Divine Neutrality, Blog. Science, Philosophy

Encyclopedists

February 7th, 2008

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I applaud three truly remarkable men who are so bold as to categorize and explain, mostly in their own words, vaste stores of knowledge. They are David Darling, Glyn Hughes and Frank Smitha: internet encyclopedists.

David Darling offers us his INTERNET ENCYCLOPEDIA OF SCIENCE. Because he, himself, writes many entries and passes judgement on the rest, he must take personal responsibility for all the entries. Specialist experts are the contributors in normal encyclopedias. Darling offers us what he, a non-expert, understands of each subject. And he writes charmingly and imaginatively. He takes evident pleasure in making ideas assimilable. Something experts often fail to do.

Glyn Hughes, in his SQUASHED PHILOSOPHERS, encapsulates for us the wisdom of the western world’s philosophers! Who would have thought it possible?

He extracts, from the full text of the philosopher’s writings, the essential few sentences that we need to know to understand the ideas. Imagine the focussed and concentrated reading Glyn Hughes must have done in order to accomplish this feat. Few among us are able to collapse what we read into the few words that capture the essentials. (Some believe the feat impossible! Believe that synopsis distorts meaning. That condensation is desecration.) But Hughes is so good at ‘concentrating meaning’ that you are driven to explore the full text.

Then there is Frank Smitha with his MACROHISTORY. He writes, “I describe humanity from its beginning to the 21st century ..”. And, indeed, the man does it! Again, Smitha offers his own filtered recounting of the details but he writes in a refreshingly personal style. Here is an example:

Ottoman rulers believed that an army could be led adequately by an unschooled amateur. The Ottomans were not keeping up with the study of military changes, while faith in God continued to be held as of paramount military consequence. …

.. in 1699, the Ottomans felt obliged to sign a treaty with Austria, Poland and Venice. This was Treaty of Karlowitz, a dictated treaty … the glorious days of Islamic conquest were over, never to be replicated.

A nice thing about non-expert encyclopedists is their receptiveness to improvement. That wouldn’t be the case for experts. On Smitha’s site you find this invitation:

If you disagree with me, I would appreciate from you facts and an able argument.

He, being one who has thought about matters, invites others, who have thought about matters, to speak.

These three men had to read extensively while demanding of themselves a penetrating understanding of the texts they read. They are heroes of intellect. I salute them.

Addendum: In this year of 2015 I discovered a fourth encyclopediist. His site is THE INFORMATION PHILOSOPHER, His name is Bob Doyle and his offerings are prodigious.

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