Top articles in no particular order: Ideas are Alive and You are Dead, Morning of the Mutants (3rd place in 2022 ACX book review contest), Fuck Your Miracle Year, 20 Modern Heresies, The sentence that destroys you, The Myth of the Myth of the Lone Genius, Life on the Grid (part 1), The Shaman’s Tale: Science, Magic, and Super Placebo, Friendship Forever, The Cult Deficit: Analysis and Speculation (v2.0), Predictions for 2050: Black Swan Edition, On Stories and Histories: Q & A
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Why Roger’s Bacon?
Roger Bacon, also known by the scholastic accolade Doctor Mirabilis, was a medieval English philosopher and Franciscan friar who placed considerable emphasis on the study of nature through empiricism. In the early modern era, he was regarded as a wizard and particularly famed for the story of his mechanical or necromantic brazen head. He is sometimes credited (mainly since the 19th century) as one of the earliest European advocates of the modern scientific method, along with his teacher Robert Grosseteste. Bacon applied the empirical method of Ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen) to observations in texts attributed to Aristotle. Bacon discovered the importance of empirical testing when the results he obtained were different from those that would have been predicted by Aristotle.
His linguistic work has been heralded for its early exposition of a universal grammar, and 21st-century re-evaluations emphasise that Bacon was essentially a medieval thinker, with much of his “experimental” knowledge obtained from books in the scholastic tradition. He was, however, partially responsible for a revision of the medieval university curriculum, which saw the addition of optics to the traditional quadrivium.
Bacon’s major work, the Opus Majus, was sent to Pope Clement IV in Rome in 1267 upon the pope's request. Although gunpowder was first invented and described in China, Bacon was the first in Europe to record its formula.
Why Secretorum (“of Secrets”)?
“The Secretum or Secreta Secretorum (Latin for "The Secret of Secrets"), also known as the Sirr al-Asrar (Arabic: كتاب سر الأسرار, lit. 'The Secret Book of Secrets'), is a pseudo-Aristotelian treatise which purports to be a letter from Aristotle to his student Alexander the Great on an encyclopedic range of topics, including statecraft, ethics, physiognomy, astrology, alchemy, magic, and medicine. The earliest extant editions claim to be based on a 9th-century Arabic translation of a Syriac translation of the lost Greek original. Modern scholarship finds it likely to have been a 10th-century work composed in Arabic. Translated into Latin in the mid-12th century, it was influential among European intellectuals during the High Middle Ages”
“Bacon produced an edition of Philip of Tripoli's Latin translation, complete with his own introduction and notes; and his writings of the 1260s and 1270s cite it far more than his contemporaries did. This led Easton and others, including Robert Steele, to argue that the text spurred Bacon's own transformation into an experimentalist.”
“Peter Thiel’s argument is broader: Not only religious vitality but the entirety of human innovation, he argues, depends on the belief that there are major secrets left to be uncovered, insights that existing institutions have failed to unlock (or perhaps forgotten), better ways of living that a small group might successfully embrace.
This means that every transformative business enterprise, every radical political movement, every truly innovative project contains some cultish elements and impulses — and the decline of those impulses may be a sign that the innovative spirit itself is on the wane. When “people were more open to the idea that not all knowledge was widely known,” Thiel writes, there was more interest in groups that claimed access to some secret knowledge, or offered some revolutionary vision. But today, many fewer Americans “take unorthodox ideas seriously,” and while this has clear upsides — “fewer crazy cults” — it may also be a sign that “we have given up our sense of wonder at secrets left to be discovered.”