Aristotle on the origins of science

I often wonder what it must have been like to be the first person to actually wonder what the world was like, the first to theorize about the cause-effect relations in the world around them.

It’s easy to romanticize the time when there were new things to discover and describe everywhere.

It must have been really cool, noticing a pattern that nobody had explicitly theorized about before you. So it’s really interesting to see the take of Aristotle, who had the benefit of being much close to the origins of scientific thought.

A couple of interesting points:

  • It’s beautiful to see Aristotle’s cynicism: he’s sufficiently observant to see that desire for status and “wisdom signaling” are a major driver behind the “pursuit of wisdom”: “the man who invented any art whatever which went beyond the common sensation was admired by his fellow men”
  • He notices an interesting dynamic where the more removed your ideas are from anything useful, the greater the signal of your “wisdom”.
  • He traces the origin of mathematics to the emergence of a leisurely priestly class in Egypt. Perhaps a source of inspiration for organizing people around insight generation?

Source: Mathematics in Aristotle by Sir Thomas Heath

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