Montag, 26. September 2011

Language and Wisdom*


*I wanted to title it language and intelligence. But I thought a bit and changed that to wisdom. 

A great vocabulary is the driving force behind deep, critical ideas. It is not the use of complicated words or archaic phrases, that merits such a compliment, but its the depth of conception, the variety of meanings the man can access and has knowledge of, that makes him wise. The more words he knows, that point to the same object, the more shades of substance he sees bound in that object. The larger his lexicon is, the more divergent possibilities he can grasp. 

The reason behind this is simple: The solution to a particular problem is mostly multidimensional. Even worse, the question itself requires paraphrasing in a manner that justifies using a particular methodology. Colloquial language is a poor tool for either purpose, in general. Language (dropping the adjective) has grown over the millenia under the influence of cultural phenomena and philosophical 'advances' (changes more like). Its words are are twisted by connotations sometimes contradictory and often of unrelated usage. This means that the solution to the problems of men, will only come to that man, who will the clean out the decay from centuries of misuse, with the mop of consistency and fashion a clean meaningful query.

The same is true of natural sciences, but in a more honest, clear way. The language here is mathematics and the ideas are of physics. Those who understand mathematics well can use their vocabulary of methods and apply it to unearth the true, deep laws of physics. Take for example Schrodinger: he used the wave equations to model probability densities. Similarly consider Heisenberg: using linear algebra of operators to design the fundamental structure of quantum mechanics. Think Poincare, think Minkowsky, who motivated Einstein to use the famous four vector formulations to discover the relativistic mechanics. Think Newton, who invented his own language to solve the riddle of plummeting apples.

Words are indeed power. In more ways than one thinks, if he doesn't extend his vocabulary. 

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