Quantaˌ
Badges: 3
Rep:
?
#1
Report Thread starter 7 years ago
#1
What are the advantages and disadvantages of this theory? Any books I should read on this topic? Thanks.
0
reply
Moosferatu
Badges: 19
Rep:
?
#2
Report 7 years ago
#2
"Remember when your high school history teacher said that the course of human events changes 'cause of the deeds of great men. Well, the ***** was lying. **** Caesar, **** Lincoln, **** Mahatma Gandhi. The world keeps moving cause of you and me, the anonymous. Revolutions get going cause there ain't enough bread. Wars happen over a game of checkers."

- Augustus Hill, from the HBO series Oz.
0
reply
Are you Shaw?
Badges: 0
Rep:
?
#3
Report 7 years ago
#3
Perhaps the greatest advantage is that change is esculated usually by few very few men, for example it is certainly true Lenin was not alone, but if he were not there to give orders the Bolshevik revolution probably never would have happened (great man theory doesn't neccessarily say that the man has to be good afaik just that they have to make a great change), Gandhi, King, Mandela all changed the world.

Probably the biggest criticism is it ignores the spirit of the age (zeitgeist is the opposite usually), so Hitler would have been highly unlikely to have succeeded if it were not for the Great Depression, also if no was there to fufil his orders what would have happened? A good example perhaps the publication of the theory of evolution by natural selection, Wallace had come to similiar conclusions at the same time as Darwin. Behaviourism was built around the ideas of logical positivism etc.

I think both are valid tbh, the great man elevates himself above all of the others, he is chosen by history if you will.
0
reply
Quantaˌ
Badges: 3
Rep:
?
#4
Report Thread starter 7 years ago
#4
(Original post by Are you Shaw?)
Perhaps the greatest advantage is that change is esculated usually by few very few men, for example it is certainly true Lenin was not alone, but if he were not there to give orders the Bolshevik revolution probably never would have happened (great man theory doesn't neccessarily say that the man has to be good afaik just that they have to make a great change), Gandhi, King, Mandela all changed the world.

Probably the biggest criticism is it ignores the spirit of the age (zeitgeist is the opposite usually), so Hitler would have been highly unlikely to have succeeded if it were not for the Great Depression, also if no was there to fufil his orders what would have happened? A good example perhaps the publication of the theory of evolution by natural selection, Wallace had come to similiar conclusions at the same time as Darwin. Behaviourism was built around the ideas of logical positivism etc.

I think both are valid tbh, the great man elevates himself above all of the others, he is chosen by history if you will.
Thank you for the reply. Those are some interesting points.

It does seem that the Great Man Theory has fallen out of favour these days. Probably due to the fact that great men are the product of their environment and, so, the 'social force' (Spencer) is the chief factor that influences history. To undervalue the importance of the 'social force' would be to overestimate the importance of 'great men'...
0
reply
username207685
Badges: 1
Rep:
?
#5
Report 7 years ago
#5
It's mostly inaccurate with regards to the history of science. Individual great scientists are remembered for their discoveries but the work they relied and built upon is often ignored, as are the contributions of others they worked directly with. That's not to say these scientists aren't great, but that they did not do their work in a vacuum. Newton's statement, "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants" is apt.
0
reply
Are you Shaw?
Badges: 0
Rep:
?
#6
Report 7 years ago
#6
(Original post by betaglucowhat)
It's mostly inaccurate with regards to the history of science. Individual great scientists are remembered for their discoveries but the work they relied and built upon is often ignored, as are the contributions of others they worked directly with. That's not to say these scientists aren't great, but that they did not do their work in a vacuum. Newton's statement, "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants" is apt.
Yeah look at what Newton says: 'giants' not these little people who make a few speculations and get half-truths. Newton is actually the best example of great man theory I can think of, laying down the foundations of physics largely by himself.
0
reply
username207685
Badges: 1
Rep:
?
#7
Report 7 years ago
#7
(Original post by Are you Shaw?)
Yeah look at what Newton says: 'giants' not these little people who make a few speculations and get half-truths. Newton is actually the best example of great man theory I can think of, laying down the foundations of physics largely by himself.
If your best example is a historical scientist who famously admitted that he only accomplished what he did because of the work of others, I don't know what to tell you.

The past, present, and future of science is one of collaboration.
0
reply
Are you Shaw?
Badges: 0
Rep:
?
#8
Report 7 years ago
#8
(Original post by betaglucowhat)
If your best example is a historical scientist who famously admitted that he only accomplished what he did because of the work of others, I don't know what to tell you.

The past, present, and future of science is that of collaboration.

