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Post What Makes a Polymath?
Created by John Eipper on 07/27/19 10:30 AM

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What Makes a Polymath? (Tor Guimaraes, USA, 07/27/19 10:30 am)

The last post from Sasha Pack (July 27th) mentioned a few polymaths. According to the definition those are people knowledgeable on many subjects. That is what I have strived for all my life and never quite made it. Further, I see some interesting issues with the concept.

For example, one issue arises because knowledge grows exponentially and by necessity becomes increasingly specialized. It therefore becomes increasingly more difficult for anyone to become a polymath.

Another issue arises from the nature of real knowledge which has been accumulated over centuries and keeps being corrected and improved on very specific topics. Thus, a person like Aristotle must be considered one of the greatest and earliest polymath. Yet, much of his knowledge was wrong and debunked by early scientists.

How do we account for these issues before labeling someone a polymath?

JE comments:  Is it still possible to be a true polymath?  This question has never before appeared on the Forum.  (I've nonetheless used the label to describe several WAISers.)  Is it sufficient in our age to have expertise in two or three areas?  Still in Jefferson's day, it was possible to know everything.

A related question for the WAISitudes:  who was the last polymath?  Google it, and several votes come up for Bertrand Russell.


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