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Re: [ontolog-forum] Self Interest Ontology

To: ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
From: John F Sowa <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Sat, 07 Apr 2012 23:19:21 -0400
Message-id: <4F8103B9.7030405@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Rich,    (01)

> It isn’t surprising to hear that most Greek philosophers of
> classical times came from outside Athens – thanks for sharing that.    (02)

That's not what I said.  The point I was trying to make is that the
philosophers on the periphery were the first to discover and adopt the
new ideas.  (They are usually called the Pre-Socratics.)  But their
ideas were isolated insights, which only survive in fragments that
were quoted by the later philosophers.    (03)

> Greece itself was more likely the population which interchanged ideas.
> Athens was just the New York of Greece.  Athens was just the civilization
> that “published” papyri of the good ideas, chose which ideas to teach
> each new generation, provided the cross roads for accumulated commerce
> and trade, and valued knowledge sociologically.    (04)

Those two little occurrences of 'just' hide a huge amount of work.
Without Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle in Athens together with the
Academy (founded by Plato) and the Lyceum (founded by Aristotle)
nothing would have come of those ideas.  They were just that:
little speculations -- the same kind of little speculations we
see every day in these email notes.  They just pop up and vanish.    (05)

  1. The Pre-Socratics made some "lucky guesses" but they had
     no way to develop them or test them.  For example, Leucippus
     and his disciple Democritus came up with the hypothesis that
     everything is made up of tiny atoms in constant motion.  That
     happens to be close to the truth, but they had no way of testing
     the idea or doing anything with it.    (06)

  2. Pythagoras had some good ideas about numbers and forms, which
     made a strong impression on Plato and Aristotle.  That led to a
     lot of innovation and speculation.  Some of it was good, but much
     of it was comparable to these email notes.  Pythagoras founded a
     school that lasted for a few centuries, but his disciples split
     in two groups -- one group developed some of the math, and the
     other group developed some religious ideas about transmigration
     of souls.  Both groups published some things, but nothing that
     amounted to much.    (07)

  3. Socrates introduced some discipline into the process by asking
     questions that forced people to define their ideas and to work
     out the consequences. Plato pursued the methods further in his
     Academy, which played a very influential role in analyzing,
     debating, and developing such ideas.  He didn't just publish
     the ideas -- he added some real discipline to develop them.    (08)

  4. Aristotle joined Plato's Academy when he was 18 and spent 20 years,
     first as a student and later as a teacher.  He didn't just "publish"
     ideas -- he worked them out in excruciating detail.  He is most
     famous for developing the first version of formal logic.  But his
     main science was biology (his father was a physician).  In the 17th
     century, the physician William Harvey said that Aristotle's writings
     on embryology had not been surpassed up to that time.    (09)

  5. Aristotle was also the first to write systematic treatises
     instead of the more literary style of dialogs by Plato.
     His logic and his systematic methods of presentation were
     emulated by everybody that followed -- including everybody's
     research papers and PhD dissertations today.    (010)

  6. Two of the scientists who adopted Aristotle's systematic method of
     analysis and development were Euclid in mathematics and Galen in
     medicine.  Euclid had studied math in Plato's Academy, and he
     decided to follow Aristotle's method of analysis, development,
     and presentation.  He succeeded so well that none of the writings
     by the mathematicians who preceded Euclid have survived -- nobody
     bothered to make copies of them.  Galen did the same for medicine,
     and he even included a brief intro to Aristotle's logic at the
     beginning of his voluminous treatises on medicine.    (011)

  7. Basic point:  the great centers of thought, beginning with the
     Plato's Academy, Aristotle's Lyceum, and other centers, such as
     the great Library at Alexandria are critical for development.
     As Ridley said, you need larger groups to combine and develop
     the ideas -- his metaphor of ideas having sex.  You can't get that
     kind of cross fertilization without groups of people interacting.    (012)

  8. After the barbarians took over the Roman Empire, there was
     a general decline of learning in Europe.  In the 9th century,
     Charlemagne began to promote "cathedral schools" in all the
     towns.  In the 12th and 13th centuries, the schools began to
     break away as independent universities, which led to a rapid
     escalation of all the arts and sciences.  By the 16th century,
     Europeans were sailing around the world.    (013)

> Other examples are the classically celebrated inventors such
> as Thomas Edison (who actually just funded developments to reach
> goals he set for the actual problem solving engineers he hired),
> Nicolai Tesla (one of his engineers)...    (014)

Actually, Tesla only worked briefly for Edison.  They mixed like
oil and water.  Edison emphasized the 99% perspiration, but Tesla
truly had the brilliant inspiration.  He had the rare combination
of a solid mathematical training plus a fantastic ability for
visualization.  (Richard Feynman also had those talents.)    (015)

Before Tesla, nobody could design an alternating current motor.
But Tesla combined two abilities:  visualization of interacting
electromagnetic fields inside an AC motor running at full speed,
*and* writing and solving the differential equations that govern
those fields.    (016)

Tesla was the paradigm of the rare genius who makes a discovery
that nobody else could duplicate.  He also had the good fortune
to team up with George Westinghouse, who built the company to
make his motors and generators.  For a while, Tesla was wealthy,
but he was inept at financial management and died in poverty.    (017)

John    (018)

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