[Squeakland] the non universals (Robert Parks)

John Maxwell jmax at sfu.ca
Sun Aug 19 17:07:04 PDT 2007

Robert wrote:

>     2. What IS a "powerful idea", and how does it become powerful?
> I'm particularly interested in asking whether ideas get their power
> from abstraction (finding similarity in structure), or generalization
> (finding similarity in features) - or from both.

Extrapolating just a little bit from contemporary science studies  
(people like Bruno Latour, John Law, etc.), I think it's possible to  
define "powerful" as "well-connected," in the sense that those ideas  
which are capable of doing the most work, of carrying you farthest,  
are the ones that are strongly connected to others -- the process  
part of experimental science is all about establishing connections.  
Conversely, powerful ideas are the ones which allow you to *make*  
connections, to explain thing x in terms of thing y, or draw  
analogies, or generalize; good theories do that.

I think the "connectedness" notion is a little less unwieldy than  
"abstraction," which can be hard to pin down precisely. Things can be  
very well connected while remaining very concrete.

  - John Maxwell
    jmax at sfu.ca
    NEW PHONE #: 778-782-5287

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