Sunday, June 20, 2010

One Father's Lessons About the Structure of Knowledge - Happy Father's Day

"One kid says to me, “See that bird? What kind of bird is that?”

I said, “I haven’t the slightest idea what kind of a bird it is.”

He says, “It’s a brown-throated thrush. Your father doesn’t teach you

But it was the opposite. He had already taught me:'See that bird?' he'd say. 'It's a Spencer's warbler. (I knew he didn't know the real name.) 'Well, in Italian, it's a Chutto Lapittida. In Portuguese, it's a Bom da Peida. In Chinese it's a Chung-Iong-tah, and in Japanese it's a Katano Takeda. You can know the name of the bird in all the languages of the world, but when you're finished, you'll know absolutely nothing whatever about the bird. You'll only know about humans in different places, and what they call the bird. So let's look at the birds and see what it's doing - that's what counts!' (I learned very early the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something.)" - Richard Feynman, The Making of a Scientist

Happy Father's Day.

For another nice article, Bruce Albert's reflections on Feynman's essay pdf (it's about the importance of inquiry in education).

1 comment:

  1. Excellent.

    I read something back in college (from a photocopy) that I've been trying to find forever. It's a kind of manifesto for poets about not naming objects.

    I can't remember who wrote it (Ezra Pound?) but the polemic rails against a poet who uses the phrase 'lime tree' - what use is it for a poet to name the tree, they should describe it, capture its essence etc

    Anyway, it's really good. But I guess you had to be there.