Monday, January 16, 2006

Why "Thales' Press"?

While Thales is regarded as one of the first natural philosophers of the Greek persuasion, scant little is known or written about him. However, there is a fascinating event associated with him that was recorded by Aristotle in his Politics (1259a).

Thales' bust
Who knows if this really is the bust of Thales. There are no remaining photographs with which to compare it. However, as marble busts of pensive Greek men go, this will certainly pass for an ancient philosopher that we can imagine might have looked like Thales.

Apparently, Thales was ridiculed for being poor as a result of his pursuit of truth as opposed to wealth. Thales contended that he wasn't concerned with wealth, but he could use his wisdom to achieve wealth if he wanted to. To prove that he wasn't just whistling The Odyssey, he employed his knowledge of astronomy and other observations to determine that there would be a huge crop of olives in the upcoming harvest (How did astronomy play in this calculation? I haven't a clue.). Using what resources he had, Thales then purchased for a small amount of money the right to lease local olive presses during the harvest time. When the huge crop came in as he predicted, Thales cornered the market of olive presses, leased the presses back out at a higher rate, and made a substantial sum of money. Not only was Thales likely the first natural philosopher, he was also likely the first decision analyst.

Not only did I adopt the title "Thales' Press" to refer to this historic use of systematic reasoning to achieve some goal (namely, the acquisition of olive presses to make a bunch of money), I also intend to press the use of the word "Press" to refer to a means of publishing. The publishing being focused on considerations and observations by myself and others (visiting scholar, George P. Burdell, a great American, may contribute on occasion) about decision analysis and decision management.

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