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Philosophy in Science
The Deep And Suggestive Principles of Leibnizian Philosophy
Julian Barbour, The Harvard Review of Philosophy, XI 2003, pp45-56
"The most obvious thing about the universe in which we find ourselves is its structure." (^p45)
One cannot help wondering if modern science does not lack a key idea. Could there be some direct structure-creating principle that has hitherto escaped us?
Darwinian evolution, dynamical self-organization of structure, or the structure of the inflationary scenario in modern cosmology [add the preferential attachment law, otherwise known as "cumulative advantage"].
Barbour agrees with the arguments in quantum cosmology which define time as an emergent phenomenon (noted in his book, The End of Time, 2000).
Barbour is making attempt to connect these ideas (concerning quantum gravity) to Leibnizian philosophy:
To counter Newton’s notion of a preexisting absolute space in which all points are exactly identical, Leibniz asserted that space must be relative. Space, argued Leibniz, is nothing more than the order of coexisting things, which are “placed” solely by their positions relative to each other. (predating Einstein, circa 1715)
In his youth, Leibniz was “infected” by Decartes' absolute-minimum explanation of the universe, and subsequently found himself at odds with the question of how we can ever know anything from anything else without variety. There must be at least one other concept added to Descartes' theory.
Leibniz denied the independent existence of space and time. They were nothing but relations between things. Position in space and time could not be used as attributes to distinguish otherwise indistinguishable objects. He argued that any contingently existing thing must be described by its attributes.* Once one starts on the true identification of an actual thing, one must always end by giving a description of the entire universe.*
In the Monadology is the claim that the perceptions of any one monad — its defining attributes — are nothing more and nothing less than the relations it bears to all the other monads. The entire world is resolved into pure shared experience.*
*The Leibniz—Clarke Correspondence, ed. H. G. Alexander (New York: Barnes & Noble, 1956)
See especially the Correspondence with Arnauld reproduced in Philosophical Papers and Letters, eds. L. L. Leroy, D.Reidel, Dordrecht (1969) and Leibniz: Philosophical Writings, eds. G. H. R. Parkinson and J. M. Dent (1973)
R. Descartes, The Principles of Philosophy (1644)
G. Leibniz, Monadology (1714)