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As knowledge is hierarchical, what would be the correct (as defined by an Objectivist) step-by-step process of learning science?

A list of the most important subjects would be very useful.


asked Oct 22 '11 at 11:09

hector's gravatar image


edited Oct 22 '11 at 13:04

Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg Perkins ♦♦

Science is a huge field.

But there's one suggestion I have, which I believe I got from Dr. David Harriman: Study science in the order of historical scientific discovery. That is, don't go near modern science before you have studied science through the eyes of the great scientists of old. Since they did not have access to the later discoveries of science, you will do pretty wall at avoiding studying science out of hierarchical order.

answered Oct 22 '11 at 21:09

John%20Paquette's gravatar image

John Paquette ♦

I've been a lifelong student of science.

If I had it to do over again, I would base my studies on the way that one of my professors taught me math at University: start from the very beginning, from the most basic principles. With math, that was something like "what is a number." With science, the basics depend on observation and measurement. I would also include elements of philosophy: how we know things, the nature of concepts, etc.

I think it's a mistake to dive into the middle of a subject such as chemistry or biology or physics, the way they usually do in high schools and colleges in the US. In can end up being very confusing if you don't have the full context when you start. Instead, I would ideally prefer to learn all of those subjects together, interleaved with one another. At each stage, making sure to connect the object being studied with reality -- keeping it abstract as an idea from a book is not good. Do experiments. See and measure results.

I wouldn't follow the historical path exactly, as John suggests, in part because there were plenty of mistakes and side-roads taken along the way to where we are today. However, history can offer some inspiration. Instead, after understanding how (and why) to observe and measure, I would start by studying the things you can see in your everyday life -- kitchen science and backyard science. Then look up and study the sun, planets, stars and their movements. Microscopes and telescopes. Wires and magnets. Simple chromatography. Cloud chambers. Structures.

OTOH, if I had to choose a particular sequence of college courses, I would probably go physics, then astronomy, then chemistry, and finally biology. Practical work on subjects such as the physics of machines or the biology of agriculture or basic semiconductors and computers would also be good. For advanced courses, follow with things like advanced/nuclear physics or quantum mechanics, biochemistry, microbiology and materials science. Laboratory work at each stage is critical.

Either way, the goal is the same: to develop an understanding of how and why the world around you works the way it does.

answered Oct 30 '11 at 04:32

Rick's gravatar image

Rick ♦

edited Oct 30 '11 at 04:42

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Asked: Oct 22 '11 at 11:09

Seen: 1,355 times

Last updated: Oct 30 '11 at 04:42