Sunday, January 19, 2020

Nonsense Can Establish Sense

Nonsense is not always wasteful and destructive—the history of past 3000 years is replete with instances of sense being established through nonsense.

The cosmology of Homer and Hesiod was nonsense, but their legends played a seminal role in the evolution of Ancient Greek culture and philosophy. In their search for a method of turning base metals into gold, the alchemists of the Middle Ages discovered several important facts of chemistry. In 13th century, Thomas Aquinas wanted to prove the existence of god but his efforts led to the rise of Aristotelian philosophy in Europe. In the 17th century, the scientists trying to prove the phlogiston theory of combustion managed to discover oxygen. The quest for the mythical golden city of El Dorado inspired the Spaniards in the 16th century to undertake risky expeditions to South America. The quest for the mythical island of Terra Australis inspired the exploration of the Southern Hemisphere between the 15th and 18th centuries.

Human beings make their greatest achievements when they work for some purpose—it doesn’t matter whether the purpose is sensible or nonsensical. People often get inspired by nonsensical ideas to take great risks and make great sacrifices which lead to great achievements.

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