The last person to know everything

Leibniz is often said to be the last person who knew everything. Beyond that, he is mostly remembered for his invention of calculus and for his proof that this is the best of all possible worlds. But, as Marc Bobro explains in “The Optimistic Science of Leibniz,” there is much more to this great genius.


Locke, Leibniz, and the blind boy who now sees

Quaere, how much do we really see? What can we learn about knowledge when sight is restored to a 13-year-old boy who had been blind since birth? Charlie Huenemann explains what the empiricist Locke and the rationalist Leibniz had to say about this. And don’t miss the very interesting readers’ comments to this very interesting essay.

Spinoza and Leibniz

Matthew Stewart’s The Courtier and the Heretic is about Leibniz (the courtier) and Spinoza (the heretic). It is a superb introduction to their ideas and also an exciting story. As Liesl Schillinger put it in Great Minds Don’t Think Alike, a book review in the New York Times, “With ‘The Courtier and the Heretic,’ Stewart has achieved a near impossibility, creating a page-turner about jousting metaphysical ideas that casts the hallowed, hoary thinkers as warriors in a heated ideological battle.” This book review, along with Mad, bad and dangerous to know – it can only be a philosopher and Of miracles and monads, will give you a good idea of Stewart’s book and of Spinoza’s and Leibniz’s ideas.

Consciousness: the hard problem

Can we get our heads around consciousness? Very good review of and reflection on theories about how consciousness happens in the first place and how it in turn affects matter. “Nearly a quarter of a century ago, Daniel Dennett wrote that: ‘Human consciousness is just about the last surviving mystery.’ A few years later, Chalmers added: ‘[It] may be the largest outstanding obstacle in our quest for a scientific understanding of the universe.’ They were right then and, despite the tremendous scientific advances since, they are still right today. … The hard problem’s fascination is that it has, to date, completely and utterly defeated science. Nothing else is like it. We know how genes work, we have (probably) found the Higgs Boson; but we understand the weather on Jupiter better than we understand what is going on in our own heads. This is remarkable.”