... You do realise that quote was in response to the British scientist Robert Hooke, basically telling him he's a ponce and he should feck off? Maybe before writing about history you should read on the context...
0
reply
username207685
Badges: 1
Rep:
?
#9
Report 7 years ago
#9
(Original post by Are you Shaw?)
... You do realise that quote was in response to the British scientist Robert Hooke, basically telling him he's a ponce and he should feck off? Maybe before writing about history you should read on the context...
The quote was in a response to to a letter from Hooke to Newton where Hooke was worried someone had incorrectly told Newton that Hooke had criticised him over an aspect of his optics research and wanted to reassure him it was not the case. In the letter Hooke praised Newton for his work in optics and admitted that Newton was smarter and a better man for the job of pursuing further research into optics.

Newton's quite modest response contained the 'giants' statement in a paragraph where he talks about some of the other optics research that he relied on - much of it Hooke's. Newton mentions Hooke's contributions explicitly and praises him a great deal, and ends the letter by asking Hooke if he wants to hang out. Newton also mentioned how he relied on Hooke's work in letters to other people.

The idea that it was a veiled insult against Hooke is a minority view held by a handful of historians based purely on the fact that Hooke and Newton had a track record of arguing. By all accounts, including his own, Newton didn't mince words when he wanted to insult or criticise someone. Read in the context of the exchange of letters it's clear that it was not an insult, but even if it was, in the letter Newton still explicitly discusses the work of other scientists that he built his work on.
0
reply
Are you Shaw?
Badges: 0
Rep:
?
#10
Report 7 years ago
#10
(Original post by betaglucowhat)
The quote was in a response to to a letter from Hooke to Newton where Hooke was worried someone had incorrectly told Newton that Hooke had criticised him over an aspect of his optics research and wanted to reassure him it was not the case. In the letter Hooke praised Newton for his work in optics and admitted that Newton was smarter and a better man for the job of pursuing further research into optics.

Newton's quite modest response contained the 'giants' statement in a paragraph where he talks about some of the other optics research that he relied on - much of it Hooke's. Newton mentions Hooke's contributions explicitly and praises him a great deal, and ends the letter by asking Hooke if he wants to hang out. Newton also mentioned how he relied on Hooke's work in letters to other people.

The idea that it was a veiled insult against Hooke is a minority view held by a handful of historians based purely on the fact that Hooke and Newton had a track record of arguing. By all accounts, including his own, Newton didn't mince words when he wanted to insult or criticise someone. Read in the context of the exchange of letters it's clear that it was not an insult, but even if it was, in the letter Newton still explicitly discusses the work of other scientists that he built his work on.
Hang out? Lol!!! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_...y_and_disputes

No it isn't clear it wasn't an insult, don't try and distort this there was obviously a conflict between the two and Newton was a bitter ass by any account, I wasn't disputing that Newton built on the work of others, rather that he built on the work of OTHER GREAT MEN.
0
reply
username207685
Badges: 1
Rep:
?
#11
Report 7 years ago
#11
Yes, Newton references an invitation from Hooke to watch the transit of a star together, explains why he was unable to make it and says if Hooke is happy to reschedule he is still up for it.

No it isn't clear it wasn't an insult, don't try and distort this there was obviously a conflict between the two and Newton was a bitter ass by any account, I wasn't disputing that Newton built on the work of others, rather that he built on the work of OTHER GREAT MEN.
Regardless of how weaselly you want to get about your definition of "great", that's not the Great Man theory of history. These great scientists who made big discoveries worked in communities of scientists, all sharing and building upon each other's work in a collaborative way. We remember the big names that took the last steps in relay races of knowledge going back generations, and attribute it all to them because that's how history remembers people and mostly how it is taught.

I take it you haven't read the letters so I'll reproduce them here:

(Original post by Hooke to Newton)
"Sir., — The hearing a letter of yours read last week in the meeting of the Royal Society, made me suspect that you might have been some way or other misinformed concerning me; and this suspicion was the more prevalent with me, when I called to mind the experience I have formerly had of the like sinister practices. I have therefore taken the freedom, which I hope I may be allowed in philosophical matters to acquaint you of myself. First, that I doe noe ways approve of contention, or feuding or proving in print, and shall be very unwillingly drawn to such kind of warre. Next, that I have a mind very desirous of, and very ready to embrace any truth that shall be discovered, though it may much thwart or contradict any opinions or notions I have formerly embraced as such. Thirdly, that I do justly value your excellent disquisitions, and am extremely well pleased to see those notions promoted and improved which I long since began, but had not time to compleat. That I judge you have gone farther in that affair much than I did, and that as I judge you cannot meet with any subject more worthy your contemplation, so I believe the subject cannot meet with a fitter and more able person to inquire into it than yourself, who are every way accomplished to compleat, rectify, and reform what were the sentiments of my younger studies, which I designed to have done somewhat at myself, if my other more troublesome employments would have permitted, though I am sufficiently sensible it would have been with <141> abilities much inferior to yours. Your design and mine are, I suppose, both at the same thing, which is the discovery of truth, and I suppose we can both endure to hear objections, so as they come not in a manner of open hostility, and have minds equally inclined to yield to the plainest deductions of reason from experiment. If, therefore, you will please to correspond about such matters by private letters, I shall very gladly embrace it; and when I shall have the happiness to peruse your excellent discourse, (which I can as yet understand nothing more of by hearing it cursorily read,) I shall, if it be not ungrateful to you, send you freely my objections, if I have any, or my concurrences, if I am convinced, which is the more likely. This way of contending, I believe, to be the more philosophical of the two, for though I confess the collision of two hard-to-yield contenders may produce light, [yet] if they be put together by the ears by other's hands and incentives, it will [produce rath]er ill concomitant heat, which serves for no other use but . . . . . . kindle — cole. Sr, I hope you will pardon this plainness of, your very affectionate humble servt,

