In the beginning, the Universe simply was. The Sumerians, Babylonians, and even the Egyptians seemed not really to care where it came from, how it came about, or how to describe it; what mattered was the earth and the people -- the stars were there to tell about them. To the Greeks the universe simply was, and gave birth to the gods, at which point the universe faded into the background.
Aristotle finally gave form to the void: the earth was at the center, surrounded by concentric crystal spheres. Each sphere carried the sun, the moon or one of the planets, and the outermost carried the fixed stars. In addition, everything in heaven was perfect and incorruptible, while everything on earth was imperfect and corruptible.
Aristotle's view of the universe was the
Western world's view of the universe until the Renaissance in
With Aristotle's view of the form of the universe no longer viable, new ideas were proposed. Aristotle, being the basis of thought about the universe for 2,000 years, was not totally discredited. He said two things that would help explain the universe: for there to be a reaction there must be a physical contact with whatever causes the action, and that "nature abhors a vacuum." The former seemed to be common sense: when you push a rock, it moves because your hand, in contact with the rock, makes it. When you blow out a candle, your breath makes contact with the flame, it moves away from the wick and goes out. In any case there is a physical contact between the actor and the acted upon. This meant there was physical contact between everything in the universe. This contact was gravity. Gravity, ofcourse, had to have some means of making contact since anything else would mean "action at a distance," a concept that was unacceptable. Good thing there was air.
"Nature abhors a vaccum" appeared just as sensible. Vacuum simply does not exist naturally on earth. In addition, at that time getting above the air to get into space was not only not possible, but unnecessary--there was no "above the air."
Then Toricelli invented the barometer that not only created a vacuum, it proved that air got thinner with altitude and thus at some height there was no air. So much for physical contact between the heavenly bodies. How could gravity make contact through a vacuum?
The answer that was settled on was that the vacuum was actually filled by something that could conduct but not interact with physical force. That something was called "ether".
Ether was neither matter nor energy but existed where, as far as anyone could tell, there was nothing. However, it permeated all matter. Gravity proved its existence. Ether conducted gravity waves the way air conducted sound waves, thus making physical contact and avoiding "action at a distance." Also, matter getting in the way didn't get in the way: when the Moon crossed between the earth and the sun, there was no change in gravity.
The ether also conducted light. It was the way for the sun to shine on the earth. However, there was a problem. The Moon coming between the earth and the sun didn't block the gravity, but it definitely blocked the light. If the ether conducted them both, how could light be blocked but not gravity?
Isaac Newton explained that light was made up of particles, not waves, and thus could be blocked. However, in 1801 an English physician named Thomas Young proved that light was propagated in waves by making light set up interference patterns in which waves that are out of phase cancel out, something that isn't possible with particles.
Now what? Well, how about two kinds of ether, regular and luminiferous (Latin for "light-carrying")? However, there are two kinds of waveforms . . .
Perhaps the universe is a bit too difficult to explain briefly. Let's take something a little closer to home--Earth.
In the beginning, the earth simply was. However, as humans began wandering upon its face, they began to wonder what it was. Many explanations were produced. In some the earth was like a plate sitting on four pillars, the pillars supported by elephants which were in turn supported by a giant tortoise. In others the earth was endless, the sun traveling through a tunnel through it. Aristotle (4th Cen. B.C.E.) gathered evidence to show that the earth is round, including the facts that as you traveled north or south new stars appear over the horizon, and ships sailing over the horizon disappear hull first, or appear mast first. Some people disagreed.
The round earth theory was forgotten in
Andrea Bianco, a
15th Century navigator, used the measurements of the circumference of the earth
as determined by Eratosthenes (3rd Cen. B.C.E.). On his map of 1424, 70 years
Since the earth was not riding on the backs of elephants and turtles, where did it fit into the cosmos? Ptolemy put it in the center, with everything else revolving around it. It took Copernicus and Galileo to remove the earth from the center and give it a more correct place in relation to the rest of the universe, and centuries for the idea to be generally accepted.
Currently the view of the earth is that it is approximately round. The moon and the centrifugal force of rotation causes the equator to bulge out, making the diameter about 14 miles greater through the equator than through the poles. In addition, it looks round when seen from space. The earth is also considered by many to be more a dust mote in a great, impersonal universe than the most important place in existence. It is, however, the only place we have to live, a spaceship earth, that must be taken care of or discussions about what the earth really is become moot.
THE PERCEPTION OF REALITY
Which of the above ideas about the universe or Earth are the way they really are? The answer is -- all of them. The views were perfectly complete and satisfying to the majority of people living during the time they were current. The Earth was obviously flat (riding on the backs of elephants, 17,000 miles in diameter, etc). The sky was a dome that just cleared the tops of the highest mountains (was a goddess arched over the land, was a crystal sphere, etc.).
Human beings, as far as we know, are the only creatures on Earth that create their own reality. Each individual observes, learns and thinks, and the outcome is that individual's reality. To that person, everything proves his or her view is correct, and anyone who disagrees simply isn't seeing things properly.
