Giles Deleuze introduces the reader to the philosophy of Leibnitz, with straightforward explanations of key terms and concepts. The book is a great aid to understanding and appreciating the German philosopher.
“Abominable. Leibniz is abominable. His dates: 1646-1716,” – such is the manner in which Gilles Deleuze concludes the story, told in his first lecture, of the remarkable philosopher’s encounter with the no less remarkable Spinoza. And there – the audience is already laughing, and you along with them, imagining yourself right there with them in the auditorium. “My goal,” – Deleuze proclaims at the very beginning, “is very simple: for those who don’t know him [Leibniz] at all, I want to present this author and to have you love him, to incite in you a sort of desire to read his works.”
Gilles Deleuze read a series of lectures in the spring of 1980 on Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, the great German philosopher, logician, mathematician, lawyer and historian – the list could well be extended. When explaining a key phase in world philosophy, it is all too easy to go off on tangents and change an ironic tone for one more dismally obsequious, however, Deleuze skillfully remains in control of his speech, holding it within a single style. With the ease of playfulness and charm of intellectual curiosity, the lecturer leads us, the listeners, through the universe of Leibniz, fashioning highly complex terms and formulae and turning them into accessible, vivid images and readily intelligible ideas. It is as though Deleuze aims to reconcile two mutually exclusive worlds, trying to help us not only understand but also feel what we are looking into: “…It is dreadful folly to say that philosophers come up with complicated terms merely for the sake of it. Yes, the inferior kind do this. But no discipline is to be judged from its inferior members. The greats have never done this; when the greats create a word, then there is first of all a poetic excellence to it. Imagine! The more we become accustomed to philosophical terms, the more we fail to understand philosophers, but imagine the power of the term “monad”! Both you and I are monads. This is something fantastical.”
Reading on, we unwittingly come into contact with a new, more structured and ordered appreciation of the fundamental philosophical positions. All thanks to Deleuze’s unusual manner of speech, which renders him capable of holding the listener’s attention even while developing such complex themes as Leibnizian philosophy. “Leibniz is endless analysis,” – Deleuze remarks, while discussing singularity and the concepts of the point of view and small perceptions, on monadism, the world and its interconnectedness, proving mathematical formulae and building chains of logic. And it grows ever more complex: the imagination is then gripped by a brilliant game of concepts and notions, each running into the other; ever newer and newer questions arise, the graceful thread unwinds further and further. “You ask me ‘why?’ - but stop, that is enough of ‘why’ – it is not ‘why’ you should be asking, but ‘does it work?’ Such is the world of Leibniz.”
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