The Power of Narrative and the Structure of Thought
It’s 2014. We’ve had the benefits of “the conversation” in G+ for more than two years. We’re beginning to understand what’s important and what isn’t. What matters and what doesn’t. Some 2,500 years ago the ancient Greek philosopher Plato said: “The multitude cannot accept the idea of beauty in itself rather than many beautiful things, nor anything conceived in its essence instead of the many specific things. Thus the multitude cannot be philosophic.
It sounds damning, positively elitist. Yet he was talking about the ability of the mind to grasp the abstract; to use abstraction as a tool for categorization (another ancient Greek word). Plato’s society was pre-literate. It depended upon oral histories. In the transition from speaking (just
speaking) to writing, we go up a level of representation. The squiggles on parchment (marble, even?) represent something beyond themselves. The mind scales a new level of understanding where words become vehicles and things become concepts. The interlinking of the two, delivers meaning.
Plato’s student, Aristotle, less than two decades later would say: “A beginning is that which itself does not follow necessarily from anything else, but some second thing naturally exists or occurs after it. Conversely, an end is that which does itself naturally follow from something else, either necessarily or in general, but there is nothing else after it. A middle is that which itself comes after something else, and some other thing comes after it.
It’s taken less than a generation to go from the point where the world was literal, things existing only in tangibles to transition to the point where language (an abstraction) was being used to creative narrative (another abstraction) in a structured format.
Why is any of this important to us? For two reasons: First, it shows that our entire history is measured in the way we progress from literal, uncomplicated thinking to abstract, symbolic thought. (From data to metadata). Second, the semantic web is about the transformation of information from an unstructured, ‘simple’ format to a structured one. We’re scaling up and as we do so, our understanding of thought, and by association, the world, will change.
Plato: “The multitude cannot accept the idea of beauty in itself rather than many beautiful things, nor anything conceived in its essence instead of the many specific things. Thus the multitude cannot be philosophic.”
For those who are still nursing a hangover the picture is of the molecule Gramicidin S (http://goo.gl/xJb9UP
) Happy New Year! :)