Let's take an example. Find a newspaper. I'll wait.
. . .
Now look at the front page. In a general way, what do you see? If you said, "news" you are like almost everyone else that looks at the front page of a newspaper. However, when I look at the front page of a newspaper I do not see news -- I see advertising.
. . .
Now that you've looked at the paper again in confusion, trying to find an ad, I'll explain why what I see is different from what others see.
Any newspaper that is not state supported depends on selling or giving away copies to the public in order to support itself. It must do this in order to supply an audience for the paid advertising it contains -- it is the sponsors of that advertising that actually pay for the paper, ink, presses, and people that create the newspaper.
The basic purpose of the newspaper is to disseminate news. However, if nobody picks up that paper then nobody reads the news. Nor does anyone see the advertising, which stops the advertiser from buying space for ads since it won't do him any good, which drives the newspaper out of business.
How does a newspaper get people to pick it up and read it, and thus see the advertisements inside? It does it with the front page, an advertisement for what is in the paper. The headline gets the reader's attention by being big, bold and provocative about an event about which the editor thinks a majority of readers are interested. Smaller column heads do the same for those readers who might have other interests. Often there is a picture above the fold to capture the interest of those readers who are not stopped by the headlines.
Thus, when most people see a front page, they see news. What I see is the newspaper advertising for readers. Which view reflects reality? The answer is both. However, my perception of reality is unlike other people's. All reality is subjective. What people think is what something is to them, be it the universe, the front page of a newspaper or their own living room couch. Knowing what thinking is cannot help but make it easier to actually do it.
The most important reason to know what thinking is and how humans do it is to increase your power to understand the world around you. With such understanding decisions about what is, what to do, how to do it, and what effect you and your actions will have on the world around you will be based on facts and solid relationships rather than superstition, instinct, intuition, assumptions or guesses.
In addition, it will be possible to communicate what you think in a clear, clean, concise and interesting manner. Your ideas will be better organized, more to the point, and backed up by facts. By thinking clearly you can communicate clearly.
The power of rational thought separates human beings from most of the rest of the living creatures on Earth. However, what exactly is rational thought?
Thought involves several steps. First, the ability to take in information through our senses in concrete or symbolic form. This means you must be able to see and/or hear and/or taste and/or smell and/or touch the world around you, or comprehend the extrasomatic ways of sensing things, by reading, watching television or listening to the radio, engaging in conversation, etc..
Second, once you have this information you must store it in your mind in some relationship to everything else you know, either consciously or subconsciously. Don't worry about this step: your mind usually takes care of such housekeeping without your conscious control. Some theories say that this sorting and categorizing is what happens when you dream as your subconscious checks the day's information input and puts it where it belongs in the memory. However it happens, the information is categorized and available for your thinking pleasure. It's what allows you to participate in a conversation: someone says something that triggers your mind to produce a response from that store of information.
Third, you manipulate that information to relate it to the past, project into the future or alter the way you regard the information as you consciously relate it to other things that you know (or think (no pun intended) that you know).
Finally, once you've thought about something, you need to communicate what you've thought to others. Such communication is by speaking or writing about what you've thought. A brilliant insight always gives you a great sense of satisfaction, but nothing compared to sharing that insight with others (unless you are selfish enough to want that insight to die with you).
The following is the organization and basic contents of the book:
The first section, INPUT, discusses the various ways that humans gather information about the world around them.
Chapter One is concerned with somatic ("of the body") input, those that a human gathers through his or her own senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch.
Chapter Two is about personal extrasomatic ("out of the body") input, that which people gather through either mechanical means or association with other people.
Chapter Three discusses nonpersonal extrasomatic input. Such input comes from vicarious sources -- books, magazines, journals, television, movies, etc. The chapter also discusses what evidence is and how to do research to more efficiently gather information from vicarious sources.
The second section, THE BLACK BOX, discusses how input is stored, processed and manipulated. It is about what thinking is and how to do it efficiently. Chapter Four deals with the storage of the input discussed in Section One.
Chapter Five discusses how the input is translated into manipulable form, symbols.
Chapter Six is about the actual process of thinking, the manipulation of the symbols. Included is stereotyping, brainstorming, and synthesis.
The third and final section, OUTPUT, discusses the two major ways of letting other people know what you think -- talking and writing.
Chapter Seven deals with words, the process by which you communicate your thoughts to other people. Outlined will be some techniques that will help you choose which words will be most effective.
Chapter Eight is about talking, the favorite form of communication for many people. It will cover such things as vocal pyrotechnics, making eye contact, body language, and appearance in informal and formal situations.
Chapter Nine focuses on writing, the transferring ideas from the mind to paper.
Finally, Chapter Ten is concerned with putting it all together, why knowing what thinking is, how to find out what you already know, how to organize your thoughts, how to gather evidence to back up your ideas, what words are and how to use them to communicate, is important.
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