Philosophy, the love of wisdom. But what is wisdom? A little research on the origin of the word is enlightening: in all languages it turns out that the concept of wisdom has to do with knowledge. The Proto Indo-European (PIE) root is “WEID” which means to know, to see (hence the “Veda” , I know, in Sanskrit “Videre” in Latin, hence French “Voir”, “Vision”, the German “Wissen” to know, etc.)
(Weirdly, “Sophia”, one of the two Greek versions of divinized wisdom, is an outlier, of unknown origin.)
I will show here that wisdom, and science, have a war-like behavior at their heart. The ability of sawing and cutting. Thus real wisdom and science is all about a mood not conventionally associated with them.
Lao Zi (previously known as Lao-Tzu, the Old Master), 26 centuries ago, the famous contemporary of Confucius, insisted that the knowledge of the self was superior, while knowing too many things could be inferior. Also not knowing that one did not know was a “defect”.
(Yes, Lao Zi’s wisdom is quite similar to some of the wisdom coming from various Greek sources at the same time; the difference with China, is that Greece, or, at least some city-states such as Ἀθῆναι, Athēnai, were able to enact superior wisdom into superior political systems. The Greek political enactment of superior wisdom in turn inspired many others, as superior Greek democracies were established from Anatolia (Phrygia, Phocea, Miletus, etc.) to “Great Greece” (South Italy) to a small empire in Southern France and beyond (based in Marseilles, Nice, and Athenopolis, aka Saint Tropez).
One should think of systems of thoughts, and moods, in one word, mentalities, as axiomatic systems, highly hierarchized, yet, entangled, as causal webs.
These are actually neurological structures… And that make them very stable.
Superior mentalities discard and throw away axiomatic bits that are inferior. Superior wisdom has to do with amputating. This is why the very concept of science is all about cutting.
The Latin scire, to know, is thus originally from the Latin scindere, to cut, divide; interestingly the French scier, to saw, is thus at the root of science:
“Je Sais, Donc Je Scie.”
This is not a play on words; it is serious. However, it’s untranslatable in English (‘I science, thus I saw?’)
An example I gave on my essay on the “Flat Universe”, or in “100 Billion Years Old Universe” is my proposal to cut-off (decide, see below), the hypothesis of Big Noise Inflation (“Cosmological Inflation) as we already have another inflation, all too real, Dark Energy.
Gunther Grass died today, he wrote down a piece of imagination, about a boy who was a drummer under the Nazis. Grass helped teach the Germans how Nazism worked. Literature has to be made appealing. Philosophy, though, is not literature, it does not have to sneak in some truths with bed time stories for children. It focuses on reality: somebody has to do it.
Science does not have to be nice, it cannot be nice: after all, it is about sawing off some parts of other people’s neurologies. This is why the Greek goddess of wisdom, Athena, is also a warrior goddess. Not that the concept was just Greek. It may have originated where a lot of Greek ideas and theories originated, Egypt. The most ancient Egyptians, in the Predynastic period, more than 5,200 years ago, worshipped a goddess whose Egyptian name was Neith. Neith was identified, by both Greeks and Egyptians, 25 centuries ago, with Athena (Herodotus, Histories 2:170–175). Neith was the war goddess and huntress deity of the Egyptians. (Neith was also identified with weaving, the high tech of the times.)
To find the truth, one has to decide what the truth is. From the Latin de-caedere, what comes from caedere, from “cut”, literally: cut-off.
Science is about sawing. Science can get over-enthusiastic, and amputate parts of knowledge (wisdom) that, after all, were true.
The Ancient Greeks, or more exactly the Hellenistic dictatorships which followed the independent city-democracies of Greece at its peak, were rife with massive, ill-advised amputations of knowledge.
Non-Euclidean geometry got amputated, Greek algebra and numeration (a proto-modern system) was also amputated, and then emigrated for further development in India. Archimedes’ Infinitesimal Calculus got discarded. The Heliocentric system of Aristarchus, also. Even Mechanical Computers, although extensively developed, were then thrown away.
All these amputations happened because the philosophy at the helm, plutocracy, was antagonistic to creative thinking (And Aristotle has a lot to do with it; at least, so I think).
Philosophy acts as meta-controller on all mentalities, including science.
This is why modern science was launched by Middle Ages philosophers (Buridan, his student Oresme, etc.), who then found that they had to make their discourse more precise, inventing inertia, momentum, stating Newton’s First Law, inventing coordinates, graphs, etc.
A deep strategy of Buridan was to refuse to study theology. Still he was elected rector of the world’s greatest university, Paris. I have in my hand the brand new book of Steven Weinberg (Nobel discoverer of the Electro-Weak theory). “To Explain The World”, 2015. Weinberg gives the greatest place to Buridan ever found in an English speaking book written by a physicist. (Weinberg still makes a hash of Buridan’ throwing out Aristotle’s vertical arrow experiment, as Weinberg conflates the refutation by Buridan from Buridan’s exposition of Aristotle error! This an error traditionally made in secondary American literature. Not everybody reads Medieval Latin!)
Why is it important to give Buridan, and other Middle Age French philosophers and scientists their correct place? Because it is giving reason its correct place.
It is not just about showing that the real Renaissance was in the Middle Ages, or that how exactly Europe pulled ahead of the rest of the world in technology.
To understand how wisdom proceeds, one has to look how it proceeded before.
And to understand well that the mastermind of all important progress in understanding is philosophy. Science without philosophy is like a chicken with a freshly chopped head: spectacular and vigorous, but not for long.