Leibniz's Loving Wisdom, not Russell's Evil Logic
When confronted with an understanding of the depth of the crisis we are in, the question naturally arises: "How did we get here? How did people become so stupid?" In this week's show, Jason Ross leads a discussion of the downshift in thinking and morality seen in the Twentieth Century—with the replacement of creativity by logic—and concludes with concepts from Leibniz that point the way to a different view of man and science.
JASON ROSS: OK, I've got a few parts of what I want to go over today, and the overall question that is guiding things here is: how did we get into the situation that we're in right now? Followers of our website are, no doubt, aware, or certainly have access to the ability to understand, the incredible threat of nuclear war that is facing us, the economic collapse that is being done on purpose, the shut-down of industry, the giving in of everything to Wall Street, rather than a productive economy.
The question you might ask is: How did we get here? How did we get here, where here we have the United States, which fought a revolution and declared independence for the development of the common good, that being its mission—how did we, over a couple of centuries, become a nation where there is basically no institutional leadership making itself seen, almost none, and an insane President, who is committed to a policy that will lead us to a world war, a nuclear one, which would mean nuclear extinction? How did we get here?
Well, how is it possible that everyone has been so wrong about things? Take for example, the 2007-2008 collapse just recently. How many people said that this could not have been predicted, that nobody knew this was going to occur? Now obviously some people did, LaRouche, among others. If everyone really missed that, then you would expect that there would have been a complete transformation in economic thought. Everyone would have said, “We have to completely re-think how we think about economy! We were completely wrong. We need a total change.” That didn't happen. Right? So how did we get this way?
The way we're going to look at that today, is through the 20th century. LaRouche has been emphasizing the destructive role of Bertrand Russell, and of the shifts around 1900 that took place—these shifts away from creativity towards logic, the shifts away from music, the shift from real culture towards degeneracy and apathy. What I want to do today is take a three-part approach to that.
I'm going to start by describing the two radically different approaches to human nature and human thought that we find in Greece, exemplified in the persons of Plato and Aristotle, who were very different people. Then I want to discuss 1900 itself, including Bertrand Russell, versus Einstein, who stood up very uniquely against him. And then I’ll conclude with thoughts about where we need to go in the future, and about how Gottfried Leibniz provides useful insights about how to move forward.
To start things off, we have to begin in prehistory, or mythical history, with the person of Prometheus, who—people probably are familiar with the story—took fire from Zeus and gave it to mankind. Zeus the tyrant said that fire was just for him, it was for the gods of Olympus; it wasn't for human beings. Zeus wanted to eliminate all human beings as a matter of fact, something that Prometheus prevented.
Prometheus, in addition to giving fire, gave the more generally. Here's what Prometheus has to say about human beings before he made us human. He said, "Though they had eyes to see, they saw to no avail. They had ears, but they did not understand. They had no knowledge of houses, or of work in wood. They had no sign either of winter, or of flowery spring, or of fruitful summer, until I taught them to discern the risings of the stars, and their settings." The calendar, the knowledge of the year. He also says that, thanks to him, man uses beasts of burden, sailing ships, the ability to use sails, rather than oars, probably ships altogether, medicine, and metallurgy. Prometheus sums up, in this quote you have here: "Every art possessed by man comes from Prometheus."
So this is the conceptual origin of the human species, as a distinct species, on this planet. Animals don't do any of those things that were just mentioned. Animals don't use fire. They don't create sailing ships. They don't create bronze. Bronze is something that doesn't exist on the planet, except when we create it.
We're a force of nature. The human mind is a force of nature. We create things that would never exist by any other means. We're a force of nature.
Plato and Aristotle
How did these two people think about this? Here you have Plato and Aristotle, from the painting by Raphael, the School of Athens. You've got Plato on the left, wearing Da Vinci's head, pointing up to the heavens, walking forward. On the right is Aristotle, saying, hold on, we're done, we're not going anywhere. He's staying put. He's already got his gold-fringed robe. He's made it. We don't need to do anything new. These two people, to those who don't know much about the history of it, are considered indiscriminately as two great Greek thinkers. They opposed each other.
First, let's start with this quote from the Timaeus. This is Plato's writing, his dialogue, about the creation of the Universe. He says,
"For God desired that, so far as possible, all things should be good and nothing evil, wherefore, when he took over all that was visible, seeing that it was not in a state of rest but in a state of discordant and disorderly motion, He brought it into order out of disorder, deeming that the former state (order) is in all ways better than the latter. For him who is most good it neither was nor is permissible to perform any action save what is most fair."
