Leonardo paints knowledge path

According to The 50th Law by 50 Cent and Robert Greene, knowledge in the mid-fifteenth century had hardened into rigid compartments viz:

  • Philosophy and scholasticism
  • The Arts
  • Science
  • The Occult – dark knowledge

Leonardo da Vinci was then a youth, the illegitimate son of a notary so lacking the usual formal education – hence his mind was freed from all the prejudices and rigid categories of thinking that prevailed at the time

He started as an apprentice to great artists, learning the craft of drawing and painting – knowledge in one field however simply opened up in him an insatiable hunger to learn something else in a related field:

  • Painting led to design in general
  • This led to architecture
  • Then on to engineering, making war machines
  • Animals and motion mechanics
  • Birds and aerodynamics
  • The anatomy of animals and humans
  • The relationship between emotions and physiology
  • And on and on – even to the occult

He recognised no boundaries between them – he sought the connections between all of them – in effect, he was the first real Renaissance man

Sadly, today, knowledge has regressed and hardened into rigid categories with intellectuals shut off in various ghettos:

  • Intelligent people are defined by how deeply they immerse themselves in one field of study – their views becoming more and more myopic
  • After school we are all encouraged to specialise – to learn one subject well and stick to it – we strangle ourselves with the narrowness of our interests – polymaths are the white crows of our time

Instead, we should follow Leonardo’s example and develop a new body of knowledge – one where what matters most are the connections between things, not what separates them

All the greatest innovations in history come from an openness to discovery, one idea leading to another, sometimes from quite unrelated fields

We need to encourage and develop Leonardo’s insatiable hunger for knowledge by widening our fields of study and observation, and letting ourselves be carried along by what we discover – that way leads to unexpected ideas, new practices, novel opportunities – whole new and better ways of doing things, to benefit all

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