In Praise of Polymaths

Da Vinci

Flywheels – Leonardo da Vinci

The Liberal Arts can be your best educational path to achievement in a specialized field, according to Robert Twigger in his article “Anyone Can Learn To Be a Polymath.”

Polymath refers to one who has learned much, people like Da Vinci, Goethe, and Benjamin Franklin. Yet the Western World now prizes the opposite: a “monopath” who often turns out to be a one-track, over-specialized bore. While specialization promotes a beneficial division of labor, Twigger argues that “[h]uman nature and human progress are polymathic at root.”

Reasons for the success of polymaths are both practical and scientific. A polymath is not as bound to the conventional wisdom of a particular discipline. He can see and be inspired by connections among disparate things. Brain researchers also find that the capacity to make intellectual connections thrives among people who take on new subjects.

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