Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Attitude towards quoting

There are different scenarios when we quote from an established source.

(1) To share something we find useful. In this case, if the reader does not agree with the idea, he is disagreeing with the source, not the one who shares what he finds. This will be valuable as the writer will view the materials he wants to share from a different angle and thus broadens his vision. Of course he can also defend the idea to further explain it to the reader. A fruitful debate will spark off.

(2) To support his idea. In this case, he must have his own idea and what he quotes is just to show that his idea is supported by (not copied from) an authoritative source. Such quotes are necessary as a new idea has to be hatched from an egg and not burst from a rock.

Having said this, I want to comment on some people's attitude. When you present an idea, they would demand that you quote the source from an authority. When you say it is your idea , they are not satisfied. They will not accept your idea even if it is logical. They will rather accept a false idea when it is directly quoted from an ancient book. They will not be satisfied even if you quote from an authoritative book to support your idea. This is a very wrong attitude.



Yona Faust said...

There’s a say in Hebrew:
"Who ever tells a thing in the name of him that said it, brings redemption to the world” (my translation);

One suggested reason being that by doing this mutual respect is increased & as a result love is spread...

Yona. said...

Dear Joseph,

There are certainly a lot of people with the attitude you describe.

But there is also a good side to it.

Not quoting any reputable sources, and presenting it as just your own idea, will mean that only people who really understand it will possibly carry on and maybe even improve the idea...

So those people who always demand "sources", they will not be misrepresenting the new ideas they don't understand, since they already reject them before they can carry them around.
That's very useful.

Otherwise, the recent Madoff scandal again shows that even a 50 year reputation really does not mean anything.
People who blindly believe and accept things based on "authority" and good reputation are always in for nasty surprises whenever the naked reality asserts itself..


Joseph Yu said...

Dear Danny,

You have raised a good point regarding reputation and authority. This means that demanding the reputable and ancient source and refusing new ideas is a wrong attitude.

My position is to welcome new ideas provided they are logical and well supported in principle. Quoting the principle from a recognized source will be sufficient. The idea may not necessarily be from a "source".

JY said...

Dear Joseph,

One thing is clear: if we always insist on reputable "sources", then there will be no space for any new ideas (which have no sources by definition).
When Einstein formulated his relativity theory, there was not any ancient source that made mention of it.
So, insistence on "sources" can only guarantee a stagnation of old ideas.
By the way, I have wondered if these "source-aholics" use things like cars, mobile phones or airplanes..., since no Confucius or other classic source makes any mention of them...


Just a few days ago I somehow stumbled on the website of some Alex Chiu.
He seems to try to explain the Wen Wang Gua divination on his site, but has somehow managed to make it almost incomprehensible for anybody who is new to it.
For example he has replaced the Branches by random letters like "A", "G"... (Maybe he is scared that Westerners would learn the names of the 12 Branches.)

But then a bit further on the site he is very adamant that nothing should be changed to the old rules and system as it is found in the classics.
The same old insistence on "sources".
Strange..., he insist that nothing should be changed and the first thing he has done is change the names of the Branches into "A", "Y", "G"...
Then a bit further he insists that time has always to be converted to Beijing timezone.
That's even more interesting.
Timezones did not exist before the year 1850, so I can only wonder which old classic is saying that we have to convert to Beijing time.
He seems to live in California and says that 8 hour correction needs to be done to do the reading according to Beijing time, regardless of where you are.

Well, there is plenty of reasons why that makes no sense.
For example TCM practitioners have always linked the 12 Branch Hours to the 12 acupuncture meridians and the organs related to each of them.
At the given hour the meridian and related organs in question are at maximum energy. They use this in their practice.
For example Large Intestine is related to Mao Hour (5-7 am).
Whether I am in China or South-America will make no difference, my Large Instestine will become active according to the local time, in the morning.
But maybe Alex' bowels move from 9 - 11 pm when he is in California, then it is Mao hour in Beijing..
I suppose that's when he is writing his books..

This is a good example of what happens when people blindly stick to "sources".

I think people can present ideas in any way they want, with or without sources, or even without any principle..
And those who see the idea can also do what they want: they can accept or reject it, or just give it a maybe...

I have thrown out a lot of ideas all life long, and usually without any sources..
But if people can't convince themselves of what I say, then it will be better they forget about it.


Howard said...

New ideas don't just come out of thin air, it is always a continuation of another idea or ideas that came before it, including Einstein's Theory of Relativity, even though sometimes one may not be aware of it.

So to quote an established source is a way to illuminate one's thinking process to arrive at a given point, allowing others to have a point of reference to review the new idea.

The truly creative always stand on the shoulder of other giants and that is an established source one can quote, in this case slightly modified from Bernard of Chartres' "nanos gigantum humeris insidentes", Latin meaning "Dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants" or "One who develops future intellectual pursuits by understanding the research and works created by notable thinkers of the past".

hanlin said...


The traditions must be cleaned up and be developed. Stagnant water is not good water...

