“among those who care about such matters”

Matthew Stewart’s Leibniz epitomises the reactive attitude towards our modernity, a modernity represented by Spinoza, in his compelling narrative. Something has been subtracted from Leibniz’s philosophy launching it as an untotalizable multiplicity. In this regard, he resembles Badiou reacting always to the immanence of Deleuze, even when Deleuze is not there.

I came away with these questions: What does this book do to the relationship of Deleuze to Leibniz – in his book, The Fold? Is Deleuze trying therein to rehabilitate Leibniz? Hallucinating his consistency with a philosophy of immanence? And then what does this problematisation make of Badiou’s essay on Deleuze’s The Fold? It is a piece both recriminatory for a failure not present in Deleuze’s work on Leibniz and self-incriminating in that regard as well as reactive to Deleuze’s rejection of Badiou because of his insistence on numerical multiplicity.

Is Object-Oriented Ontology a new monadology?

Is the view of science we’ve inherited from the Natural Philosopher’s a form of mysticism?

Is the Enlightenment, therefore, missing its radicals? Have they been suppressed in historical accounts?

Matthew Stewart:

In the histories of philosophy that dominate the trade, it was Immanuel Kant who sealed the fate of the two greatest philosophers of the seventeenth century. In his effort to tame philosophy into a discipline suitable for the modern academy, Kant trained his attention on the methods whereby philosophers purported to justify their claims to knowledge. He divided his immediate predecessors into two groups: the empiricists, who allegedly relied on sense experience to base their claims to knowledge, and the rationalists, who were said to derive their truths from pure reason. According to Kant’s peculiar scheme, Leibniz and Spinoza wound up playing on the same side of history. Together with Descartes – the man Leibniz loathed and Spinoza regarded as seriously confused – they became the three rationalists. Leading the empiricist opposition was John Locke – the same whom Leibniz regarded as a wobbly crypto-Spinozist. He was joined by the Irish philosopher George Berkeley, whose view that physical objects are only ideas in the head strikes most readers as distinctly unempirical, and David Hume, whose ideas about the mind and causality look remarkably like those of Spinoza.

Hegel, who very much liked to see history move along in groups of three, strongly championed Kant’s version of events; and the British, who were pleased to see a trio of their greatest philosophers of the period lined up against three continential musketeers, were more than happy to go along with the story, too. As a result, in philosophy classses to the present, where irony tends to be a scarce commodity in any case, Spinoza and the man who dedicated his life to expunging Spinoza’s name from the world’s memory are presented as happy partners on the same side of a debate about the epistemological foundations of academic philosophy.

– Matthew Stewart,The Courtier and the Heretic: Leibniz, Spinoza, and the Fate of God in the Modern World, W.W. Norton & Co., London, 2006, pp. 309-310

If Spinoza was the first great thinker of the modern era, then perhaps Leibniz should count as its first human being.

– Ibid., p. 312