"1675-6. Robert Hooke."
(Original post by Newton to Hooke)
"Cambridge, February 5, 1675-6.

"DR. Sir, — At the reading of your letter I was exceedingly pleased and satisfied with your generous freedom, and think you have done what becomes a true philosophical spirit. There is nothing which I desire to avoyde in matters of philosophy more than contention, nor any kind of contention more than one in print; and, therefore, I most gladly embrace your proposal of a private corre <142> spondence. What's done before many witnesses is seldom without some further concerns than that for truth; but what passes between friends in private, usually deserves the name of consultation rather than contention; and so I hope it will prove between you and me. Your animadversions will therefore be welcome to me; for though I was formerly tyred of this subject by the frequent interruptions it caused to me, and have not yet, nor I believe ever shall recover so much love for it as to delight in spending time about it; yet to have at once in short the strongest objections that may be made, I would really desire, and know no man better able to furnish me with them than yourself. In this you will oblige me, and if there be any thing else in my papers in which you apprehend I have assumed too . . . . . . . If you please to reserve your sentiments of it for a private letter, I hope you [will find that I] am not so much in love with philosophical productions, but that I can make them yield. . . . . . But, in the mean time, you defer too much to my ability in searching into this subject. What Descartes did was a good step. You have added much several ways, and especially in considering the colours of thin plates. If I have seen farther, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants. But I make no question you have divers very considerable experiments beside those you have published, and some, it's very probable, the same with some of those in my late papers. Two at least there are, which I know you have often observed, — the dilatation of the coloured rings by the obliquation of the eye, and the apparition of a black spot at the contact of two convex glasses, and at the top of a water-bubble; and it's probable there may be more, besides others which I have not made, so that I have reason to defer as much or more in <143> this respect to you, as you would to me.[12] But not to insist on this, your letter gives me occasion to enquire regarding an observation you was propounding to me to make here of the transit of a star near the zenith. I came out of London some days sooner than I told you of, it falling out so that I was to meet a friend then at Newmarket, and so missed of your intended directions; yet I called at your lodgings a day [or] two before I came away, but missed of you. If, therefore, you continue . . . . . . to have it observed, you may, by sending your directions, command . . . . . . your humble servant,

"Is. Newton."
0
reply
Are you Shaw?
Badges: 0
Rep:
?
#12
Report 7 years ago
#12
(Original post by betaglucowhat)
Yes, Newton references an invitation from Hooke to watch the transit of a star together, explains why he was unable to make it and says if Hooke is happy to reschedule he is still up for it.



Regardless of how weaselly you want to get about your definition of "great", that's not the Great Man theory of history. These great scientists who made big discoveries worked in communities of scientists, all sharing and building upon each other's work in a collaborative way. We remember the big names that took the last steps in relay races of knowledge going back generations, and attribute it all to them because that's how history remembers people and mostly how it is taught.

I take it you haven't read the letters so I'll reproduce them here:
Hmm... On closer inspection i'll have to consult a book I got out recently at the library as it had a criticism on the subject but I do not accurately recall it. As for the Great Man theory why is it incompatible? Surely Hooke and Newton would both be great men and many scientists have only contributed a small amount in comparison at the time.
0
reply
X

Quick Reply

Attached files
Write a reply...
Reply
new posts
Back
to top
Latest
My Feed

See more of what you like on
The Student Room

You can personalise what you see on TSR. Tell us a little about yourself to get started.

Personalise

How would you feel if uni students needed to be double vaccinated to start in Autumn?

I'd feel reassured about my own health (28)
15.73%
I'd feel reassured my learning may be less disrupted by isolations/lockdowns (56)
31.46%
I'd feel less anxious about being around large groups (20)
11.24%
I don't mind if others are vaccinated or not (16)
8.99%
I'm concerned it may disadvantage some students (8)
4.49%
I think it's an unfair expectation (47)
26.4%
Something else (tell us in the thread) (3)
1.69%

Watched Threads

View All