Modernity

28 02 2008

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Modernity dethrones humankind. It reduces all our thoughts, purposes, and hopes to the object of scientific inquiry. It makes laboratory rats of us all. Spinoza actively embraces this collapse of the human into mere nature. Leibniz abhors it. Even more than he wants to convince us that God is good, Leibniz intends to demonstrate that we are the most special of all beings in nature. In the entire universe, he says, there is nothing more real or more permanent or more worthy of love than the individual human soul. We belong to the innermost reality of things. The human being is the new God, he announces: Each of us is “a small divinity and eminently a universe: God in ectype and the universe in prototype.” This is the idea that define’s Leibniz’s philosophy, and that explains the enormous, if often unacknowledge, influence that his thought has wielded in the past three centuries of human history.

-Matthew Stewart, The Courtier and the Heretic