Wilhelm Leibniz and the Other Side of Newton’s Thoughts

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz was a German polymath, mathematician and philosopher born on July 1, 1646, in Leipzig. He made a lot of contributions to world knowledge, some of which are his independent discovery of calculus, the development of mechanical calculators, his promotion of the philosophy of relationism, his refinement of the binary system of numeration and a whole lot more.

Wilhelm Leibniz is one man that will always be mentioned whenever we talk about Isaac Newton because he represented the other side of Newton’s thoughts.

The both of them were contemporaries and they were fierce opponents of each other and their arguments centred on calculus, the stability of the universe and on the nature of space and time.

Concerning calculus, it was more fierce, as they contended for the original owner of the idea. Though today, physicists now agree that they both discovered calculus independently, it wasn’t this friendly in the late 1600s and early 1700s when their rivalry began.

Wilhelm Leibniz (LHS) and Isaac Newton (RHS)

Newton had already formed calculus in the 1660s but he did not publish any of his ideas, however, he shared some of his early manuscripts with some of his friends. So, there were people or individuals who were well aware of Newton’s discovery of calculus, at least none of them refuted his claim later on.

And in fact, Newton claimed to have started the calculus in 1666, when he was just 23 years old. He had called it “the method of fluxions and fluents”. But did not publish it, as I have said, except for “a minor annotation in the back of one of his publications decades later.”

However, Leibniz started working on his own version of calculus in 1674, which he published in 1684, that’s ten years later. He titled this mathematical exposition of calculus as “Nova Methodus pro Maximis et Minimis”.

Newton and Leibniz contended because, according to Newton’s words, he had discovered the calculus a few decades earlier. So, it was whether Leibniz had discovered it independently or not.

Leibniz held on to the latter position which many think he proved by his independent derivation of the rules of calculus. Newton and Leibniz approached calculus from two different angles. And till today, mathematicians make use of Leibniz notations.

And concerning the stability of the universe, Newton suggested that God would always intervene to keep the universe stable if not the universe would someday collapse due to friction and viscosity.

Leibniz took the other side of Newton’s thought by suggesting that God had created a perfect universe that can exhibit perpetual motion. Therefore, Leibniz was of the view that the universe should remain continually stable and never need any intervention from God.

Beyond the contention for calculus and that centred around the stability of the universe, Newton and Leibniz also contented about the nature of space and time. Newton held that space and time are absolute, but Leibniz held that they are relative.

This was one of the stark and probably the first argument for the philosophies of absolutism and relationism on the world stage. And concerning absolute space, Newton is quoted to have said in the Scholium of the Principia that: “Absolute space, in its own nature, without relation to anything external, always remains similar and immovable”.

But Leibniz made the counter pronouncement that “I hold space to be something merely relative… as an order of coexistences, as time is an order of successions.”

To Newton, space exists independent of matter or any reference, but to Leibniz space exists dependent on matter. Leibniz held that space is simply a relational property between matter or any two conceivable mathematical points.

Thus, we cannot think of space without relationism and that is dependent on matter. But Newton thought to the contrary, that space is absolute, and he presented the bucket experiment to prove his point.

Truly, on the account of Newton’s explanation and also by unbiased observation, we cannot account on the grounds of relationism why the water surface takes a concave shape during the bucket experiment.

The presentation of the bucket experiment did a lot to silent Leibniz’s arguments as Leibniz presented no counter relationist explanation of the bucket experiment, but the experiment was bedevilled by a problem which even Newton identified, which is that the proposed absolute space was not physically observable neither does it make any impression on the senses.

As said, Newton noticed this as well as Leibniz who had also earlier contended that absolute space was not observable like relative space. And this was despite the fact that Newton saw the bucket experiment as a demonstration or as an observation of absolute space in action though not in form.

As a result, Newton finally agreed that relative space and time are what humans can sense using our sensory organs but that only God could sense absolute space and time. He even went further to say that “absolute space is the sensorium of God.”

Leibniz contended no further, even though he wondered what Newton really meant as “sensorium” in his quoted statement since “sensorium” refers to the sense organs.

However, in the late 1800s, modern physics came along and with the example of Mach’s principle was able to give a relationist explanation of the bucket experiment. It wasn’t long before this principle was adopted, properly formalized and mathematicized into the general theory of relativity.

The theory of relativity went further to explain to us another sense of relationism, which is that space and time don’t flow the same for every observer and this is with regards to their state of motion.

So modern physics undermined absolutism and elevated relationism and this has been the case until post-modern physics. Post-modern physics is bringing us to ask ourselves again: relative to what do bodies move in the universe? Or relative to what does motion occur in the universe?

Is there a deeper, underlying sense to understand these questions beyond our ordinary observations of motion which seem to show that bodies move relative to other bodies? Is there a deeper sense to understand motion? This was the problem Leibniz and Newton confronted and sought to resolve and it is even more important today that physics is faced with the unification problem.

