# PHILOSOPHY /// A Short Political Reading of Leibniz’s Small Sensations


‘It must be the case that I have some perception of the movement of each wave on the shore if I am to be able to apperceive that which results from the movements of all the waves put together, namely the mighty roar which we hear by the sea.’
Leibniz, Gottfried, Correspondence with Arnauld, 1686.

The world exists only in its representatives as long as they are included in each monad. It is a lapping of waves, a rumor, a fog, or a mass of dancing particles of dust. It is a state of death or catalepsy, of sleep, drowsiness, or of numbness. It is as if the depths of every monad were made from an infinity of tiny folds (inlfections) endlessly furling and unfurling in every direction.
Deleuze, Gilles, The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque, London: Continuum, 1993.

In his Monadology, along with few other writings, 17th century philosopher Gotffried Leibniz evokes the existence of “unconscious perceptions” or, as he also call them, “small perceptions”. In order to explain what they are, he uses the example of the sound of the wave. Although we hear that sound, we do not hear precisely distinguish each drop colliding into one another. If those micro-collisions were not providing a sound however, we would not hear the sound of the wave globally. This example of the wave is useful as it links the analysis that Gilles Deleuze does of Leibniz with the one he does of Spinoza as an old article describes.

Leibniz also uses the example of a crowd screaming or chanting to explain this same notion of small perceptions. From here, the political interpretation of such a philosophical concept is easy to follow. We have the power to embody a small perception of change within society. One might say that this is only a merely more poetic way to say what every advertising for a given cause say through their slogans (I am thinking especially of the no litter campaign!) : “It starts by you”. Somehow, we always think of those means to change things through the very narrow filter of number. In that matter, we are influenced by the way modern democracies are organized around the strict notion of majority that was criticized very early on by Alexis de Tocqueville (cf Democracy in America, 1835). The reading of Leibniz’s philosophy and more specifically of the small perceptions does not lead us that way however; this is not as much a question of majority than of composition or arrangement. “All consciousness is a matter of threshold” writes Deleuze in The Fold, his book dedicated to his interpretation of Leibniz’s work. This threshold of consciousness, i.e. the emergence of something at the macroscopic level is reached only when a multitude of microscopic processes are involved to reach it. Using Deleuze’s example of the dreamer who wakes up in the middle of the night, we can illustrate the fact that the majority is not fundamental to reach this threshold: “all the little bends and tiny creases engage relations that produce an attitude, a habitus, and a great sinuous fold” (The Fold). This attitude/fold is what wakes up the dreamer, even though the rest of the bed is smooth.

To move forward in this idea, we should explore the notions of microbiopolitics and molecular revolution as created by Félix Guattari, but that will be for another article…


2 Comments on “# PHILOSOPHY /// A Short Political Reading of Leibniz’s Small Sensations

  1. Caught up on your blogs – the fiction has been enjoyable. This post reminds me of Manuel DeLanda lectures and books.

    This arguement works politcally and economically both ways, bottom up or top down I would suggest, not familiar with Guatarri’ work on this, will look out for those posts. Working out a theory here on your blog, always assumed that was the nature of commenting on blogs and forums…

    Creative types (social rhizomes?) Can render a unique relationship of “objects” and by desire and possible eventual social attraction cause new social relationships to emerge at not yet determined thresholds of quantity.

    Thresholds are qualitative changes emerging at certain quantities ((of relationships)). (What I learned from DeLanda lectures)

    Controlling types (law prescribers and enforcers?) can render prescribed relationships of “objects” and by enforcement and forced social control cause new social relationships to emerge at not yet determined thresholds of quantity, although the law likes to guess at what quantity control can be maintained (prevention).

    I finished Debord and then went on to Adam Smith, now well in Schelling (transcendental idealism)…since my last post here.

    Debords famous book begins to fail spectaculary (boo) on the twice as long (un)consciouss defense of failed socialist goverments and his propositions for social change etc…even more erronous propositions.

    Smith’s “wealth of nations” is for the most part an extremely painful read mainly due to the constant quantifing of cattle, trade, etc…but the few philosophical tid bits which I intend on one day rewriting in one passage, observations and confirmations point to a clear and successful system that allows creativity to flourish and more quantitative changes to lead to better qualitative lives.

    (Thats an iconic arguement for capitalism over socialism…it really a point that human nature is unconsciouss first and then consciouss…Debord is asking us to be consciouss, Smith was just formulating an assessment of our unconsioussness (schelling??)

    I dont really like politics mainly for the absolute irrational display of social philosophy. I have always found liberals and conservatives paradoxical. Liberals tend to be socially liberal and economically conservative. Conservatives tend to be economically liberal and socially conservative. (Reference my creative vs controlling types above, liberals create and control one way, conservatives create and control another)

    I would like to see a political theory that is rational all the way through, maybe you will write about it.

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