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We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

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Question: Is there a difference between political philosophy and political science?

Harvey Mansfield: There oughtn’t to be any difference, but in our age there certainly is.  Political science in its strictest form tries to imitate the natural science, and to be as exact and as universal and as nameless as they, and as objective as they are.  But political philosophy is much more concerned with the big questions than political science.  Political science, in order to be exact and universal, waves aside the big questions because the big questions don’t seem to have clear and … answers.  In fact, the political philosophers disagree as to what they are.  So political philosophy requires an effort of interpretation, of reading great books and trying to understand what they say; whereas political science is much easier.  It’s just scientific communication from one scientist to another.  Both of them are on the same wavelength.  There’s no need to introduce yourself.  There’s no need for rhetoric.  There’s no need for images.  There’s no need for examples.  I’m talking about political science at its strictest.  Of course, most political science isn’t that strict, but that’s the idea of it.

Recorded on: 6/13/07


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