On the Shoulders of Giants
Everything is already in its point, and being a person in the greatest. More is required today for one wise man than in former times for seven; and more is needed to deal with one man in these times than with a whole people in former times.
Table of Contents
For the youngest
This aphorism is even more relevant today than when Gracián wrote it three hundred and fifty years ago.
It makes us realize how people are increasingly (un)educated and this makes it more and more difficult for the “wise” to reach what we call the frontier or limits of knowledge. And it is much more difficult to be able to go beyond those limits and push that invisible frontier, to widen the limits of knowledge.
Still, information today is more accessible than ever. It has never been so easy to consult data and all kinds of studies. Wikipedia, the great encyclopedia of our days, has far surpassed the Enlightenment breakthrough that was Diderot’s Encyclopédie. Not even Issac Asimov, in his Foundation saga, would have dreamed of an Encyclopedia Galactica like today’s Wikipedia. With it, as an exponent of what Web 2.0 has meant, it can be said that humanity has taken a giant step towards the new era of Knowledge and Information in which we are immersed. But none of this appears to be without risk. Moreover, new ones are appearing for which there are no precedents.
Yes, there is much more information available. But you have to know how to look for it and, even more important, to question it and pass it through the sieve of reason. Read with an open but rigorous critical spirit. Be aware that today the power of former governments and censors has been replaced (not eliminated) by other factual powers such as Google, Facebook, etc…. The information is there, at the click of a button. But not all sources reach us in a fair equitable way. It is weighted and filtered according to algorithms designed by partial agents, who do not seek general knowledge but fundamentally different criteria, most of the time purely for profit.
To conclude, and returning to Gracián’s aphorism, I rescue a very ancient metaphor, popularized by the famous quotation of Sir Isaac Newton that he wrote in a letter to Robert Hooke, only a few years after the publication of this aphorism, and which must be a maxim for anyone who aspires to advance and widen the limits of knowledge to which I referred earlier,
“If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”
For the youngest
This aphorism makes us reflect on the importance of the classics, of the study of those who marked the thought and managed to advance in knowledge until today. If humanity is to advance, you, the “wise men” of tomorrow, must not lose sight of all that precedes you. The work is enormous, much more than it was for our ancestors, but the information you have is enormous. All you need is a guide, a model, a good mentor or teacher who can give you a roadmap to discover them in a structured way. Come closer to those who know more and, with critical spirit and humility, climb on their shoulders to see the distant horizon of knowledge, where the sun never sets.
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