refer to some past or future presentations that Megan Beets has done on this topic, that, think about how art can touch somebody in a way that they may not realize. Or how art can play on fancy, or a sense of beauty, or the senses, in a very immediate, or in a sense, natural or uneducated or unimproved way. That art, by connecting with something in our soul which has a natural desire for beauty, is able to make points beyond what reason has developed for that person at that point might not be able to get. And in fact, to make different points altogether than could be made through that means, by touching on the emotions, or the “natural” in that sense. So, I think Schiller saw a problem with a fight between the natural versus reason, or this inherent sin about everything natural about us versus overcoming it by reason. I mean, clearly there are a lot of natural impulsions that aren’t very good, and that we overcome. But, that doesn’t mean that there’s something inherently bad about what’s “natural” to us overall. So, I just thought Schiller provided a bit more nuanced view on that. That’s why I had said that.
I remember that story about Ben Franklin. He said, you know, if you want to get something done, in a meeting, if you say, you bring it up as your idea, people might not like you, so they won’t approve of the concept. So he said he would sometimes say in meetings, “I heard somebody propose the idea of”, or “I heard somebody thinking that perhaps we ought to,” as a way of… He was a very good organizer. I mean, he was very good at getting things done, and working with people.
The concept though that even although art is able to affect us in that certain way, that we should be self-conscious of our outlook, of our identities, I think is absolutely true. And, you had said that, for Lincoln, was there a new type of self-consciousness needed for us. And, I think, if I understood your point, I think that that’s true. I think that it’s true for today. We need a much greater degree of self-conscious sense of identity, of placing ourselves, of more people placing themselves on the stage of history in that way, and being self-conscious and self-directing of what we do of our personalities, of what our role and activities in life are going to be. So, in that sense, we shouldn’t rest on what comes natural to us, or have simply natural responses to things, we should think! So, that’s my take on that. Anything else?
OK. [thanks and applause] Well, that’ll wrap up this series of six presentations on Gottfried Leibniz. You can find the playlist, transcript, additional resources, on the LaRouchePAC page associated with it in the video description. And we’ll have that 300 year compilation of the LaRouche movement’s work on Leibniz coming out in some form or another in the near period, and I think that we ought to be Leibnizian. That’s an identity you can really go with, what we need to do now. So, thanks a lot. Please subscribe to our YouTube channels, and join us on LaRouchePAC.com and get active. Find out more, in particular, about this Space outlook that I was mentioning on LaRouchePAC.com/space. And, see you soon!