This is a general statement. It reflects a view that the Universe is composed in such a way that it corresponds to a wise mind, considering it beautiful, good, and fair, fair here meaning, not as opposed to unfair, but beautiful, that the Universe has been put together in a beautiful way. That's Plato.
In describing humanity's relationship to this Universe, in his very famous dialogue Meno, Socrates—Socrates was a real person, he's also the main character in Plato's dialogues—Socrates is speaking with a fellow Athenian about where knowledge comes from. In this discussion, Socrates says that the mind develops ideas, that they come from within the mind, as though they're already there, and experiences or thoughts help to bring out conceptions that exist already in the mind. He demonstrates this by having a discussion with a slave boy about a geometry problem, where the boy is able to figure out the answer to this problem, despite never having seen it before. You can imagine geometry classes weren't a popular thing for owners to give their slaves at this time. This boy had no geometry lessons, or any such lessons, before this. But the rightness of the solution of this problem, Socrates shows, is already in his mind. It resonates with him. This shows two things:
One, that there's something about our minds that has a coherence with the Universe in which we live, and the way that it functions—that human thoughts have a coherence with physical principles. That true things about the Universe are connected to our mind in a way that we can understand them.
The second thing that it shows, socially, is that human beings are equal in this respect. That potential to have a new thought released in the mind, as Socrates put it, or as later thinkers would say, generate in the mind a new thought—that's something that all human beings have in common.
In contrast, Aristotle wrote in his book on Politics: "The slave is a living possession, and property… an instrument.… That some should rule, and others be ruled, is a thing, not only necessary, but expedient." Aristotle says, "From the hour of their birth, some are marked out for subjugation, others for rule." Contrast that with the equality of human beings that Socrates has demonstrated.
Let's talk about how we develop new thoughts in general. This is key to understanding economics. Many people might think, due to Wall Street, that economics is about money and the markets. It's just not true. As Leibniz understood—and we'll get back to him, as the founder of physical economy—the basis of economy is the human mind's ability to discover new things, and then change our relationship to nature. That's why we have economies. It's not because we invented stock markets. It's because we invented.
How does Aristotle believe that ideas are created? He says they come from the senses. Since all animals have senses, we're not unique in this, and he had to explain what makes human beings so unique in our ability to discover things, unlike the animals. Here's what he wrote: "While in respect to all the other senses, we fall below many species of animals, in respect to touch, we far excel all other species in exactness of discrimination. That is why man is the most intelligent of the animals." Sounds like a subway groper. This is Aristotle's idea. What makes us unique? Prometheus says, it's the gift of fire. Aristotle says, we can feel really well. [laughter]
There are many great discoveries that don't involve feeling anything. When Kepler discovered how the planets move, individually and as a system, he didn't feel any of them. I guess you could say he felt the Earth, but I don't think that provides much insight into how it moves, or how it works as a system.
Let's look a little bit more. How does thinking take place? How do we develop new ideas based on what we've already known? How does a new idea get developed? Here's Aristotle, he says,
"All instruction given or received by way of argument proceeds from pre-existing knowledge...
"We have already said, that scientific knowledge through demonstration is impossible unless a man knows the primary immediate premises. How does man know?"
"Our sense perception comes to be what we call memory and out of frequently repeated memories of the same things develops experience, for a number of memories constitute a single experience...
"From experience ... originates ... the knowledge of the man of science."
This is the forerunner of John Locke, for example, who said that the mind of man was a tabula rasa, a blank slate, upon which experiences are registered. It's just not true. Contrast the Meno dialogue of Plato, where Socrates draws out an idea from this boy, not based on past experience. He hasn't had any. It's certainly not just a slight bit of experience that he's had in this discussion with Socrates. The idea didn't come that way.
What Kepler did, didn't derive from experiences, or seeing something frequently, which became a memory. Tycho Brahe, his one-time employer, had a lot more “memories” about seeing the planets. He's the one who made the thousands and thousands and thousands of very accurate observations. Kepler’s vision wasn't all that good, so it was certainly not from experience that Kepler figured out what planets did. He had an idea, not an experience.
