April 13, 2017

By seeking what’s truly Good that a being can be unified

Robert Wallace Apr 13, 2017
Hi Jo,

You write:

I am not quite sure what oneness has to do with value though. That seems a bit of a conceptual jump.

It certainly needs explaining. Oneness depends upon value because it’s only by seeking what’s truly Good that a being can be unified, as opposed to being the product of multiple and ultimately external determinants, such as appetite and ego (thumos). That’s why I cited Republic 443e, where Plato describes the soul’s becoming “one,” via reason. This is really the crucial turning point of the entire Republic. 

Appetite is external because it represents inherited biological programming, and ego is external inasmuch as it has to do with a person’s dealings with others. If anything is internal to us, it’s reason, by which we determine what’s truly Good (as opposed to what our appetites and our ego recommend). 

This Platonic notion of our unification through rational self-government is reiterated by Kant in his notion of rational autonomy as opposed to physical/biological heteronomy. 

I suspect that when Leibniz associates “reality” and “perfection” with “acts of reflection,” at Monadology par. 30, he has in mind the same thought: that it’s through reason (“reflection”), as opposed to mere physical interaction, that unity (“reality”) is achieved. 

You also say:

I can understand your complaint that natural sciences often abstract away from all this and just deal with things from the outside. But there is some describing from the outside to be done and it is fair that some people should do it. Moreover, those involved in dovetailing neuropsychology from neurophysiology are very much interested in the inside view as well. 

Of course external description needs to be done. The problem is when the external view is taken to be the sole locus of truth—as it is, for example, by Daniel Dennett (Thomas Nagel’s primary bete noire). 

I am aware of the emphasis that’s been put (contrary to Dennett) on inner experience by many neuroscientists in recent decades. This is what fuels the Consciousness Conference, and it’s very admirable. What’s missing from this whole discussion, however, is the side of inner experience that aims, in the way that I just described, at rational unification through the Good. And this isn’t a side issue, if it’s appropriate (as Plato, Hegel, and probably Leibniz think) to describe what’s rationally unified as more fully real, in the sense that it’s real as itself, than what’s not rationally unified. (This would be “reality” in the strong sense that Leibniz associates with “perfection.”)

If hegel says that Leibniz’s God is finite he must be wrong because Leibniz says He is not. Hegel must have slipped in a category mistake with his words - as so many philosophers do all the time. Leibniz is very rarely if ever guilty of this. 

Hegel is aware that Leibniz and many other thinkers describe their God as “infinite.” But if their God is also supposed to be a being that is distinct from the physical world, he is not (Hegel points out) truly infinite, because he is limited by not being the physical world! (This is Hegel’s critique of what he calls the “spurious infinity.”) Inasmuch as Leibniz describes his God as existing prior to the physical world and deciding whether or not to create that world, Leibniz’s conception seems to invite this Hegelian critique. 

This doesn’t mean that Hegel is a “pantheist” who makes God identical with the world. Rather, the truly infinite God is, as Hegel puts it, the finite world’s going beyond its finitude (via reason). (The “dynamic” non-dualistic relation that I mentioned previously.)

I tried to download your paper on Leibniz’s telicity from Researchgate, and failed. If you could send it to me privately as a pdf, I’d be interested to read it.

Best, Bob W

On Apr 12, 2017, at 6:02 AM, Edwards, Jonathan wrote:

Dear Robert,
My understanding is that Leibniz’s concepts of perfection (two) are reasonably objective, although we may not be able to adjudicate on one of them. [...]

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