“Modernity dethrones humankind. It reduces all our thoughts, purposes, and hopes to the object of scientific inquiry. It makes laboratory rats of us all. Spinoza actively embraces this collapse of the human into mere nature. Leibniz abhors it.
[…] Leibniz intends to demonstrate that we are the most special of all beings in nature. In the entire universe, [Leibniz] says, there is nothing more real or more permanent or more worthy of love than the individual human soul. We belong to the innermost reality of things. The human being is the new God, he announces: Each of us is “a small divinity and eminently a universe.” (1)
Do we belong to the innermost reality of things, as Leibniz suggests? Of course we do, but so do our pets and pet-rocks. Nature is one even if we compartmentalize it into many.
Is each of us “eminently a universe?” Of course. But there is nothing divine (i.e. transitive, i.e. created) about this divinity. Nature is naturally, spontaneously, essentially divine, i.e. self-creating, i.e. uncreated, i.e. non-divine, if you wish to split dichotomous/dualistic hairs.
“The crucial difference between these two philosophers comes down to this: Spinoza finds happiness in loving God [which Spinoza equates with Nature/Reality]; Leibniz finds it in God loving us back.” (2)
If you are chasing ego and reassurance, read Leibniz. If you are chasing the ordinary perfection of what presently is, read Spinoza. If – however – you have no time to understand either, read Matthew Stewart’s “The Courtier and the Heretic.” It’s a 300 pages long ping-pong of historico-philosophical intrigue.
“The Courtier and the Heretic,” Matthew Stewart, 2006, W.W. Norton, (1) p. 241. (2) p. 253
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Last reviewed: 9 Jul 2011