Zettelkasten Forum


Ant, Spider, Bee

Francis Bacon's metaphor of the Ant, the Spider, and the Bee strikes me as highly relevant for Zettelnauts.

Those who have handled sciences have been either men of experiment or men of dogmas. The men of experiment are like the ant, they only collect and use; the reasoners resemble spiders, who make cobwebs out of their own substance. But the bee takes a middle course: it gathers its material from the flowers of the garden and of the field, but transforms and digests it by a power of its own. Not unlike this is the true business of philosophy; for it neither relies solely or chiefly on the powers of the mind, nor does it take the matter which it gathers from natural history and mechanical experiments and lay it up in the memory whole, as it finds it, but lays it up in the understanding altered and digested. Therefore from a closer and purer league between these two faculties, the experimental and the rational (such as has never yet been made), much may be hoped.

— Francis Bacon. The New Organon [Book One]. 1620.

The ant here embodies the Collector's Fallacy.

The spider is indulging in pure speculation, unmoored from the world.

The bee processes raw material into output.

Comments

  • Dang! That's beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

    I am a Zettler

  • Like that quote/metaphor...

    Definitely resonates with this Zettelnewb....

    As bible says, "there's nothing new under the sun"......

    :)

    Thanks for sharing...

  • @ArchiMark said:
    "there's nothing new under the sun"......

    I rather got the impression that Francis Bacon was suggesting the opposite! -- If you go about things the right way.

    Thank you for alerting me to the fact that the phrase comes from Ecclesiastes. I wasn't aware.

  • @MartinBB said:

    @ArchiMark said:
    "there's nothing new under the sun"......

    I rather got the impression that Francis Bacon was suggesting the opposite! -- If you go about things the right way.

    Thank you for alerting me to the fact that the phrase comes from Ecclesiastes. I wasn't aware.

    You're most welcome, Martin.....

    As for Bacon, my point was that to me, he sounded like he was referring to a Zettelkasten-like approach....which IF I interpreted that correctly, then he was ahead of his time in thinking.

    Certainly, the outcome of this thinking, would be the opposite, ie, new things under the sun....

    :)

    Mark

  • edited March 2

    @ArchiMark said:
    As bible says, "there's nothing new under the sun"......

    While technology has advanced over the millennia and continues to do so, as has the state of human knowledge, I think a comparison of our times to those of the "ancients" will reveal that human nature has not evolved much. We are just as good and as bad as we've always been (nod to the opening line in Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities).

    I was impressed, while travelling in the Mediterranean, with the ingenuity of engineers in Knossos (on the isle of Crete; 2000 BC). They brought water to the city using a 20 km long viaduct, had created bell and spigot, ceramic pipe in which the water was carried underground throughout the city, and had a functional (also buried) sewer system. Some of the nobles even had flush toilets. Truly - nothing new under the sun. What is really impressive is how ancient engineers accomplished so much with so little. Keep in mind that this was at the height of Minoan civilization; before that, there had been a Neolithic settlement at that location as early as 8000 BC.

    I'm sure the ancient Minoans and the Greeks after them would have appreciated Bacon's metaphorical story. I too quite liked it; thanks for sharing.

  • I can't help but think of the lattice structure in a bee's hive, not too dissimilar from the interlinking structures and lattices in our own knowledge bases...

    Observations logged here: write.as/via-poetica

  • @GeoEng51 said:
    I think a comparison of our times to those of the "ancients" will reveal that human nature has not evolved much.

    Maybe. But having studied and taught both history and psychology, what interests me is not how similar we are to people in the past, but how different. In my experience it often takes a lot of work to uncover just how different we are. The apparent similarities are often easy to see -- or rather, we think we see them, because we interpret things in ways that are familiar to us. This can lead us to misunderstand what was going on in the past. There is a very interesting article by Roy Baumeister entitled "How the self became a problem" which looks at the apparently simple question of how people see themselves. It does a pretty good job of exemplifying the quote from L. P. Hartley's "The Go-Between" -- "The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there." What I find most striking about the past is that they think very differently. Which is no doubt why they do things differently.

  • In my experience it often takes a lot of work to uncover just how different we are.

    A simple explanation to this phenomenon would be that we are vastly the same but in some minor details different. ;)

    If you look at the lives of the simple population there is very little difference from the late medieval period to the modern world. The academic has very little knowledge of what normal people believe. Or: Scripture of a medieval monk is not a good source for the lived reality and the acted out believe of the peasant. Neither is the modern academic a good source of what the plumber's acted out belief is.

    Besides that: It is not only possible that the human nature is untouched by what we think it is. It is highly probable. :)

    I am a Zettler

  • @GeoEng51 said:

    @ArchiMark said:
    As bible says, "there's nothing new under the sun"......

    What is really impressive is how ancient engineers accomplished so much with so little.

    This has always fascinated me as well. Some of the things done in ancient times equal or surpass capabilities of today’s standards.

    Thanks so much for sharing this @micahredding. It does remind me of the Zettel Method, all this intricate interwoven into honeycombs, not unlike the interwoven links, backlinks and tags, all connected together to for a purpose, forming a honeycomb knowledge base!

Sign In or Register to comment.