In my last post, I quoted Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius (26 April 121 – 17 March 180 CE) concerning the manner in which a text can take a life of its own. But I have since thought that the quotation I used might be one of many ways to depict the process of discovery. If a text takes a life of its own and will not remain inside your plan, this is perhaps what happens to discoverers, persons who, like Steve Jobs (February 24, 1955 – October 5, 2011), can change the world forever, as did the ‘ideas’ of other scientists.
Only a little while, and Nature, the universal disposer, will change everything you see, and out of their substance will make fresh things [ideas], and yet again others [ideas] from theirs, to the perpetual renewing of the world’s youthfullness.
No wonder Steve Jobs left college to start working on “inventions.” His thinking had led to unexpected ‘ideas’ that could lead to inventions. What happened to Steve Jobs may have happened or may happen to other creative minds. He had an ‘idea’ and he used it to create extraordinary inventions and products.
In his Reflections on Geometry in General: On the Geometrical Mind and on the Art of Persuading, section II De l’Esprit géométrique et de l’art de persuader, section II (1657-1658), Blaise Pascal (June 19, 1623 – August 19, 1662), states that there are two entrances to the soul, “deux entrées par où les opinions sont reçues dans l’âme.” These two entrances are reason, or l’esprit de géométrie, and instinct, or l’esprit de finesse. Now instinct could be the element which, in a brilliant mind, leads to the ‘idea’ that leads to the invention. Steve Jobs produced the first user-friendly personal computer: the Macintosh.
Pascal’s father was a tax-farmer (tax collector) and spent a lot of time counting. So his son had an ‘idea’ that led to the invention of a mechanical calculator he called the pascaline. As well, Blaise was the first person to come up with the idea of public transportation. Public transportation was the carrosses à cinq sols, the short-lived five-penny carriages.
So I believe that when Pascal insisted that reason, esprit de géométrie, alone was an inadequate investigative tool without the support of instinct, or esprit de finesse, he may have added a precious dimension to the scientific method devised by Descartes, and that element would be intuition, or finesse, or instinct, or the above-mentioned ‘idea.’ The ‘idea’ would be the fountainhead of creation and invention, including practical inventions. We use Steve Jobs’s gadgets.
In no way do I intend to marginalize Descartes’s essential contribution to science, the formulation of the scientific method. On the contrary! Until René Descartes (31 March 1596 – 11 February 1650), experiments were not conducted methodically and scientists had to work within the Catholic Church’s narrow view of the world and, particularly, the Catholic Church’s view of the cosmos. Before undertaking a scientific investigation, Descartes took everything off the table (tabula rasa), but he left aside any mention of the ‘idea,’ seminal ‘ideas.’
However, in the second century, Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, wrote about “fresh things” leading to other “things.” At first, the creative or inventive mind may be thinking within the box, but there comes a point when thoughts, an ‘idea,’ takes the investigative mind well outside the box.
Pascal always combines instinct and reason (Thoughts, 112-344). For Pascal, the human mind was divided into instinct and reason. There is constant symmetry. Instinct may well be the ‘idea,’ or ‘ideas,’ leading to a “perpetual renewing of the world’s youthfullness.”
So let this be my tribute to the human mind and, particularly, to the mind of Steve Jobs.
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October 16, 2011