[quickphilosophy] Leibnizian Interlude

  • From: Sean Wilson <whoooo26505@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: wittrsl@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Tue, 20 Jul 2010 07:59:43 -0700 (PDT)

[sending manually because the feed to yahoo isn't working]
It's an interesting comparison.  Jumping beyond these basic assertions, 
it is also interesting that Liebniz places far more emphasis on what can 
be deduced about the world than about what can be observed, whereas 
Wittgenstein is attached to asserting that logic contains no truths.

But then there is very litle in the quoted statements of Liebniz that 
does not follow directly from Parmenides and Democritus.  The arguments 
over the possibility of change were already quite well developed prior 
to Plato.

What is frustrating about Wittgenstein is that he forever declines to 
explain the context in which he is writing (something that is inclined 
to make me think of him as rather a charlatan).

I'd certainly be inclined to see Liebniz's rationalism as epistemic, 
which is, of course, Kant's complaint.

The trouble with claiming that Wittgenstein has gone beyond this and is 
talking about ontology is that there seems no argument to that effect.

There seems here to be a confusing conflation between what we can say 
and what can be (in some strong sense than what we say there is).  To 
what extent, if any, is Wittgenstein not an idealist?  If he is an 
idealist, what kind of idealist is he?

The idea that understanding is impossible without some basic (and 
perhaps "real") facts sounds Davidsonian, and I don't find those 
arguments persuasive.

* * *

As regards the conflict between X being red or X being green, I wonder 
whether Wittgenstein regards this as a *logical* conflict?  It may well 
be that he does not, and sees it as an empirical matter.  If that is so, 
then the independence of the two assertions holds up in logic because 
"red" and "green" are mere tokens which in logic have no particular 


walto wrote:
> Here's the opening to /Monadology.  /It seems to me striking to what 
> degree W's logical atomism follows the same path.
> 1. The /monad, /of which we will speak here, is nothing else than a 
> simple substance which goes to make up composites; by simple, we means 
> without parts.
> 2. There must be simple substances because there are composites; for a 
> composite is nothing but a collection or/aggregatum /of simple substances.
> 3. Now where there are no constituent parts there is possible neither 
> extension, nor form, nor divisibility. These monads are the true atoms 
> of nature, and, in fact, the elements of things.
> 4. Their dissolution, therefore, is not to be feared, and there is no 
> way conceivable by which a simple substanc e can perish through natural 
> means.
> 5. For the same reason there is no way conceivable by which a simple 
> substance might, through natural means, come into existence, since it 
> cannot be formed by composition.
> 6. We may say then, that the existence of monads can begin or end only 
> all at once, that is to say, the monad can begin only through creation 
> and end only through annihilation. Composites, however begin or end 
> gradually.
> 7. There is also no way of explaining how a monad can be altered or 
> changed in its inner being by any other created thing, since there is no 
> possibility of transposition within it, nor can we conceive of any 
> internal movement which can be produced, directed, increased or 
> diminished there within the substance, such as can take place in the 
> case of composites where a change can occur among the parts. The monads 
> have no windows through which anything may come in or go out. The 
> attributes are not liable to detach themselves and make an excursion 
> outside the substance, as could /sensible species /of the schoolmen. In 
> the same way neither substance nor attribute can enter from without into 
> a monad.
> However, in my view, W's argument is more audacious both than this and 
> than arguments for epistemic foundationalism.  Leibniz can hold that 
> there are simples in nature even if nobody can (or has yet) drilled down 
> to them: that may be a scientific goal, but there's no reason to suppose 
> that just because any such simples do (or even must) exist, that anybody 
> has become acquainted with any.  And the foundationalist who says that 
> if we have evidence for anything we must have evidence for some things 
> that don't require any additional evidence will generally provide 
> examples (perhaps "This looks red to me" or "1 + 1 = 2" or "I exist" or 
> "Red patch here.")  
> But W can neither give examples nor claim that nobody need be acquainted 
> with atomic facts.  Why?  Because in his view for anybody to understand 
> anything there must be basic facts, and, since understanding is a 
> cognitive activity it is implausible that atomic facts could do the work 
> he requires of them if nobody was ever acquainted with one. 
> That's why, IMHO, this is the most audacious philosophical argument 
> since Anselm.
> W


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