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To what extent can an idea be unique?

Are all ideas just the combination of known principles or trial and error? Examples and peronal experiences are good as well as just opinions. This question could be expanded to any thought at all, not just ideas. If there is a thought that is almost entirely unique, there can't be any previous oppposite idea. What I mean is if an idea is the exact opposite of another it isn't really original. It just stated the opposite. If an entirely original idea can be made, how will it be formed?

I have some opinions currently, but I'm sure they'll change after your comments. Please ask me to expand or clarify if needed.

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  • Jul 23 2013: This is something that has been discussed in many areas. Here are a few links:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thought

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Idea

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patentability

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Originality

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Innovation

    I think an idea can be unique if it represents a new solution to a problem, a regrouping or reconfiguration of existing thoughts, ideas, materials or opinions to form something new, or if it is just an inspired application of something new to improve life, add to the collective body of human knowledge, or provide a new process or method for accomplishing a task.

    I think you carry around inside of you a massive collection of knowledge, memories, observations, and experiences. As you are confronted with a set of circumstances, situation of new thoughts, you can draw on your intellectual abilities to conjure up these things and assimilate them into something new or different, at least for you. To the extent that they are also new and different for others may define their true originality as opposed to just a good personal idea or way to solve a problem.
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      Jul 24 2013: So true originality is something new to others, right? Would the first person to put or conceive of putting peanut butter and jelly between two slices of bread have a truly original idea? It would be new to others, but is just a person combining known things.
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        Jul 25 2013: No, truly original would mean that the idea was unique to the full extent. Since you've demonstrated that slices of bread and the two main ingredients of PB & J already existed, the idea while original, is not original to the full extent. In fact, consider all the combinations of things that have been put on sandwiches since their invention, I would say the idea of PB&J's has a relatively low extent of uniqueness. Keep in mind, the popularity and ubiquity of PB&J's has nothing to do with their uniqueness.

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