If someone tells me that I have to correlate the four pillars to Beijing or Luoyang time, then I know that this person is not a good astrologer and does not possess the needed basic scientific knowledge on how astrology works.

If one is born at midnight in England and has to change the time of his FP to Beijing time (GMT + 8 hours), then in Beijing it will be a day time, after sunrise. So, obviously there will be such a great difference between his local horoscope and his "Beijing time" horoscope.

The energy activation of the meridians and the acupoints really serves as a good prove that the local time is to be used. Like, the yongquan acupoint (Kidney 1) activates and naturally opens at gui hai hour (21-23) on GUI stem days. If we have to use Beijing time, it already be completely different feeling, and this point will not pulsate. Everyone can check this, it's simple.


Annie Pecheva

tanlang said...

it seems one should rest facing north south not necessarily our favorable direction according to this study said...

Hi Howard,

Mentioning "sources" is something different from this so-called standing on the shoulders of giants.
Obviously Einstein learned mathematics, physics, etc... from his teachers and from the works of the scientists that came before him.
But that doesn't mean these earlier scientists can be quoted as the "source" for his relativity theory.

Not every idea is a continuation of older ideas, there are also new ideas that start with the first person that conceives them.

For example you may introduce a certain new concept in architecture tomorrow. If the idea in question has never been mentioned or published before, then there are no earlier sources for that idea, then you are the first source.
That doesn't mean you are not standing on the shoulders of the teachers and architects you have learned from, but it will not be fair to say they are the source of your idea... because maybe they wouldn't even like your idea.

Every composer has probably studied Mozart and Beethoven, but that doesn't give him the right to back up his own work by saying that Mozart and Beethoven are the source of it. That would be falsely using somebody's reputation.

And that's far more often the real reason why people like to quote a reputable source. An attempt to use that person's good name.


Howard said...

Hi Danny,

I am not so cynical about why people like to quote source reference, I learned at university that it is a good practice to research where one's source of inspiration came from and compare them to the progress made.

I know a little about architectural design and take it from me as a practicing architect for over 40 years, nothing is really new that has not been done before. A good piece of architecture is always the same, it just looks a bit different from time to time.

I am not the only one who feels this way about essence and expression, here is a poem by John Edward Everett:

Nothing is new
Under the sun;
Into the sea
The waters run;
Back they are brought
Unto their sources,
Only again
To run their courses.

Thought, as well,
Never is new;
Thoughts of our own
Are but a review
Of other thoughts
Of long ago,
That down through time
Like rivers flow.

Over and over
The waters run;
Nothing is new
Under the sun.
Over and over,
Ages through,
Thought is rehearsed,
For nothing is new.

Howard Choy said...

Hi Howard,

That poem , and the idea expressed in it, is only half the story.
You can equally make the case that everything is new.
Even the sun, when she rises in the morning, is no more the same sun that set the evening before.
Plenty of changes has happened already. So in a sense it's always a different, a new sun that rises.

By the way, what was the source for Everett's poem?
And if it wasn't new when he wrote it, where did he take it?
You see, it makes no sense to say that there is nothing new.
His poem was new when he first wrote it.

You can make a new house with old bricks.
That doesn't mean the house is not new.
And it also doesn't mean the style of the house cannot be new.
It also doesn't mean the bricks are the "source" of the new house and the new style.

The re-use of some old components doesn't imply that nothing new is created or discovered.

If nothing new ever happened then there would not be any patent offices.
Because you can only get a patent for a new idea.

If Toyota introduces a new model car, then that is a new model that didn't exist before.
Even if the tires and the engine may be the same as in older model, that doesn't change the fact it is a new model.

See, this idea of nothing new under the sun has very limited validity.
It is only true in the sense that some very basic things and concepts always come back.
But everywhere I look: new plants, new houses, new people, new ideas, new styles, it goes on and on...
Sure, you may find a few old components in some or all of it.
But that doesn't take away the newness of it.

What is the source of the new model or idea?
It is in the creativity of the designer.
That he may have found inspiration in the things he saw around him, that makes no difference.


Howard said...

Hi Danyy,

I only go along with an age old idea called yin and yang: if there are new ideas, then there are also old ideas where the new grew from because everything is inter-connected.

If a new idea just pop out from nowhere then it would be a stand-alone, disconnected from the qi continuum of space and time of this world.

Take your new Toyota model for example, is it really new or an evolution from the old?

My idea is very old yet it seems new to you, isn't it interesting?

You see the new and the old as two distinct entities and I see them as complementary opposites, but in the end we are both right, depending on whether one is looking from the Eastern or from the Western point of view.

For me, it is the most difficult part of teaching Feng Shui - trying to get the students to look at the world from a traditional Chinese point of view, where these three paradigmal assumptions were made: 1) Everything has qi. 2) Everything has qi has Yin and Yang. 3) Therfore, everything is inter-connected.

Including the old and the new in our case. But if you don't accept the Feng Shui paradigm, then I am afraid you are also right and I have to agree with you.

