Cogito et scio invicem . . .









By Marilynn Stark

Page Contents


     The beauty of nature rests in the primordial memory of any creature, human or sub-human by species.  The picture presents of a stately deer standing by a large pool of water in some silent wood, calmly gazing at the surround, in harmony with the place and the  moment.  The birds sing agreeably to all the day and all that might happen by their chosen thicket, extending the tidings of complacency and happiness to those who might hear as if it is their singular task to announce the scenery, the pleasant provision, the sunny sky and their home in all that just is.  A busy squirrel scatters up a tree after busily preparing for the future by hoarding some chestnuts.  Just being there in the forest draws the observer into the living world that is nature and consoles so greatly the inner eye of the observer where peace is refurbished and cherished.  It seems this peace so found as a gem in nature's hold will render an insight once again to the beholder and that that insight should always have been known and lived by; somehow the message of Mother Nature just is and should always be honored as that which would rightfully prevail.  Where else does life and do living beings and the results of their lives  shine forth and occupy the surround with such a perceptible dynamic force and in such a loving, harmonious way?  The creatures may have a fear of a human being, but behind the line of fear they hold for one of us they have a curiosity and a sense of unity which  transcends the rule of fear towards us.  The gift of the creatures to the observer is also the window which is theirs to offer, and that window allows the observer to see and feel the home of the creature in the forest.  That home of the creatures is blessed with harmony and unity, so that a universal love is seen and communicated to an inquiring observer.  Yes, there is predation and there is natural death in this, the world of perfection, charm and innate splendor, the world of God's so-called lesser species, the green woods and the rolling mountains replete with vegetation which cannot trace its family history except for a trained scientist, perhaps.  But in the midst of the fact of inevitable death for this growing, breathing and full world of life, the domain seems rather to be the here-and-now, the moment for sharing in the bounteous provision of the temperate clime, living only as life pours forth its ways, wants and trials effortlessly.  Let there be cruel winters, for the creatures will best them.  Let there be harsh storms with high winds and pelts of hail, yet the creatures know how to contend.  When the beautiful weather prevails, it seems there never had been a storm, for everything moves in cycles, even death, as it makes way for new life.

Sitting on a rock, the observer can marvel at how the liveliness of the woods is somehow subtle and yet buoyant, supportive of all; and life for that sensation of its simple force is to be treasured and contemplated even further as a gift, for it is a gift.  What wondrous marvels make this ecosystem a valid, interconnected miracle to its inhabitants.  If only this miracle of life and its supporting processes can be understood more fully, what wonder would be conquered; indeed, the subjective reveling of the observer in a wooded dominion lends an inner peace and assurance which can only be a profound starting point for a biological query, an inquiry posed now in the objective realm of scientific truth.   Back to Top

Etymological Derivations: Words Relating to Thinking, Knowing and Science 

The word science is derived from the Latin verb scīo, scīre, meaning to knowAs the motto of this Web site indicates, "Cogito et scio invicem," translated as, "I think and I know interchangeably," there is a distinction between knowing and thinking : one thinks and knows invicem or alternately, in turns.  One can be told what is known on a topic and, therefore, how to think accordingly.  In the current day of highly developed science it is often acceptable to many who rely just naturally upon the diffuse results of our advanced knowledge in the many branches of science to accept certain scientific conclusions as rendered them.  This advancement of scientific knowledge has also culminated in a technologically implemented existence and as such is recognized and relied upon by most; therefore, acceptance of scientific work and its purported results is more facile for the mind to accomplish.  After all, to the power and moment of science do we owe this life replete with leisure time and entertainment as well as with an increased longevity due to improved medical care and medical knowledge in the treatment of ailments and diseases.  The place of an individual thinker who is not a trained scientist to discriminate as strictly as a scientist will discriminate when in the process of uncovering new facts in the experimental arena may be poorly defined since it depends on the individual and is not necessarily tested in the practical sense; nevertheless, people widely respect science as the giver of the gifts of a better quality life with a greater assurance of improved health knowledge and care and an ever-growing dependency upon the techno-structure to help greatly in the accomplishment of the duties, the chores, of daily living.  Matters such as food, shelter, clothing, transportation and communication are not generally born of the direct labor of a man and his family any longer as most products relevant to these rudiments of living are provided second order or more.  For instance, the occupant of a house may not have built it and probably did not design it; nor did he breed the giver of his transportation like in the olden days when horses, widely bred by animal husbandry, were the typical means of transport of people and goods.  Neither does he send out a messenger to deliver a letter across a day or two or a week or two to a family member or business associate some distance away; indeed, he is more likely to send an email and can close a matter in less than an hour, say, if the recipient of the email answers immediately.  What took days and weeks in former times before the technological advancement we now know may take even minutes today as information can be communicated and exchanged through the utility of cybernetics and satellites.   