Let's look at how this comes up today, because Plato was the basis of the Renaissance, the thinking of Socrates and of Plato, that Promethean outlook. That was the basis of the great thinkers who brought us forward. It wasn't Aristotle. Cusa, for example, the founder of the Renaissance, was very explicit about this. Kepler was very explicit about this. He said that no one considering themselves a Christian should be able to believe Aristotle, for his views about the human being and the mind.
Let's move forward. Let's take a look now at more recent fights on this. Let's take a look at 1900. First, consider the time period overall. This is leading into the period preceding World War I. This is the period where the death of Brahms takes out the last really truly gifted Classical composer in that tradition, so we got a stagnation, a collapse of music. And we've also got a startling contrast between real scientific work, and an attempt to kill it, headed by Bertrand Russell, whom LaRouche has called “the most evil man of the 20th century.”
In case you're not convinced about that, or you think Bertrand Russell was a peace-loving charming old man with iconoclastic views about society and unnecessary social mores from which we should be liberated, I'd like to read a few quotes from this "distinguished pacifist," as he was known. I'm going to read them in order, so you can hear them before and after World War II, and how the experience of Nazism didn't really change his thinking at all. In 1931 he wrote a book, The Scientific Outlook, with a chapter on “Education in a Scientific Society”, where he discusses how,
"The scientific rulers will provide one kind of education for ordinary men and women, and another for those who are to become holders of scientific power."
This is Zeus right here. The common people don't get to know anything, but those who are in control of science are going to get a totally different education.
"Ordinary men and women," says Bertrand Russell, "will be expected to be docile, industrious, punctual, thoughtless, and contented. Of these qualities probably contentment will be considered the most important. In order to produce it, all the researches of psycho-analysis, behaviorism, and biochemistry will be brought into play...." Soma , anyone? "All the boys and girls will learn from an early age to be what is called 'co-operative,' i.e., to do exactly what everybody is doing. Initiative will be discouraged in these ordinary children, and insubordination, without being punished, will be scientifically trained out of them."
He says that the elite should be full of adventure and initiative, that they should be creative, and then he says,
"On those rare occasions when a boy or girl who has passed the age at which it is usual to determine social status shows such marked ability as to seem the intellectual equal of the rulers, a difficult situation will arise, requiring serious consideration. If the youth is content to abandon his previous associates and to throw in his lot whole-heartedly with the rulers, he may, after suitable tests, be promoted, but if he shows any regrettable solidarity with his previous associates, the rulers will reluctantly conclude that there is nothing to be done with him except to send him to the lethal chamber before his ill-disciplined intelligence has had time to spread revolt. That will be a painful duty to the rulers, but I think they will not shrink from performing it."
Pretty creepy, huh? This is published in '31, then what occurs? The Nazis, World War II, concentration camps, etc. That doesn't stop him. He writes about, I don't want to read too many of these quotes, but briefly, he writes that it would be necessary, that unfortunately there's just too much population. Oh yeah, sorry, actually this is an earlier quote, '23, Russell complaining about how population is increasing. He says,
"A slow increase in population might be coped with by improvements in agricultural methods, but a rapid increase must in the end reduce the whole population to penury, ... the white population of the world will soon cease to increase. The Asiatic races will be longer, and the negroes still longer, before their birth rate falls sufficiently to make their numbers stable without help of war and pestilence. ... the less prolific races will have to defend themselves against the more prolific by methods which are disgusting even if they are necessary."
This wasn't something somebody secretly recorded with a smart phone at a closed-door meeting. This is something that he wrote in public, that the white races will have to defend themselves against the more prolific by means which are disgusting even if necessary" But maybe after seeing the Nazis he changed his mind. No, he didn't. He said that really there should be a black death every generation, so that the remaining people can procreate freely without concern of overpopulation. He says,
"This state of affairs might be somewhat unpleasant, but what of it? Really high-minded people are indifferent to happiness, especially other people's."
This is an awful man. He also proposed after the war a preemptive assault on the Soviet Union, before they had developed nuclear weapons, to have a one-world government. That was his idea of peace.
DENISTON: A nuclear assault, right?
ROSS: Yes, a nuclear assault. There's also the quote from him about, we'll have to find out how much it costs to teach children that snow is black, and how much money we'd save if when we taught them it was dark gray, reasoning that under a scientific dictatorship there could be peace and a stable population in this way.
