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polymath or monopath?

The main character in my novel Dr Ragab's Universal Language is a polymath. I have always been drawn to such people, both in fiction and in real life.

A polymath is good at lots of things and sees the connections between things.

A monopath concentrates on one thing and refuses to see the connections between things.

One view of truth, which has no logical basis, is that the deeper you go into something the more ‘truth’ you uncover.

But truth must also be relevant, it must be worth knowing. Otherwise it’s trivial.

If you watch the sun rise, going deeper into the reasons for the sun coming up, the constitution of the sun, the atmosphere and the mechanism of the eye are all ways of going deeper into the subject. You uncover more information but do you uncover more truth?

The grander meaning of truth incorporates the notion of relevance, importance to our innermost lives. Scientific detail doesn’t quite cut it. But the ‘polymathic’ truth of the sunrise lies in its connection to all living creatures, our need for the sun’s energy and the life enhancing effect watching the sun rise has. It’s truth lies in its connection to other things.

Admittedly this is stretching the definition of polymath beyond the conventional idea of being good at several things, usually arts and sciences and maybe some kind of physical skill too. But I think it’s worth looking at why we are attracted to the polymathic world view, the polymathic approach. I think it’s because we know we need a wider view, not a deeper one.


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