To science do we essentially owe this wondrous world wherein the strife for survival and the ways to thrive in and enjoy life, speaking poetically, amount to a push-button discipline.  Things are easier to accomplish in the physical, sedentary existence we know in the technologically advanced countries.  However, this gentle embrace of an existence that is easier in certain respects on the plane of biological survival can also be threatening to one who fears the power of science to de-elevate the individual's own sense of destiny and empowerment to thrive in the physical.  This is true for the acting scientist as well as for one who is relatively uneducated in science.  The threats of biological warfare, to name an example, create an antipathy for all of science in the minds of those who cannot balance all that we owe to science in the sense of life's improvement concomitant with science -- with the mastery of the elements comes the endangerment of too much knowledge so that manipulative evils lurk and threaten the human life and pursuit of happiness.  Nevertheless, the lure of science for its intellectual challenge will drive an active scientist working in the research laboratory to uncover the light of knowledge from the veil of ignorance: when thinking leads to knowing, a process to be unfolded in this article from the words up, the adventure of science with its joy of discovery through the genius of thinking is undeniably great.  Again, is this venture to gain knowledge scientifically somehow to be construed as vainglorious, even ultimately disastrous?  Are we paying too much of a price for our modern way of life due to the price tag of pollution?  In this regard, we must face such scientific theories as global warming which says that the planet is undergoing a climate change at least partly due the emission of greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide and methane, as we burn fossil fuels and dig them up, respectively; greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere, a possible man-made cause of climate change.  Such scientific theories as global warming loom on the horizon of the pollution, overuse and ultimate exhaustion of resources to support our convenient lifestyle in this modern civilization; indeed, we must honor the moral imperative to be aware of ecological balance on the larger scale of the planet.  Is this not also a part of science and the enlightenment we thought science had constituted?

Indeed, there was a time before this modern day when Mother Nature had ruled neatly.  She had kept the balance for which the modern-day person now hankers upon hearing of the ecological questions and determinations thereof, which we try to measure for the sake of ultimate harmony once again in our ecosystem.  Long ago, science had come to slowly replace theologically born precepts which had explained the nature of the world widely among the people such that some actual ignorance had prevailed with those precepts.  At one time the Earth, for example, was cited as the center of the universe, and it was believed that the Earth did not move as according to Ptolemy. 1   Galileo disagreed with this geocentric theory; he believed in the Copernican heliocentric theory, saying rather that the sun was the center of the universe and that the Earth moves.  Galileo is indeed considered to have been a central figure in the scientific revolution during the seventeenth century, occupying a place as heroic to modern science.  Galileo's objectification to the Catholic Inquisition for his defense of Copernicus's heliocentric theory stands out as a historical landmark in the profound conflicts between religion and science in the Western heritage of faith and reason.  The story of the formation of science is indeed the story of how the thinking which prevailed among the people changed from the doctrine of the church wherein the nature of things or natural philosophy was not the quest of the small man; the answers to such questions of natural philosophy were with God alone and only.  Throughout the centuries, however, some few thinkers kept an ongoing thread of theory, a gossamery chimera of scientific explanations regarding questions  -- especially in astronomy -- that would one day by the 1800s evolve into what came to be known as natural science.  Slowly, once the empirical method of Aristotle was called into European thought by Islamic influence, the world of science started to be found for its real truth as to what really is.  This recall of Aristotle happened in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, so that empiricism began to rise at that time and fomented the scientific revolution of the fifteenth, sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.