It's hard to imagine a more direct statement of Zeusian oligarchism, of the vast majority of people being considered as useless burdens, except to the extent their work is helping the elite in some fashion, and really not that many of them are needed. How many people does it take to provide the food for her majesty's horses, or whatever. It's a backwards, anti-human, evil, Satanic approach. Bertrand Russell was an evil man, Satanic in his outlook, in the literal sense that he denied the ability of human—he didn't just deny it, he recognized that it existed, and fought against it. He wanted a world in which most human beings did not live as humans. That is evil.
Before writing these kinds of charming missives, Bertrand Russell worked on logic. In fact, his first experience with Euclid, was one that he said was just the most astonishing to him. It was like the first feeling of love, he said.
To put it briefly, Bertrand Russell was working on a plan to redefine science, so that nothing new would ever happen in it, to bring that Aristotelian approach to science, where any thoughts in the future come from those in the past, and something fundamentally new could never occur. The way he did it was by working on math books, and on logic.
There are other videos that go into detail on this, so this is a very brief overview. 1900 was the year where David Hilbert, a mathematician, spoke at a conference in Paris, about what the biggest problems in math were. What are the kinds of topics people should take up to really move the field forward and discover new things? Well, one of them, his famous second problem, was whether it is possible to turn arithmetic into logic? Can we prove that everything we might discover about arithmetic, really comes down to logical rules?
Now the way logic works, it's basically word games. Logic is: given some sentence that I've put together with words in a certain order, and another sentence made of words in a certain order, can I conclude a new sentence made of words in a new order? That's what logic is. It doesn't redefine the words. It doesn't create new concepts. It doesn't create new terms. It's how can I go from one statement to another in a way that's certain? So, examples of logic:
"If it's raining, I'll use my umbrella." Well, if you look out the window and the person who said this is not using their umbrella, then you conclude that it is not raining. That's an example of logic.
"All birds fly, therefore, pigeons fly, because pigeons are birds." That's a logical statement. The question of course, is where do those initial statements come from, like "all birds fly." For one thing, that's not true. But even so, where does that come from? Does it come from seeing a whole bunch of examples of something and making a generalization? Does it come just from observing the past, and making a statement that covers many past experiences in an economical way of phrasing it? Is that all there is? Or is there something else? There is something else.
Russell worked on this problem of Hilbert’s. He worked out a way of trying to write out a math book that didn't have any contradictions, that didn't fall prey to the problems in logic and logical paradoxes that people knew existed, that prevented statements like saying, "This statement is false." That's a logical paradox. "This statement is false." If I'm telling the truth, then it's false. And if I was wrong, then it is true. It doesn't make sense. So Russell figured out a way to remove all of this, and have a very specific way of saying things such that you could never talk about yourself, and make those kinds of self-referential paradoxes. Anyway, so that's what he was working on.
Meanwhile, what are other people doing? At the same time that Russell is slaving over writing multiple volumes of math books, Planck and Einstein are revolutionizing our understanding of the natural world. In 1900, the same year that David Hilbert is asking how to prove everything from what we already knew in the past, Planck discovered something that disagreed with the past. It didn't just fail to follow from it. It disagreed with it. Right? A real discovery disagrees with the past. It always includes, if you think of any of the big ones, they always include some way in which previous thinking wasn't just lacking, but was actually wrong. It was missing something, or it was so limited, by the way it used language to discuss things, it was incapable of expressing the new concept.
What did Planck do? He discovered the quantum, that in interaction with matter, light in a black body, was only absorbed by or emitted by that black body, in individual pieces, called quanta, in individual amounts of energy, and this was related to its wavelength. So that happened? In 1903, Russell writes a math book, trying to do what Hilbert had proposed. So he tries to turn arithmetic into pure logic. That’s him having a great time.
In 1905, Albert Einstein has his "miracle year". He generalizes Planck's breakthrough on the quantum with his work on the photo-electric affect, which is what later got him the Nobel Prize, where he says that light, in a more general way, light comes in pieces. It's quantized, which stood totally at odds with the theory that light was a wave. Experiments done 150 years ago had shown that light didn't seem to be a particle, that the way it interfered with itself, was like waves of water. Now Einstein and Planck had shown that somehow it seems to be both a wave and a particle. That doesn't derive from anything. It even contradicts itself! [laughs] Right? Certainly not a logical breakthrough.
