Suppose that Leibniz's God had spared him the rigors of getting
old, and that he retained a fresh young brain and body over these
hundreds of years. What would be his beliefs today, and what
subjects would interest him the most?
We have to assume that as the 1700's unfolded, he would grudgingly
adjust to the fact that the "Newtonian" world view was preeminent
and probably correct. He'd follow (and probably contribute greatly
to) the scientific advances of the 18th century, and even exult at
the prediction of atoms (most probably) and the great mathematical
and chemical advances of the French.
He would have witnessed Wolfgang Kohler's discovery of uric acid in
1828, and we must suppose that he'd accept with alacrity the new
mechanist and anti-vitalist views of the 19th century. With his
genius, he'd also follow the tremendous scientific strides made
in the second half of the century, many by his German compatriots.
With what wonder would he then greet Einstein's most philosophically
influential discovery of 1905? He might even after all those years
secretly revel in the overthrow of the "Newtonian" world view. Knowing
Leibniz, it wouldn't be surprising that he'd have been right in there
with Lorentz and Poincare deriving almost simultaneously (pun intended)
the results of Special Relativity.
But with what total amazement would he follow Einstein's real
breakthrough, the one that only Einstein could have made in the
first half of the 20th century? I speak, of course, of the
General Theory. Perhaps Leibniz would get on board at the
last minute, as did Hilbert, and perhaps also almost beat Einstein
to final publication. He might have even discovered the Schwarzschild
solution before Schwarzschild.
But, given that perpetually fresh young brain, wouldn't Leibniz
have also contributed to the quantum revolution? Wouldn't he also
have grasped before almost anyone else the implications of the work
of Kurt Gödel? And one must imagine that in the 1930's Leibniz
would be the first to recall the work of Babbage, and believe that
the time was at hand when his beloved calculi would admit true
So Leibniz would have been a part of the electronic and computer
revolutions, and would have understood the final defeat of vitalism
in 1953. It seems clear that he would have followed physics right
up through the development of the standard model in 1968.
But what then? The crystal ball grows dark. Any thoughts?