How can a visit to an Italian restaurant help us to better understand the world?
We live in a complex world, but language helps us to grasp even complex situations.
What is the connection between pizza and heroism? At first, the two hardly seem related–one is a favorite dish and the other is a way of life. But understanding how pizza delivery works can give us insight into how we can comprehend other, more complex scenarios.
To become a mentor, which is a foundation of being a true hero, you have to know what is real. You have to have a strong grip on reality.
How can we train our minds to better know what is and what is not?
In this adapted excerpt from the book Philosophy for Heroes: Knowledge, author Clemens Lode sheds light on how our use of language creates a concept hierarchy, a mind-map of definitions that empowers us to be able to think more effectively.
THIS WEEK’S EXCERPT
A Slice of Life: Concept Hierarchies and Pizza Delivery
An adapted excerpt from Philosophy for Heroes: Knowledge.
In our lifetime, we learn many concepts. A “concept” is determined by the nature of an entity. A simple example: we learn the concept of “furniture” early on, and as we are introduced to types of furniture (e.g., high-chair, table, bed), we can apply what we know about the original concept to new entities. Hence, we need not consider each situation (i.e., something to sit on, or sleep on) over and over again. If we apply these dependencies of specialization to more general concepts, a structure arises—a concept hierarchy.
A concept hierarchy is a tree-like structure consisting of concepts, defined by the definitions of given connections (e.g., “chair” and “table” are furniture, the concept “furniture” would thus constitute the root of a tree and “chair” and “table” are two successive branches).
Let us consider the example of a pizza delivery company. There, orders, inquiries, customers, and employees must be managed. The first step of management is an accurate grasp of the current situation. Instead of verbally surveying each employee and customer and placing a summary in a file, we abstract the properties of the relationship to each respective person. The employees may have much to tell about their lives, but only a few items of data are important for the payment of their wages, such as a name and bank account number. The same holds for the client, for whom we actually require only a delivery address. In addition, we must manage our products (the pizzas) and the individual inquiries and orders. In the construction of our concept hierarchy, we try to determine only the relevant properties of an entity and disregard all other information.
As all the parts of our pizza company should at the same time refer to identifiable entities with a creation date, they should inherit from a more general concept named “entity.” And obviously, “clients” and “employees” are persons; we can thus let properties such as the address inherit from a more general concept, “person.” With the definition of “order” and “request,” we must in both cases reference the person placing the order (customer) and the employee processing the order (employee), and thus generalize the properties in a concept called “process.” Let us supplement these definitions with properties of the customer (his account), the employee (his position in the company), the order (the ordered product), and the request (the customer’s message); we now obtain a schematic construction of this small slice of the world:
As this example shows, a concept hierarchy allows us to base our understanding of reality on things we know to be true. We can add details as necessary, but we don’t need to reinvent the wheel (or the pizza) from scratch every time.
And that, my friend, explains what pizza and philosophy have in common: begin with what is true, rely on that, and allow that to direct your decisions.
It is not about selling books, it is about communicating ideas and it doesn’t matter with which medium it will be done. Also, businesses can live longer than that. People construct houses that stand longer than 80 years. They start out with the idea of one day either selling the house or leaving it to their children. The customer of an entrepreneur is not the end consumer, but a possible future investor who will take over at some point. Myself, I’m not the company; I’m just the entrepreneur. While I still work “in” the company, I plan to remove myself bit by bit over the years. It is entrepreneurship. An entrepreneur builds businesses.
The idea is to move away from the concrete. You ask yourself how the company should look in 300 years and thus have to concentrate on the core values. It is kind of weird, but actually a common practice in business. Or it should be at least! We should look for value-based cooperation between people and a moral backbone to rely on in times of crisis.
Concerning the concept of a leader: we can be a leader or hero in a situation. It doesn’t mean that we devote our life to fighting crime. But we need to prepare ourselves for a situation in which our will and view of the world will be tested. It can be a blink of an eye when our mind is occupied with the question of acting or not acting in a situation… and making the right decision. It can be a question of what career path to take. And of course, we also need principled leaders in important positions. If we don’t encourage people to become leaders, then only one type pf person will go into this position: the type of person who cares only about power. We should encourage everyone to take responsibility in his or her area of expertise, community, family, and group of friends.
If I were to choose authors whose work relates to each of the book in the series, I would name Ayn Rand and Aristotle for the first book. Not only did each provide groundwork for philosophy, but also Ayn Rand explained the real concept of the hero and leader. Concerning the second book, which is science and theory of the mind, I will point to Carl Sagan, RichardDawkins, William H. Calvin, David Bohm, and Lawrence Krauss as major influences. The third book, focusing on values and drugs, is greatly based on Ayn Rand (theory of values) as well as own views and current scientific results. I drew a lot from Karen Armstrong‘s books for the fourth book about religion and theology, and the chapter about psychology is greatly influenced by the ideas of Carl Jung, Peter S. Beagle, Joseph Campbell, and Robert Cialdini. While Ayn Rand again provided basic philosophical ideas, modern science and personality theory help us to connect with who we are and what our values actually are. Finally, for the book on art and heroism, I will draw heavily on Ayn Rand, general music theory and a number of authors of motivation books.
It goes back to psychoanalysis a hundred years ago. Carl Jung, one of the major figures in that field, found out that we basically have four cognitive functions on which we operate and that we process information in a certain sequence. There is Feeling, which refers to “global thinking,” meaning you include all your life experiences and your values (your ethical system), intuition (situational thinking, including your subconscious), Thinking (step-by-step, conscious, logical analysis), and Sensing (immediate sensations). They can be of the same intensity for someone, but they are “called up” in a certain order, i.e. e.g. “Feeling” personality types evaluate a situation usually first according to their ethical point of view.
Imagine your mind being like a small company of four people representing the four functions. The job goes to #1 always. He might pass it down to #2, etc. Employee #4 might be great, but most of the times he won’t receive any work or has to wait until the work is passed down to him. Different people have a different sequence of functions, and each function can be directed to the inside and to the outside. In the end, you have about 16 different types, with some much more prevalent than others.
I’m currently working at a medical company as a software architect, connecting patients with their doctors through smart phones and the Internet. It is my day job to finance my writing. I lead a small team there, so I’m used to handling projects. The actual application in mind gives the work meaning.
Some of the best-known books on leadership include:
Think and Grow Rich (Napoleon Hill)
The Greatest Salesman in the World (Og Mandino)
Awaken the Giant Within (Anthony Robbins)
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (Stephen R. Covey)
The 48 Laws of Power (Robert Greene)
While each of these books and others like them, provide you with tips and tricks on how to become successful, each set success as the ultimate goal. For example, Robbins’ book claims to provide “immediate control of your mental, emotional, physical and financial destiny.”
This is not the goal of the Philosophy for Heroes book series. Instead, this book series encourages you to sit down and think and reflect. Becoming a leader is not done by superimposing a code or mask on your identity or reprogramming your behavior. There are no quick solutions.
You become a hero by becoming a balanced person first – by being true to yourself and discovering your strengths and weaknesses. You have to visit all your past experiences and face your demons and bring them into line. You have to work at solving old emotional or intellectual conflicts. You have to learn about philosophy and science. This book series will challenge you to begin the journey to become a balanced person with a free mind… to follow your own dreams and express your own identity.
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