‘History of Knowledge-Explosions’ By Mirza Ashraf

Knowledge multiplies by the principle of reciprocity ~ Ashraf

History of Knowledge-Explosions

Part I: The Greek Explosion 

Abstract: In the history of knowledge, there have been two “Knowledge Explosions.” The first one appeared in Greece during the sixth century BCE, while the second began in Europe four or five centuries ago. But it is important to find out what is mystical about the Greek genius that their unique explosion of knowledge helped trigger a second explosion of knowledge known as the European Renaissance. In order to ascertain why it is the Greek-genius or what was special about these people, I would discuss here four out many important factors responsible in developing the intellectualism of great Greek philosophers. Firstly, it is the uniqueness of Greek mythology, secondly the geographical location of Greece, thirdly their ontology of being experts about being, and fourthly their history of fruitful conflicts.

Though Greek civilization, even today is considered a cradle of Western Civilization, but ironically the Greeks themselves, have not been its beneficiary. The only hope was Aristotle’s pupil Alexander the Great whose demise at the young age of thirty-two can be marked as a Greek Tragedy. But in fact it is not. Alexander the Great has loomed over history as an enigmatic legend. He, even today, emerges as a charismatic and surprisingly modern figure―neither a messiah nor a genocidal butcher but one of the most imaginative and daring military tacticians of all time. … However, there are many reasons for the Greeks to have not benefitted themselves from the light of knowledge which was on its peak for almost a millennium. … Two things had ruined their political system: first, the claim of each city to absolute sovereignty; second, the bitter and bloody strife between rich and poor with most cities. Above all, the Greeks made serious errors, not only about nature but also about human nature. Some of these errors had disastrous consequences, up until our day. It is also a fact that the second explosion of knowledge which began during the European Renaissance, modern man has also made serious mistakes, similar to those the Greeks made, which may ultimately lead to a major disaster for the human race as a whole. … … Mirza Ashraf

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6 thoughts on “‘History of Knowledge-Explosions’ By Mirza Ashraf

  1. It is a great historical perspective by Mirza Sahib. It covered lot of aspects and need some time to absorb it. It was very informative and enjoyable reading. I will write further comments later on.

  2. Its a great summery of Greek contribution in the history of mankind. I take explosion of knowledge in an entirely different way though; In my view if we can call a period in history where knowledge “exploded” has to be when printing press was invented first, and now when the era of Internet (search engines like Google and Wikipedia) gave access, free of cost and effort, to every one with a computer or even a smart phone. In between these two eras might be included the period when Church’s hold on sciences withered.
    It isn’t individual sages, philosophers or scientists who made masses knowledgeable, its the access to their work that made knowledge reach to the masses. German philosophers in my view were greater than Greek philosophers, Indians and Chinese were not any less and if, I may say honestly, Greek myths although a part of evolution of human understanding of nature, were quite ridiculous for any period of history and don’t qualify to be labeled as knowledge. After all Thales was among them who rejected all these silly myths and human mind was not reflected by those myths of the time. Pythagoras is fine but I can not accept Zeus and Prometheus even mentioned in the enhancement of human knowledge.

    Babar

  3. Babar Sahib has raised interesting questions on mythology and Greek philosophers vs German philosophers. Following are my thoughts.

    Myths, mixture of facts and fiction, by its nature supposed to look silly especially when you out-grow them. But Myths play an important role in every culture to impart not only the lessons of bravery, honesty, generosity and other human virtues, but also warn against the lure of greed, deceit and other destructive traits embedded in human nature. We remember listening to such myths while crouched and huddled together around our elders on charpai till late at night. Myths take you to imaginary world and expand your horizons of imagination.

    Greek mythology is different from others because it is intertwined with Greek literature, especially poetry, philosophy, and religion. Greek mythology also led to the emergence of drama and comedy. Early comedy ( political satire) contributed to the democratic values.

    It is not unusual for one scholar to utter throw away lines to take a shot at other scholar. Thales was possibly going after Homer. Bertrand Russel said following about German philosopher, Hegel’s absolute idealism (every serious thought leads to the contemplation of its opposite, and two concepts held in opposition will reconcile and always lead to a higher level of thought, hence thesis/antithesis/synthesis. It is true in nature also).

    In recounting his own mental development Russell writes, “For some years after throwing over [absolutism] I had an optimistic riot of opposite beliefs. I thought that whatever Hegel had denied must be true.” (Russell in Barrett and Adkins 1962, p. 477) Also”

    I did not fully understand from which perspective Babar Sahib were saying about German Philosophers. Following is my perspective.

    German philosophers emerged in the 17th century, well after Greek, Muslim and renaissance philosophers. All of them have one thing in common, in one form or the othe, they built on what was said by Greek philosophers, especially Plato and Aristotle. German philosophy has contributed to modern philosophy, but even when they disagree with Plato or Aristotle, they have to start from their thought.

    Fayyaz

  4. I wasn’t trying to diminish Greek philosophers or role of their achievements. I mentioned German philosophers along with Indian and Chinese to make the point that if we are talking about “explosion” of knowledge by the quality and importance of their work then we’ll have many “explosions”, not two as Mirza Sahib mentioned (Greek and Renaissance era thinkers). Secondly, I will not settle for only these two eras because then we will not be considering Newton, Einstein, Darwin, Mendel, Bohr … So basically I objected to the criteria of determining “Explosion of Knowledge”.
    The only explosion of knowledge Mirza Sahib actually mentions in his article, in my humble view, is the translation of Greek work in Arabic that helped spread it. As I already mentioned, my view is that the invention of printing press exploded knowledge far and wide and then again in recent past the Internet exploded knowledge many times greater than what printing press did.

    Babar

  5. I think both Mirza Sahib and Babar Sahib are right in their perspective. I think Mirza Sahib is talking about emergence of new knowledge and Babar Sahib is referring to the reach of knowledge to masses at large.

    Fayyaz

  6. The earliest printing method was invented by the Chinese, known as Silk Screen Printing, which is still an important way of printing by hand as well as by modern machines. In fourteenth century Chinese also invented printing by putting copper type together and screwing them into a block. In Europe a German goldsmith Johannes Gutenberg around 1440 invented the first printing press known as Gutenberg Letter Press. Printing press also helped start the Industrial Revolution. We can say printing was at that time a medium of spreading knowledge which could be made available to many and also easy to preserve for the next generation. Even our computers today are a source of instantaneous spread of knowledge and cannot be classified as explosion of knowledge. However, the invention of algorithms by al-Khwarizmi is a great invention in the field of mathematics which is used in today’s computer programming. As Babar Sahib has mentioned some great scientists like Newton, Einstein, Darwin, Mendel, Bohr . . . who in my point of view were not inspired by the printing presses, but it was based on new awakening and opened new vistas leading to philosophical, scientific and industrial revolutions. Modern medical knowledge owes a lot to Greek sciences bearing most of the anatomical and pharmacological terminology in Greek language. Even the oath by the doctors is known as Hippocratic Oath. It is an ethical guide of the medical profession after Hippocrates the Greek physician of 5th century BCE, who is regarded as the “Father of Medicine.” I am working on the History of Second Knowledge Explosion to be followed by the modern Scientific Knowledge Explosion leading to artificial super intelligence. MIRZA ASHRAF

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