This is because post-modern physics is showing us that we cannot resolve the unification problem until we go to the deeper, underlying sense of understanding motion which Newton attempted to touch.

Leibniz was on the surface with relationism but Newton sought to go beneath with absolutism and we cannot really deny both as post-modern physics informs us that both philosophies unify to form absolute-relationism. I will come back to this.

Leibniz  was on the surface with relationism but Newton sought to go beneath with absolutism and we cannot really deny both as post-modern physics informs us that both philosophies unify to form absolute-relationism.Click To Tweet

Now, today, post-modern physics is showing us that this deeper understanding of motion exists and what it really is, and it is doing so on the standpoint of absolute space and time.

It is now important to know that physics has entered into the darkest parts of the universe, and physical observation or physical science that is based on relative space and time can no longer assist us in our understanding the universe.

We are at a crucial point in scientific history and what is now needed to further our understanding of the universe is metaphysical science which is based on absolute space and time.

We must understand the central meaning and importance of metaphysical science by its relation to absolute space and time, as I will not leave its definition to wild speculations.

So, with post-modern physics, we are beginning to learn about the quantitative and the qualitative nature of space and time. And with this discovery, one can easily look back to see that Newton’s and Leibniz’s arguments were centred on the quantitative nature of space.

This was why it was easy for Leibniz to argue for relationism. We could see his argument to be that you cannot quantify space without any relation to matter and that this was the only thing that mattered. I think it was Newton who sought to go beyond this quantitative discourse of space in order to argue for its independent existence.

Post-modern physics also takes Newton’s route but in a more exact manner that identifies the qualitative nature of space which Newton did not present, and which holds the key to one of the irrefutable proofs of the existence of absolute space.

Not that the quantitative nature of absolute space does not matter in the argument or the discourse, it matters. In fact, it is also underlying just as the qualitative nature of absolute space, but concerning this, a relationist can still present his argument for relative space as what depends on matter for observation and quantification.

However, the argument for the qualitative nature of absolute space is a better set example of the independent existence of absolute space.

This is partly because for the discussion of the quantitative nature of absolute space or for the consideration of absolute motion, we don’t make reference to immovable absolute space like Newton did, but to the two forms of rest in the universe and they both signify real, existing states of zero inertia. You can read about this in this article.

So, in the quantitative explanation of absolute motion, we don’t rely purely on absolute space for its explanation, and as such, it may not be considered as a satisfactory explanation of the independence of absolute space, though I will disagree with that.

However, the qualitative explanation of absolute motion gives us the opportunity to rely purely on absolute space and argue for its complete independence from matter.

In the discussion of the qualitative nature of absolute space, we only compare absolute space to absolute space and this changes everything, as post-modern physics shows us. We are now learning from post-modern physics that bodies in uniform motion and those in accelerated motion do not move in the same form of space.

In the discussion of the qualitative nature of absolute space, we only compare absolute space to absolute space and this changes everything.Click To Tweet

As a result, we have a space called “uniform space” and we have another called accelerated space and they are different from each another. This understanding of absolute space is arising from the recognition of quality in the universe, which physics has not paid any attention to for the past 400 years.

Motion and Leibniz's philosophy

So, by comparing the quality of one absolute space to another, we further establish the independent existence of absolute space. This article will not suffice to explain it all, but a whole new body of science has emerged which tells us what other objects of scientific investigation such light, gravity, energy, etc. really are in relation to these two different qualities of absolute space.

By comparing the quality of one absolute space to another, we further establish the independent existence of absolute space.Click To Tweet

They can only be defined in relation to the two stated qualities of absolute space (and time).

Post-modern physics does not disprove Leibniz’s philosophy of relationism; it only disproves his scientific arguments for it. And this is just as post-modern physics does not disprove Newton’s philosophy of absolutism; it only disproves his scientific arguments for it.

We now understand them differently in post-modern physics which has even gone further to unify these two philosophies into the overarching philosophy of absolute-relationism.

So, in Absolute Relativity, that is based on the unified philosophy, we find that absolute space is applied to motion in a relational sense, even though it is not in an observable sense. This makes motion more real and it shows us that under relativity, absolute motion can have the same mathematical representation as relative motion.

There are a whole different facets to all of this discourse, but at the core, they represent the synthesis of relationism and absolutism which began as a central argument in physics more than 300 years ago by Newton and Leibniz, the latter who embodied in his own natural way what can be said to be the other side of Newton’s thoughts.

Wilhelm Leibniz passed away in Hanover on November 14, 1716, and though like his contemporary Newton, he never got married or had any children, he, however, left us with many children, which are the fruits of his thoughts and which I consider to be of greater worth.

Until next time,

I will be here.

– M. V. Echa



M. V. Echa

M. V. Echa

My message is the universe, my truth is the universe, and this blog contains all you need to know about the universe, from the true nature of reality to the long-sought unity of the cosmos — which is the big picture!