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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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  • Aug 8 2013: Part 1:
    While the concept of a “unique” idea is certainly hopeful and refreshing, I find myself leaning towards the statement that all ideas are the combination of known principles or trial and error. Since I have a more mathematical mind, I reflected on the concept of a “theory” in mathematics. Each theory we learn was derived from previous truths. Those truths were derived from even more archaic truths. An endless chain that leads up to the “postulate.” “Postulate” is defined as “a statement which is taken to be true without proof.” Well, “postulates” certainly seem like unique ideas. But, let’s analyze some geometric postulates. You can only draw one line between two points. A line segment only has one midpoint. These are not original ideas at all! They can be abundantly observed in nature. For me, unique ideas are not only those unclaimed by other human beings, but those unclaimed in nature. An observation is therefore not a unique idea. Perusing through my personal experiences and readings, I cannot come across any idea I would consider “unique.” About a year ago, I decided to embark on a research project studying the effect of limestone filtration in the Tiete River. At first, I was proud of my “unique idea.” But, in fact, this idea was not unique at all, rather a compilation of the idea to filter, the idea to use limestone, the idea to clean rivers, the idea to experiment, etcetera.

    However, for the sake of discussion, let us assume that a “unique” idea does exist. When was this idea conceived? From the moment of birth, we are constantly exposed to an influx of principles and observations and ideas. And, as human beings, we have an excellent capacity to remember. We don’t easily forget moments of our lives. It is well known that a person’s mind can never be completely empty. This is not the result of our tremendous intellect, but instead the sheer amount of information we have been exposed to.

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