Dukhan Igor: The Prologue of Modernity: Leibniz and the Project of Global Cultural Diversity

Speaker: Dukhan Igor, Belarussian State University, Minsk, Belarus, Doctor of Philosophy, Professor and Head of the Department of Arts and Environmental Design

Topic: The Prologue of Modernity: Leibniz and the Project of Global Cultural Diversity

The value of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz’s project of cultural and historical synthesis for our modern times lies in the enlightenment trend, which is opposite to the discursive policy of “Eurocentrism” that was emerging in the 17th – 19th centuries. Leibniz's exceptional and multi-faceted interest in China, hieroglyphics and Confucianism coincided with the reign in China of Emperor Kangxi (1662-1722), a ruler most open to Europe in the Qing dynasty, whose portrait Leibniz placed on the frontispiece of Novissima Sinica. Leibniz's correspondence reflects the thinker's interest in various systems for compressing and encoding information about the world, represented in Chinese culture by hexagrams and hieroglyphs.

Leibniz's lively, long-term interest in Russia was of a different nature. Unknown Russia constituted one of the significant parts of the world interaction constructed by Leibniz, and he ached to understand its physiognomy in the diversity of regional cultural and linguistic institutions, as evidenced by his note to Lefort in 1697. Leibniz constructs an image of the world in the same way as a Baroque artist constructs his creation – creation-arch, a creation-encyclopedia (in the terminology of A.V. Mikhailov), a compendium that seeks to include the diversity of historical and regional forms. In this regard, the image of the world of “pre-established harmony” is formed precisely as a baroque work – an arch in which autochthonous parts have equal importance in the system of the whole. Leibniz's cultural and historical synthesis of the diverse correlates his philosophical monadology with its equal value of individual monads, whose interaction forms the continuity of the universe. The “language of culture” emerging from Leibniz, which is based on “feeling into” the worlds of “other cultures”, attention to the native and the local, was at the origins of the European discourse of cultural diversity, which is essentially different from the practices of domination of the Eurocentric model.