Heim on Baron Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz

[Added by Justin Clavadetscher, Brown University]

Leibniz beleived all problems to be in principle solvable. The first step was to create a universal medium in which conflicting ideas can coexist and interrelate. A universal human language makes it possible to translate all human notions and disagreements into the same set of symbols. His universal character set, characteristics universalis, rested on binary logic, one quite unlike natural discourse in that it is neither restricted by material content nor embodied in vocalized sound. Contentless and silent, the binary language can transform every significant statement into the terms of a logical calculus, a system for proving argumentative patterns valid or invalid, or at least for connecting them in a homogenous matrix. Through the common binary language, discordant ways of thinking can exist under a single roof.

Given the right motor, such a system of logic can function at the speed of thought. At such high speed the felt semantic space closes between thought, language, and the thing expressed. Centuries later, John van Neumann was to apply a version of Leibniz's binary logic in building the first computers at Princeton.

Like mathematics, the Leibnizean symbols erase the distinction between signifiers and the signified, between the thought seeking to express and the expression. No gap remains between symbol and meaning. In this regard human knowledge, Leibniz proposed, should emulate Visio Dei, the omniscient, intuitive cognition of a deity. Human knowledge strives to know the way a divine or infinite being knows things. No temporal unfolding, no linear steps, no delays limit God's knowledge of things. The temporal spontaneity, the all-at- once-ness of God's knowledge serves as a model for human knowledge in the modern world as projected by Leibniz. God's knowledge has the simultaneity of all-at-once-ness, and so, in order to acheive a divine access to things, the global matrix functions like a net to trap all language in an eternal present.

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