What else does Einstein do this year? Special Relativity. He shows that space and time, as Leibniz knew, aren't independent things, aren't absolute things. That based on the way you're moving, when you observe an event somewhere else in space-time, the time between events, the distance between those events could change. In fact, if two events occur, depending on how you're moving with respect to them playing out, two observers might think that the order that they occurred in was different. Shocking! Space is not flat. It gets skewed by this discovery. He also discovered that somehow, tied to all matter, tied to all mass, is an amount of energy, expressed in his formulation that the energy, "E," equals "m," the mass, times the speed of light, "c," squared, E=mc². This amount of energy was phenomenal. It was mind-blowing. He didn't know how it might come about, but this is what came out. This didn't follow from anything that came before either. Before this, matter and energy were totally separate, like space and time. They were totally separate things. There's a conservation of matter. There's a conservation of energy. There's a wall between the two. Not anymore.
In the period of this half a decade, our understanding of the world around us is dramatically changed. He writes a longer three-volume math book, with a title in Latin this time, where he works on showing that, look, it is possible to have an understanding of knowledge, where everything comes from the past, where it's logic.
I'm not going to go through it here, but Kurt Gӧdel, later in '31, . He used his own language, he used his own logic, against him, and demonstrated that Russell's approach could never work; although I think Planck and Einstein were already demonstrating that by doing real science, while Russell was sitting around. Then in 1915, Einstein writes General Relativity, gives space-time a curvature, connects that with gravitation, and you get gravitation, energy, mass, space, time, light, everything's sort of all getting tied up together, and being reconceptualized.
In the words of Vernadsky, the Russian-Ukrainian scientist, he said in his writing The Study of Life and the New Physics which was published in 1930-1931, Vernadsky writes that, "Space, time, matter, and energy, are clearly distinguished for the naturalist of the year 1929," (that's just when he was writing it—1929 was not a special year), that those are different "for the naturalist of the year 1929 from the space, time, matter, and energy of the naturalist of 1900." Those basic concepts we would even use to talk about the world around, had changed. Logic can't contain that.
I don't want to keep beating a dead horse here, but logic doesn't discover anything new. Cusa knew, in his general concept, that a new idea reconciles a contradiction between earlier ones, that when there's an idea that's missing, when there's something you don't yet know, that you need to discover, the lack of that knowledge will result in the possibility of contradictory views of something, where your attempt to describe it, leads to an impossibility.
This is what Kepler showed in his New Astronomy, where he demonstrated that trying to approach the motion of Mars from a mathematical, or geometric standpoint, resulted in two different types of orbit for it. But, that when you brought in the new principle, gravitation, this principle about how the speeds of planets differed by their distance from the Sun, the difficulty vanished. The higher concept resolved a contradiction, and that contradiction was the key to moving forward. It wasn't something to avoid. It was actually the important key, meaning you need to change the way that you're thinking.
This 1900 shift though is really permeating thinking. It's permeating culture, where the idea of science has become, well, we make observations, and we figure out what the data show us, as though that's a big breakthrough. It's not new. The idea of not just basing yourself on tradition, this isn't a new breakthrough. This is centuries old. The question is, how do you come up with those new ideas, and what might they be? And what's the relationship to our mind to the possible ideas, that can have a power in the Universe?
To The Future
So let's look at a few ways that we could be, and ought to be, applying that power to make breakthroughs, that we have yet to be made today. This is the third section now. The fields I think that this would be very prominent in, and then we'll discuss how Leibniz further gives us an idea about how to move forward on these, just briefly. There will be more on that in future discussions.
But, think about some of the things that we've been discussing right here. Think about the world of the very small, where, if you compare the physical world, the chemical world, and the nuclear world, we've really got chemistry reasonably well figured out. We know an awful lot about putting atoms together and making molecules. Not everything's solved, but we've done a pretty good job. In contrast, we don't know what happens in the nucleus, not very fully. If we say, what's the cross-section of a reaction between two nucleons? We can't derive that from first principles. Why does something have this certain decay rate? Well, we don't really know. What's the binding energy of this nucleus, and why? Well, we don't really know! What's taking place with what appear to be low-energy nuclear reactions? We don't really know. There's a lot to figure out there.
Or take the very large. Take the Galaxy. Ben's been presenting a series of classes about the paradoxes in our understanding of it, of the difficulties of things that get called as dark matter; or what's the relationship between the motion of our Sun through the Galaxy, and evolution? Would any means by which that might be caused, require a new understanding of physics, or of life? Overall, the fact that we're a force of nature, is the key thing that has to be considered.
