The Duke of Wellington was once asked how he defeated Napoleon. He replied: “Napoleon’s plans were made of wire. Mine were made of little bits of string.”
In other words, Napoleon crafted his plans so thay they had a steely, sinewy strength that carried them to completion. Wellington conceded that his plans were more ramshackle, hand-to-mouth affairs. The difference was that if one of of Napoleon’s schemes broke or miscarried, it proved impossible to repair. When Wellington’s plans went awry, he would merely knot two loose bits of string together and carry on regardless.
I believe Andrea diSessa (1988) would argue that much of our knowledge, certainly emergent knowledge, is in the form of “little bits of string” rather than being organised efficiently into grand, coherent schemas.
For example, every human being has a set of conceptions about how the material world works that can be called intuitive physics…
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