Howard Choy said...

Hi Howard.

Throughout this topic nobody has denied that there are old ideas.
And that there is somethng like evolution of ideas (= standing on the shoulders...).
But as I tried to say, that's only half the story.
Now you seem to agree.

I just disagree on your point that every "new" idea is only some kind of "evolution" from the old ones.
Besides "evolution" there is also something like sudden "mutation".
That too can be seen as a yin-yang pair.

A sudden mutation is disconnected from the previous evolution, it is something that appears without any evolution leading up to it, it is a sudden jump.
For example the first life on our planet was just some very simple amoebes and they were blind.
But now we have eyes that can see light.
Sure our eyes have evolved out of earlier, more primitive eyes.
But going back in time at some point there must have been only blind cells, and then suddenly through some mutation one cell became sensitive to light.
You can not point to any "evolution" leading up to this. One moment all life was blind, and the next moment one cell was born with light sensitivity.
This is a disconnect, a jump.
And this jump next influenced all further evolution from that point.

Same thing can and does happen in the domain of thought.
And that's why certain "sources" are still quoted, sometimes after thousand of years.
Because they represent a certain jump, an idea that next altered all further evolution in the field.

When the wheel was invented, there was no 'evolution' leading up to it.
Sure there were probably round stones on the beach.
But to get the idea to use it to transport things was a sudden jump, a new idea.

If everything was only just an evolution from older ideas, then it would make no sense to ever mention anybody as a "source".
Then the "big bang" (or whatever caused it) is the only source.
Then why mention Confucius, Lao Tzu,... they were only standing on the shoulders of those who came before them.
They only re-organised some old ideas and information...
Is that so?

To me this is not a question of Fengshui paradigm as opposed to Western thinking.

But it sure helps me understand why the Chinese people have hardly created any new ideas for hundreds of years.
If they only see the possibility of evolving and re-framing old ideas.
When somebody dares bring a new idea, he is immediately asked to bring "sources" and criticized if he can't, as Joseph explained in his post.
It explains a lot.
For example there are still only 6 Chinese Noble prize winners, about as much as Arabs (with a smaller population)
So who needs to change paradigm?


Howard said...

Hi Danny,

We can go on for another 10 rounds and would not get to an agreement, that is why I wrote up on absolute truth in my blog some time ago, I willcut and paste it here for you:

"I have been reading the work of Daoist scholar Chen Ying-Ning 陳櫻寧, in an anthology published on his 20th anniversary, called “Daoism and Health Preservation” 道教與養生. Chen Daoshi promoted the study of Daoist Philosophy of Immortality (Xian Xue 仙學) all his life and wrote many books and articles on the subject. I have found this little piece on Absolute Truth quite interesting.

Once a student of philosophy asked him this question, “What constituted Absolute Truth in this world?” and he answered:

“ Absolute Truth happens when there is a mouth and no speech; when there is a mind and no thought. Once you open your mouth, once you start to think, it falls on two sides, it changes to mutual opposites and no longer is absolute. Therefore to seek the (Absolute) Truth in written and spoken words are all a waste of efforts. You studied philosophy, maybe it is because in philosophy you cannot find the Truth, and so you asked me this question. To be honest, there is no (Absolute) Truth as such in this world and it is not worthwhile searching for it. But let’s say you have somehow discovered the (Absolute) Truth, what good will it do (for you)? When (you are) old and sick, when (you) have no cloths and food and when (you are) in suffering and despair, will the (Absolute) Truth that you have found get rid of them?”

Many people these days cannot tell the difference between Absolute Truth and relative truth, so they became intolerant and pedantic. According to Chen Ying-Ning, if we want the Absolute Truth, then just sit quietly, don’t think and say nothing. Given time, we might even have a chance of becoming an Immortal."


Howard said...

"When the wheel was invented, there was no 'evolution' leading up to it.
Sure there were probably round stones on the beach.
But to get the idea to use it to transport things was a sudden jump, a new idea."

Hi Danny,

According to this website on ancient civilization, the invention of the wheel went through six stages, so it was not a sudden jump, it was a gradual evolution.

Howard said...

Hi Howard,

In my opinion, the main purpose in having a discussion is not in getting to an agreement, but rather in "opening up the topic".
When all is said and done, then people just take out of it what they can use, it makes no difference if there was some agreement or not.

The piece you bring about "absolute truth" exists in several forms and versions.
The one I remember is short and simple: "Absolute truth is a lie"

I also remember a saying that was attributed to Buddha (if I remember correctly): "Truth is what works"

As for what you bring about the invention of the wheel.
Obviously, the wheel was not invented in the form that is used on Formula 1 cars today.
To me the principle of the wheel is already invented with the very first "roller" that is shown in the article you mention. The next steps are mainly gradual improvements of the original idea.

There is nothing gradual between people carrying heavy loads on their shoulders, and the next day somebody gets the idea to use a "roller" to transport the same heavy load. That's the sudden mutation, the revolution..