Friday, June 01, 2012

Panini and Eurocentricity

A followup on the "Pizza and Panini" piece. The "Pizza and Panini" piece is a sly comment on the Eurocentricity of the way we view contributions to science by the ancient Greeks versus the ancient Indians. Panini was, in my opinion, one of the greatest innovators in the ancient world. His grammar was the world's first formal system of language. Panini's ideas of formal rules in natural languages, in fact, significantly influenced the 19th and 20th century linguists who came after him - de Saussure's work (de Saussure,1894) and Chomsky's (Chomsky, 1957).

I am also poking a bit of fun at the lengthiness of some of the works of the ancient Greek mathematicians, scientists and even philosophers. Many of their dialogues appear unnecessary lengthy when viewed by us today. This is because the ancient Greeks had not yet developed the theories of languages, physics, et cetera that were developed after the European Enlightenment. If Euclid's propositions were analyzed today, we would find that they could have been written far more compactly. Two examples follow. The stuff in italics is all that would have been required for a Proof or Algorithm for the two Propositions of Euclid that I deal with below.