Dinosaur Footprint


In the history of mankind there are other great, pioneering scientific thinkers who revolutionized the way we typically think of the world about us.  Even though such revolutionary thinkers as Galileo may not have been accepted immediately, across time the truths which arose from their scientific acumen challenged the prevailing ignorance in the temporal context as it would; those sometimes startling truths ultimately guided us into the current level of enlightened scientific thinking we now take almost for granted on a daily basis.  Imagine how unique the ability of such great thinkers to see for themselves the truth of the natural phenomena around them.  To then have the mental capacity to refute any false doctrine for such scientific thinkers must have been an act of faith.  Such was the faith of the pioneering founders of true science that the evidence they had culled through the aegis of a sound reasoning process coupled with empirical genius held more truth and deserved to be known for that truth, as well.



Plato and Aristotle


The power of the thinkers who led in the scientific revolution (concentrating in the 1600s and 1700s) points up the nature of thinking.  Indeed, as Aristotle established the use of the scientific method, empiricism was exerted upon questions of natural philosophy (questions of nature and of the physical universe.)  What is known and recorded for others through empirical evidence becomes the frame of reference for thoughts on a new proof; accordingly, that which may lie further in a steady progression of knowledge based upon the last experiment or experiments arises out of thinking -- assuming that the last experiment has given valid results and sound knowledge of the topic at hand, a platform for thinking is provided.  And this platform allows logic and reasoning to be applied as the thinking scientist approaches the next venue of inquiry to be solved experimentally.  Thus, the scientific method is an elaborate, drawn-out exercise of how we think in the most fundamental sense: from knowing we inquire which leads to thinking; upon experimental design we test our thoughts on a hypothetical answer our thoughts had provided; results and the subsequent experiments which crop out of those reported results may confirm unto the category of knowledge.  Theory becomes experiment, and experiment lends results that accrue to knowledge.  This new scientific knowledge becomes a body of knowledge; and this body of knowledge arose out of the application of how the human mind works on the simplest basis everyday from that which is known into thoughts on what such knowledge carries with it for other, further considerations.  However, until the scientific method, established through Aristotle's work and teachings, took that microcosmic reference of the thinking, capable mind to the fore of its macrocosmic reach unto inquiries of an empirical, scientific nature in the objective realm about us, what was known of the physical world was far less accurate and resolved than what the science born of the scientific revolution centuries after Aristotle was to determine.  

With that elaborate but actually brief introduction as to how scientific thinking evolved into a matter operative upon the welfare of mankind together, let us enter into an analysis of the thinking process requisite to sound scientific progress from the perspective of the language we use.  Obviously, words pertaining to thinking and knowing might be etymologically parsed carefully for this analysis.  Indeed, to look into the Latin words with some rigor as to the fundamentals of Latin vocabulary might dispel the mystique of the unknown for those who are not aware of the power of ancient languages etymologically since they are not studied in a classical language in the first instance.  For those who count themselves as familiar with Latin, to ponder here upon this topic in some depth might be useful to a greater resolve unto introspective focus; being aware of the mental processes is part of a good approach to science for the acting researcher, the teacher and anyone who simply learns science on a basis of interest.  These words are introduced first in a comparative manner in elaborate definitions in the text to follow; however, in order to better comprehend the fine nuances of these definitions, to follow the words etymologically into English for better understanding, see these words in summary form in Table 1.  Moreover, as the words are discussed in the text they are cross-referenced to the table so that they can be compared efficiently and then reviewed for contemplative purpose. 