I'd like to read two quotations from Leibniz on this. This one might sound familiar; this is from his article, "Principles of Nature and Grace, Based on Reason." This was written in 1714, towards the end of his life. He says that,
"We must make use of the great principle, little used commonly, that nothing takes place without sufficient reason, that is that nothing happens without it being possible for someone who knows enough to give a reason sufficient to determine why it is so, rather than otherwise."
Why must thing exist the way they have, and not otherwise? This is Kepler's question, as well. "Why so, and not otherwise?" If you've got a theory that could be one among multiple explanations, it doesn't have a necessity to it, and for that reason, it falls short of the truth. That would be Kepler's view. That's what Leibniz is saying here, in two kinds of this sufficient reason. One might be, you might say, why is this pen moving on the table? Well, it's because your finger pushed it. Why did my finger push it? Because I wanted, the nerve impulses went down my nerve fibers, and made my muscles wiggle. That's one sense of it. The other sense is, why are the laws of nature as they are? What's the sufficient reason that those physical principles, that might explain all those steps, why are those principles the way they are, and not otherwise? The only answer to that question isn't from a moment to moment push. It goes outside of time and into the domain of goodness. Think back to Plato in the Timaeus, where he said that God, in composing the Universe, did so in a way that was good and fair, beautiful.
Another concept of Leibniz's. He says,
"It follows from the supreme perfection of God, that he chose the best possible plan, in producing the Universe, a plan in which there is the greatest variety, together with the greatest order. The most carefully used plot of ground in place and time, the greatest effect produced by the simplest means, the most power, knowledge, happiness, and goodness, in created things, that the Universe could allow. For since all the possibles have a claim to existence, in God's understanding, in proportion to their perfections, the result of all these claims must be the most perfect actual world possible. And without this, it would not be possible to give a reason for why things have turned out in this way, rather than otherwise."
Take sufficient reason to the highest level, to Leibniz's view that God is not an omnipotent tyrant. He does believe that God is omnipotent, but Leibniz says that you can't leave out the wisdom and goodness, in the creation of the Universe. This was made fun of. Leibniz was mocked for this idea that it's the best of all possible worlds. Voltaire wrote a whole very stupid play, Candide, about it, where he says, "If this is the best of all possible worlds, why did I slip on the ice yesterday? Why did someone get sick? Why was somebody shot? Why do we have poverty, if this is the best of all possible worlds? Clearly, it could be a lot better. What are you talking about?" And he just completely misses the point. Leibniz's view isn't that every thing around you couldn't have been placed any better, that then nothing couldn't be any better than it is, if there's no possibility for us to improve it. Again, take it on the higher level of principle. The Universe is composed in such a way, that it couldn't have been done any better.
Given that free will exists, of course we can do bad things. A world without that wouldn't have humanity. Nothing would be praiseworthy if there were no free will. So our ability to improve and perfect ourselves, requires a Universe, where not doing that, has bad effects. That's the contradiction, the paradox that can be the key to moving upwards instead.
There will be more on Leibniz. I do want to say that he's not just some sort of abstract philosopher. This is a man who set up several scientific academies throughout Europe, with the view of them cohering with the motto of "theory with practice." Like Ben Franklin later, he despised the idea of a scientific academy that just considered abstract questions, and didn't put them into practice to the betterment of human life. He said, we need to be studying medicine. We need to be studying economics, engineering. He worked himself on improving mining. He himself worked on power transmission, mechanical power transmission ideas.
I'd like to read just a very short quote from a brief article he wrote, when he was young, in 1671, right before he went to France for some time. It's called, "Economy and Society." I'll read a paragraph. You can find this article online. Leibniz writes,
"Thanks to these academies, or societies, which are institutions of research and of development, with their own manufacturers, and commercial companies directly attached."
When he proposed these academies, he proposed ways of funding them, and so when he was working on mining, he was hoping that the proceeds from technological improvements in mining could help finance an academy. Or he wanted to bring in silk production, as a way the academy could have a work on this, improve it, and then the proceeds from that could finance their other work. He thought that it should be connected to economy. He says,
"In doing this, monopolies will be eliminated, because the academy will always offer a just low price for merchandise." He says, "The trading monopolies will be eliminated. The wealth of traders is much too great, and the misery of the workers is far too profound, as situations seem particularly in Holland, where the method of the merchants is to maintain the workers in a state of poverty and menial labor. But trade cannot transfer anything that has not been produced by manufacturing. And why must so many people be reduced to such poverty, for the sake of so few? The society will therefore have as its goal to liberate the worker from his misery."
