Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Can one man make a difference?

  1. Aug 18, 2007 #1
    That's something I have always wondered about. Can one man just by himself, make a difference?

    Ghanti, was one man, Einstein was one man... Hitler was one man too :tongue2:. But their actions reflected to the whole - and their actions came from the whole.

    Take science for example. Einstein changed the way physicists around the world thought. But it was he (I think) who said that, "If I went so far, is because I stood on the heads of giants" (I don't actually know how it translates in english - I am from Greece). On this end, one man can make a difference given that he takes advantage of the actions those who preceeded him/her.

    Isn't it illogical for someone to believe, that he/she can change the world just by him/herself. Changing, in my opinion, requires interaction. If there aren't any people so as to have someone to reflect your actions upon, how can you tell that there is a difference? And if you are not thoughtful of what other people have accomplished by their actions, before you, how can you judge what needs to be altered? Aren't we the products of our individual environment (not just our father, or mother, or uncle as individuals, but our community as a whole?).
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 18, 2007 #2
    There's an American movie (see if you can find a Greek version of it) called "It's a Wonderful Life" that goes into that area of how one person who thinks he is not that significant can make to the world around him.
  4. Aug 18, 2007 #3


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    It's a quote by Isaac Newton "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants".
  5. Aug 18, 2007 #4
    thats GANDHI for the start.
    and about one man making a difference, you also have to see what they go through to make that difference.
  6. Sep 24, 2007 #5
    I look at it this way: If that person had not done what they did, would the world be different than it is now?

    If Einstein hadn't discovered SR and GR, would the world be different? Yes; Therefore, he made a difference.

    Now, yes, in order to change the world, you have to have a world to begin with. That does not mean you, yourself, didn't change it.
  7. Sep 29, 2007 #6
    It depends on the man/woman is the answer in short and his or her path.
  8. Sep 30, 2007 #7
    All that side, I don't think anything is written in stone.
    If a man has a revolutionary idea, and he presents it the right way, sure he could be successful and change the world by himself. And even if he couldn't , this wouldn't mean it would be /impossible/ for future visionaries to do it.

    It depends on a lot of things, like the idea itself, the society it's presented in, the circumstances around him, his idea, and the society, the people around him, even just random events like cars driving by.
    If he was run over by a car while running to share his discovery he would not succeed right?

    So in theory everything is possible, at the right time and the right circumstances.
  9. Sep 30, 2007 #8
    No, it is not illogical. So, say you live alone on an island, your interaction with the the island is your world. Then, suppose you think of a new way to bring beauty to the island, to your world, so you see, it is very logical that such a thing could happen.

    But of course this is not your question. So, now suppose you are lone witness to a crime (a murder)--is it illogical to suggest that if you do action either (A) do not tell police or (B) tell police, that you (all by yourself) do not change the world ? Well, of course it is not illogical--for all by yourself, of your own free will, your action (A) or (B) will change the world.

    But then, this is not really your question either, you want to know if creative thoughts by individual humans are possible without priori thoughts of other people--that is, are they really creative thoughts--is there really a process called creativity--and if so, what is it ? So, suppose you have in your mind imagination two isolated contents (A) peanuts and (B) butter. Clearly you must agree that your consciousness did not create either peanuts nor butter, peanuts are created by a plant that you previously perceived, butter comes from milk created by a cow. Next, suppose for some reason you decide via free will volition to focus your mind on these two isolated contents, and you focus so hard that you reorganize them in such a way to allow them to commute--to intermingle--and then you project onto your mind a new imagination that you decide to give the name "peanut butter". Now I ask you--did you not, all by yourself, with no help from other humans, have an act of creation--an original idea you call peanut butter that could perhaps then change the world for other humans if it was ever created in reality ? And, keep in mind that people that are creative often use what the subconscious intermingles and then brings to the conscious mind for it to use if it wishes (sort of like a helpful dog that brings its master a bone). What makes your mind different in terms of creativity than say the mind of the spider that creates a web is that your mind first stores new intermingled contents into imagination, before it is placed into reality. So you see I hold that imagination is outside reality--you can say I hold that imagination = spiritual while reality = material.

    Now, suppose your mind parks away into imagination the new content it has created--the peanut butter--then a week latter begins to focus again on it while at the same time bringing also into focus the contents it labels jelly and the bread. Now, let us suppose the mind contents jelly and bread you did not create--that is, they were created by some other mind--same way your mind created peanut butter. So, here then you see how what your mind created with no help from others--peanut butter--is then used with help from others to create another imagination that you label "peanut butter and jelly sandwich". You then go to kitchen and your imagination becomes reality before your eyes.

    So, I hope this helps you see how I hold that it is not illogical that your mind can be creative in such a way to change the world, all by yourself. To be creative there must always be a dialectic between the abstract contents of the imagination and the concrete of the reality that exists outside the mind--back-and-forth, a cycle with neither process taking priority.
  10. Oct 3, 2007 #9


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I think if you look at Chaos Theory you'll see that even a butterfly, clump of dirt or an atom can change the world. So why not a man or a woman?
  11. Oct 3, 2007 #10


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member
    Dearly Missed

    As long as the times are sufficiently mature enough to receive the idea, then a man can make a difference.

    Take the case of Archimedes and his periods-within-periods system.
    This pointed towards a far stronger symbolization of the numeral system than the letter&word based system used in his own day.

    However, it was soon forgotten, if ever widely circulated, and it took more than a millenium for abstract numerals to be utilized in maths, simplifying computation immensely in the process.

    A similar case can be made for some of the most striking results within Arab maths, like Al-Hazen's theory of optics that was never having any effective impact on contemporary thinkers, and the theory of optics was re-constructed and refined independently by European thinkers centuries later.

    That is, glorious, revolutionary ideas might end up in cul-de-sacs and forgotten.
    The probability of them doing so varies in some inverse manner to the average level of competence in contemporary society, ameliorated if there is some strong, positive deviation in competence in a generally ignorant society.
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2007
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook