Thursday, August 21, 2008

Cooking Up Ideas - Descartes Takes to His Stove

When brainstorming, authors will chase ideas around corners, down dark alleys, and even into sewers. Well, maybe not into sewers, but we'll go pretty far. So, lately I've been reading history and I've got to share some of the fascinating stuff I've come across.

You know how when you have a problem or a goal that you want to accomplish, you'll break it down into parts and tackle each piece? In the case of parents this week, it's scooting the kids back to school. You don't just shove them out the door. You register them for class, buy school supplies, you get their hair cut, you pack them a lunch, etc., etc.

Well, did you know that we got this system from Descartes? He was French. We won't hold that against him because we actually love the French; they invented Paris, gave us the Statue of Liberty, and currently have possession of Brangelina.

Descartes was lying in a huge porcelain stove (a kind of shelf that homeowners laid inside to keep warm) and came up with a system for breaking scientific problems down into component parts to solve them. Later, he would publish a small book on the process suggesting to ordinary people that they could use this system of analysis (Greek for "breaking down") to solve every-day problems. So, there you go; life as we know it explained.

I do wonder what Descartes would've thought of how his system was applied far and wide, in the form of say...psychoanalysis. Do you think he would have found some later uses half-baked? (Okay, silly pun, but I'm up before dawn AGAIN so cut me some slack. ;) )

Have a great day!

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