18 October 2006

Adler's Syntopicon on the Tree of Life

the staggering success
of wikipedia
in integrating contributions
from thousands of volunteers

offers an inspiring model
for any number of similar

like a people's OED
(oxford english dictionary)
collecting literary citations from every era
for every word in english (or better
for all languages)

or a people's syntopicon
tracing the greater literary debate
across every era
for every idea
in the full history of ideas

we can picture a star on the Tree of Life
for every published first edition
and for a given OED-word
color only those stars
that use that word

or more usefully
that use it
in a particular sense

and ditto, then
for the history of ideas
coloring each book-star
that discusses a given
more-or-less general

in our ideal
radial ontology
each general idea
would have one star
in an inner orbit
and each more-particular idea
an orbit farther out

eg Adler's 103 Great Ideas
imply 103 inner stars

while his subtopics
add thousands of outer stars

and among the 14 'signs'
of the yahoo zodiac
each of adler's great ideas
may be debated
in several different signs
each from their local perspective

an ideal history
on the Tree of Life
might trace all threads of debate
to a single original

but more realistically
most ideas crystalise slowly
from uncounted vague approaches

(books may
an idea
long before they ever

we might also light stars on the Tree of Life
for every occasion when a branch
either uses an idea
(eg in making a decision)
or ponders an idea

and books could
be ranked
by how often their readers
used or pondered
their ideas

(eg most philosophers' ideas
are never used
and rarely pondered)