Now if that's your view of what a scientific academy should be like, or the real purpose of say, a university, as Harvard was under Mather—and this is a whole plan for what really became the concept of the Republic, of the American Republic. Leibniz is laying out here, how society should be organized, and the basis of it, in his view, is love: love being the increasing perfection of others, of people having the opportunity to live a life that was necessary, to participate in something grand.
So, there's much more to say about Leibniz. Obviously, there will be more on it, but I think it is important to put him in the context of the terrible 20th century and some of the reasons for how we got ourselves into this incredible mess we're in right now.
LIONA FAN-CHIANG: That's quite a contrast between what Leibniz thinks an institution should be for versus Russell.
ROSS: Oh, yeah!
FAN-CHIANG: I caught the fact that there were parallel quotes throughout. I don't know if you had meant that, but...
ROSS: Some of them.
FAN-CHIANG: But one of them was that Russell has a very different idea about what institutions should do for society, and then this, why poverty question came up at the very end. Leibniz asked, why do we have poverty, anyway? And he proposes this school; whereas, the attackers of Leibniz asked, well if it's the best of all possible worlds, then why do we have poverty? The funny thing is that because it is the best of all possible worlds, you could ask why. You can ask why.
ROSS: And if you're Leibniz, you can try and do something about it.
FAN-CHIANG: And then you can do something about it. Otherwise, if the world is not reasonable, you can't figure out why, and you couldn't ever do anything about it. It would really then -reduce down to recording data and reporting on the data, but never figuring out why the data exist -- which unfortunately is proper science today.
MEGAN BEETS: Just to go back to what you opened with, on the unique capacity of the human mind, as opposed to animals, -- the capacity of the human mind to resonate with true principles, that points toward the issue of man's role in the Universe. Well if that's true, if man's mind uniquely resonates with something which is true, and as opposed to Russell's insistence, has the capacity to generate new concepts which hadn't existed before, man has a very particular role that he has to be playing in the Universe, and I think, as you were implying, Leibniz strove to make happen, that implies actions that can be taken in society; to actually improve society, meaning improving the productivity of every individual, improving the rate at which man is actually changing and perfecting, and bringing the planet around him into a higher state of power.
So I just think that an important thing to bring back into the discussion is, this unique role of man, of a creative species in a creative Universe. And then just maybe as a way of bringing up to people, the problem of the 20th century, which produced this foolish population that we live in today, the issue of sufficient reason, the idea that there's a knowable sufficient reason for why something exists in this way, and not otherwise: Take a look, just for a moment, at the science of looking at the Solar System and the Galaxy, and all these silly theories, like the Big Bang. There's no issue of sufficient reason. That's not allowed to come into play. People just sort of identify a posteriori, oh, this exists and this exists, plus this existent thing, and then boom, this probably happened in this way. But there's no room allowed for actually conceptualizing a yet-to-be-known cause. And I think that's where minds like Cusa and Leibniz and so forth come into play, because that's always been the root of human progress.
FAN-CHIANG: That would be called anthropomorphizing the Universe. [laughter]
BEETS: Right, right.
FAN-CHIANG: You're imposing your thought, the way that you think, which is in part of the Universe, on how the Universe works.
ROSS: People get in trouble for anthropomorphizing people, too. In some circles, the concept that we're not the same as animals, is rejected; saying the thought that there's a difference, a fundamental difference, is verboten. Or today, the idea that there's a difference between our mind and a computer. That's under, I wouldn't say assault, I would say it’s more that many people think there isn't a difference. People are worrying about robots taking over the world one day. Is artificial intelligence going to run everything? I don't know how many people actually worry about that on a daily basis, but it's a stupid concern, because artificial intelligence will never happen. Let me put it differently. Artificial fundamental creativity, mechanized artificial creativity, won't happen. I mean, really, Gӧdel already proved that. Computers can figure out some things, they can drive a car, whatever, but what human beings are really needed for --.
