|That is conjecture rather than fact. |
And I must say, even if it weren't conjecture (it is), there's still more things to gleam from Newton's statement than that.
I always listen to people, regardless of how "stupid" or "smart" they are. Many people say wise things without even realizing it!
The abstract nature of words causes branches of implications to be derived from the trunk of an initial statement. This is why metaphorical proverbs like "don't put the cart before the horse" or "you reap what you sow" are rarely used in situations that actually apply to the literal words therein.
They apply to endless arrays of situations outside of horse travel and farming. A human mind is capable of realizing that by simply abstracting the words in the proverbs to more universal ones. The prior proverbs become, in our minds,
"Don't put the latter before the former"
"You get what you put out."
I find myself looking back on things I wrote when I was younger and finding symbolic gold mines in them that I wasn't aware of when I wrote them.
That's the nature of getting older:
Profundity often seems to bloom from mundanity (I'm getting spellchecked, but mundanity should be a word), only to become mundane again. We find ourselves annoyed by people repeating lessons we already know, even though they're only showing the same enthusiasm we ourselves probably showed upon first learning the lesson.
|So, to take an extreme example, you suggest Einstein, a pacifist and brilliant scientist, is no better than Hitler?|
Ooh, a sizzler! Touché! I like it!
Obviously it's perfectly reasonable to think that Einstein is "better" than Hitler in a relative sense of the word "better."
But the word "better" is often used in contexts where it's frankly abrasive and unnecessary. People with the same interests and passions who contribute great things to the world often end up at odds with each other (for no good reason) because they feel "better" than each other.
I'm talking about people saying things like "Feynman (another great physicist) was better than Einstein." because they read a Feynman quote and found it personally more moving than an Einstein quote they once read. Or people dissing each other's favorite bands. Or people feeling the need to compare things that are only infinitesimally "better" or "worse" than other things.
A better thing for me to have said might have been "Things are only better or worse in non-universal, or relative, contexts."
Granted, most people only care about relative contexts (such as the contexts of their own lives and daily routines).
And then comes the problem of subcategories. Einstein might be a better all-around human being, but no one's going to argue that he was a better demagogue and rabble-rouser than Hitler.
Then comes the dependencies. Hitler might be a better demagogue, but that's only because he had an audience willing to listen to his prejudiced and genocidal nonsense.
One thing you might find funny. And I want this to be seen as the "meat" of my answer to your question:
Einstein was a Determinist. He believed, for most of his life, that everything he did was predetermined by the laws of physics, be they incidental or intentional, as of the big bang, or even earlier in the case of a cyclical universe.
Meaning, Einstein believed that anything which made him "better" than anyone else was caused by things utterly beyond his own control. He might have been a Hitler under slightly different seed circumstances.
Einsteins and Hitlers are made of the same stuff, incidentally, but rearranged differently, and there's a colloquial sense attached to the word "better" which may or not be evident in all usages of the word:
People use the word "better" on themselves to imply that it's because of things which ARE under their control. A basketball player might speak of himself as more skilled than another player, with an arrogant lilt, and usage of the word "better" implying that it's not just a series of circumstantial dice rolls which results in his greater skill, but an actual "betterness" on his own part, which he just one day chose to have, of his own accord.
I don't like the arrogance often attached to the words "better" and "worse".
I guess if you really wanted to make me feel mixed up about this you could ask "Do you think arrogance is better than humility?"
Maybe not. But I certainly prefer humility to it, albeit because of circumstantial reasons.
I guess I'm just being overly anal...