Reviving the Spirit of Leibniz and Classical Science in the West

On Feb. 8, on the occasion of the 300th anniversary of the founding of the Russian Academy of Sciences by Tsar Peter I in 1724, a gala celebration was held in the Kremlin Palace, with many speeches and theatrical performances depicting the history of the Academy and its achievements.

The real inspiration for the founding of the Academy in 1724 was none other than the famous German philosopher and scientist, Gottfried Leibniz. A truly universal genius, Leibniz was deeply excited by all branches of knowledge, and passionate about the development of all human society and cultures in a great community of nations.

Learning of the Tsar’s visit to Europe and his desire to introduce science into his country, Leibniz made every effort to get into contact with him to advise him on the direction he should take to do so. Leibniz believed that if Russia could succeed in developing, it would also bring Europe closer to China, where Leibniz clearly realized there existed a great culture there from which Europe could benefit.

Establishing contact with Peter I, Leibniz outlined a series of measures for him to follow, including creating an Academy similar to the Paris Academy where Leibniz had worked, and the Berlin Academy, which he was instrumental in establishing. Much of his advice was followed quite rigorously by the Tsar.

At the gala celebration this year, President Putin gave a speech praising the work of the Academy and noting that it will henceforth play a major role in the development of the country in close integration with the leadership of the nation. He reiterated the wise program launched by Academician Vladimir Vernadsky in 1915, at a time when Russia was cut off from the West by the World War, to send out expeditions to map the enormous resources of the great expanse of Russia in order to utilize them in the face of a blockade. It was also noted that 2024 is the 190th anniversary of the great Dmitri Mendeleev, who discovered the periodic table of the elements.

Ironically, the attempt by the West to “isolate” and impose sanctions on Russia, has actually led to a revival of the Leibnizian spirit in the country, in that ties with the non-Western countries of the Global South have increased, and above all with its major neighbor, China.

Thus, what Leibniz envisioned is today becoming more of a reality on the global scale. Unfortunately, among the Western nations, the spirit of Leibniz and his “community of nations” has all but disappeared, and the more brutal spirit of the Thirty Years’ War has become the predominant element in Western diplomatic thinking.

Science by its nature is universal. A single discovery anywhere in the world by a single individual, or a group of people working together can provide benefit for people everywhere in the world and the attempt to restrict scientific exchanges is therefore detrimental to all of mankind. It is to be hoped that the horror that has been caused by the continued war in Ukraine and the genocidal war in Gaza will wake up people in the West to the real roots of their own modern civilization, based in the Golden Renaissance and so beautifully developed by Leibniz. Only then will we be able to achieve what Leibniz was striving for – a community of nations working together for the common interests of mankind.

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