The Evolution of Analytic Thinking
An Ancient And Recursive Process… Summarized In Four Greeks
You have an idea. It takes form. You test and improve it. Finally, you apply it. It is a simple process. The University of Connecticut wins the easy Google image search and describes it this way:
It is a nice infographic. Simple and direct. It is a nice process for just the same reasons. But what sets it apart are bigger words — ancient, pervasive, consistent, recursive, and powerful. It is the fractal-ized version of thought.
Wait… what does any of that mean? Let’s break it down.
The Idea is Simple — These Four Stages Of Analytic Thinking Are…
You can end that with all of our “big words” or go with “everywhere”. Or perhaps you prefer “inescapable”. Ideas are a little ephemeral (another big word). They are easily changed and often escape notice without the later steps. Case personified -
Socrates was history’s idea man. He had a bad habit of never writing anything down. His was an oral tradition — as most idea men would prefer. He was a thinker, a talker, a visionary, and a pain in the ass. Seriously — they killed him for talking too much… you can google it :}
Ideas Don’t Persist Unless They Are Given…
Form, shape, structure. They need to be framed, developed, and organized. This makes them tangible and easier to work with. Better still, it gives them longevity and portability (I am getting paid by the syllable, today). Case personified -
Plato was history’s man of forms. Without him, Socrates would be a cliff note. He was an organizer, obsessed with shapes and structures. While he was not without his own ideas, it was the structure he gave to Socrates’ ideas that gave him a starring role in history.
He brought us the Academy and plenty of academic writings. He developed and gave shape to the ideas of others and allowed his students to advance them.
Once Ideas Are Made Tangible They Require…
Engagement, testing, adjustment and process. Once an idea has taken structure, the real work begins. Theory gives way to process, repetition, and practice. The time of “all talk” is over… it is time to walk the walk.
Aristotle ruled! Well, he wrote the rules. He also walked the walk. Pedagogy immortalizes both and is another big word for this article. Aristotle was known for walking lectures in the Greek Agora.
He is the Father of Analytics, less because he invented it and more because he codified it, engaged with it, and taught it. His writings may not have survived the trials of history, if not for the immense value recognized by others. His work was lost to the west for centuries and returned only thanks to a new generation of analytic thinkers working in the Middle East. But we are getting ahead of ourselves…
All This Is Moot Without Application
That was direct. As well it should be. Application is a direct outcome in our process and from our process. Socrates ideas, formed by Plato, and codified by Aristotle were applied by…
Alexander the Great stood on the shoulders of giants. Despite history’s immense ego on his behalf, he recognized that. But more to our point, he applied it.
Is it going too far to believe that a great idea, given shape, tested and codified — can conquer the world? History says no. And history often repeats… or at least rhymes.
Application is the final step in the linear process, but then history and thought are never truly linear. This process, like most good ones, curves back upon itself. Repeating at varying levels and with continuing iterations. Much like…
Fractals… yes, we made it full circle
Fractals are a construct of mathematics — structured, codified thinking that oddly cropped up in nature… sarcasm intended. They are common, persistent, and recursive. They are the structure of growth and life. And oddly… more sarcasm… they look a lot like our model of analytic thinking.
Our model pervades, whether we consider the story of four great Greeks or the process used by Pythagoras (wait… another Greek), Bacon, or Ibn al-Haytham (for all my globalist elite critics who can oddly never name any non-western geniuses, but are not deterred from lecturing me… who can). It continues — whether in the process at UConn or in the lectures I provide students in my various forums.
If you look, you will see this model play out everywhere analytic thinking is used. Perhaps, some day, someone or a quartet of individuals will turn this process on its head. If I had to bet though, they will simply employ this process to generate a better idea, with more refined form, better processes, and more successful application… but our Greeks set a very high bar. Thanks for reading!
All images are provided with reference to their creators. These creators are not associated with Corsair’s Publishing — but we encourage you to check them out.