And think about in the economy: Most jobs are not productive. You do something in order to somehow get money, so you can make ends meet. It's not that you're fulfilling a passion, or are able to reflect at the end of the day, that you did something useful, at least not most people. Also in the context of where the society, that you are participating in, as an economic actor, where is it going as a whole? There's even less room for a feeling of stability that way, contrasted with the specifically human role that humans have to play.
I mean we do have a lot of work to do right now in terms of building up the basics, the foundations of economy, the foundations for life of economy, the needs for, as we have in our new pamphlet, the needs for infrastructure, for power, for water, for transportation, etc. And we need new human missions. What makes human beings necessary is the problems that we have to solve and overcome, the beautiful concepts that need creating, the music that needs writing.
DENISTON: What struck me with what you went through, is just the importance of the kind of longer arc, historical continuity of the whole thing too. Because you went all the way back to this fight between Plato, Socrates, their school of thought, and Aristotle. To a large degree, this Aristotelian outlook won out, and what did we have for a 1,000-1,500 years? You had no progress. You had nothing. You had the Roman Empire. You had long periods of degeneration, dark ages. And it wasn't till you had this resurgence with the Renaissance, referencing directly back to this Platonic, Socratic school of thought, centered around this recognition of human creativity, the creative powers of the human mind, the creative capabilities of mankind, that you had again a surge of progress; it's kind of this ebb and flow.
People think about history like, oh, it just happens. It just goes on. It just goes on, as if self-propelled by its own existence, or something, but it's not. It's these periods of choice, of creative action, truthful pursuit of this continuity. If you don't have that, you get periods of extended nothing, no progress, no development.
For people to look at where we're at right now, from that longer standpoint, this is not just a, we have a choice to make in terms of setting a much longer arc towards pursuit of this creative.... It's important to get what Lyn's emphasizing about the crisis we face now, and why he keeps, people just don't get it. You talk about 1900, Russell, like why are you bothering me with that now? Obama's doing this, or my neighbors believe that; or people just focus on these immediate, near-term perspectives, and just addressing those issues is not going to get at this underlying deeper fight that I think you did a good job illustrating today.
ROSS: Look at it on the other angle from the impact of the Messiah work that we did, in New York, for example. That doesn't seem, someone who's saying, "we need to get Obama out today," which that's still a necessity, but trying to do it by operating on very immediate ways, compared to the flank of a cultural event, to change people's self-conception; changing people's concept of who they are, of what society is about. Frankly, if you think human beings are fundamentally an ugly blight on the planet, do you really care if there's a nuclear war? You might say, well, that's a shame. I was looking forward to going to a concert next month, but you never know, I might be dead. As opposed to having some sort of understanding of why human culture is necessary, and beautiful.
Without us, what has meaning? Nature doesn't have any meaning in itself. We create meaning. We create intent and purpose. We are, in that sense, co-creators at this point, in a certain way of thinking. A lot depends on us.
I might read one more Leibniz quote. This is in regards to the discussion we've had about what people know about, about the New Silk Road, and about the founding of the AIIB, just recently. Leibniz wrote about China. He says,
"If we are their equals in the industrial arts, and ahead of them in the contemplative sciences, certainly they surpass us, so it is almost shameful to admit this, in practical philosophy, that is in the precepts of ethics, and the policies adapted to the present life and use of morals. Through a unique combination of destiny, it has occurred that the highest cultural goods of the human species are today located on the two extreme poles of our continent, that is, Europe and China, which decorate the opposite edge of each the Earth's, somehow as an eastern Europe, as a Europe in the east. And furthermore, the highest providence is caused through a fortunate turn, that in stretching out the arms to each other, the most highly educated, and at the same time, most distant people, eventually bring everything, which lies in between them, to a way of life, which is more in correspondence to reason. And it is no accident, I believe, that the Russians, who connect China and Europe, through their gigantic empire, and who control the extreme north of the uncivilized region along the coast of the Ice Sea, are encouraged by the energetic effect of a now governing ruler."
Sounds like a description of the Eurasian Land-Bridge for today.
DENISTON: That sounds like an appropriate challenge that Leibniz has given us right now.
ROSS: Yeah, he was definitely thinking ahead.
DENISTON: OK, unless there's more, anyway it was good. I know you've got more on this subject here.
ROSS: Stay tuned. Yeah, more coming.
DENISTON: Right. That's certainly a good opening introduction, so that's probably sufficient for this week. So we thank you for joining us, and we'll certainly be back with more on larouchepac.com. So, thanks, Jason.