  In English we use such words as 'think', 'know', 'see', 'observe', 'recognize', 'perceive', 'experiment', 'understand', 'cognize', 'conclude' and  'reason' as we speak of the nature of scientific endeavors.  (Note: we may make 'empirical' observations; however, 'empiricize' is not in the dictionaries.)  Especially the acting scientist will speak and work as according to this verbiage.  One of the goals of Science for the Knowing as its name implies is to bring about a greater discriminating factor in existing scientists as they work.  Hopefully, this website will also uplift the awareness of those who are interested in science as a deep interest, a curiosity or a hobby; or perhaps those who approach science from a purely philosophical basis will gain from reading this article in particular.  My dearest hope is that those who fear the power of science to leverage destiny will think on these things related here in the spirit of the actual empowerment of the individual's own awareness; understanding more of the language of science might be useful in resolving the mind unto what simply is.  Therefore, it is essential to unfold how the use of words can sharpen the mental discipline and the ability of the mind to try to grasp truth in understanding science more completely whether as a whole or on a platform discrete unto a single topic or group of them; or, as just mentioned, perhaps science can be brought closer to a harmonious reckoning for those who simply fear it if the mind is now edified unto its deeper processes.  Since thinking and knowing comprise the active process leading to the formation of valid knowledge, looking into the Latin words involving thinking and knowing should give vital guidance to one whose desire remains to enhance the discriminating ability necessary to learn, evaluate and integrate science.  

First, a little background is in order as to why Latin might be called a 'truth language' -- it exerts a greater accuracy in usage and therefore meaning.  A classical language such as Latin is indeed designed with a greater resolve unto the truth such that words will reflect the nature of what they describe in an inherent or implicit way first and then further in grammatical usage whose rules affect the inflection.  The nouns and adjectives have gender as well as case and number, so that they can through declension precisely modulate what is being said; this is an example of inflection or how the form of a word changes to match exactly what meaning is intended in its own given context.  Similarly, verbs inflect or are are conjugated according to specific meaning as to person (I, you , he, she, etc.), voice (active or passive), mode (indicative, subjunctive or imperative) and tense.  Various grammatical constructions lend a contextual specificity of meaning within their governances so as to lend more  precision, emphasis and/or elaboration of meaning and intent.  

Now let us exact Latin verbs that relate to science: verbs having to do with knowing, knowledge, and/or gaining knowledge and have contributed etymologically to our English language.  We shall see that the subtle meanings of various Latin verbs have actually carried into the English words they helped form.  Indeed, the language we use affects how we think and see things, does it not?  Can we therefore not gain a more elevated if not more concise perspective of scientific thinking through the simple examination of the etymological roots of the words we use to describe the mental faculties employed as we reason scientifically? 

For instance, in Latin there is a verb ago, agĕre which means to drive, to go, to do, to perform or incite to action.  Indeed, the English words act and action come from actum, the fourth principle part of ago.  A combination of the word cum, meaning with, and ago gives the verb cōgo, -ĕre which means to draw to one point.  Now there is another word which is derived from cōgĕre, the word cōgĭtō, -āre, meaning to turn over in the mind, to think, reflect or consider.  (Ref. Cassell's New Latin Dictionary.)  The word cōgĭtō, -āre is cited in the reference just given as being a combination of cum/agĭto, where agĭto,- means to drive or to put in constant motion.  Thus, the implication in the Latin word cōgĭtāre is an activity whose nature is that of a process, a driving, or being driven and placed in motion.  The mind may work in such a fashion as it thinks.  Indeed, the word cōgĭtāre in its definition mirrors how deeper thinking works even more accurately than the verb ōgĕre; this is how more refined or more subtle thinking works -- the thought process implied by cōgĭtāre gives fruit when it essentially culminates in the ability to settle on a point or upon point after point in a progressive manner as thoughts by linking give greater resolve in the end-point analysis.  The one-pointed mind has the innate characteristic of being able to concentrate well upon a point or points whose relevance can be discerned uniquely for its ultimate place in any consideration at hand.  The linking through point after point in succession may be to a point of existing knowledge or to a putative facet of that knowledge, referred to as 'pure' thought, perhaps; so we see that thinking and knowing interrelate inevitably.    

In contrast, the Latin verb cōgnōsco, -ĕre, -gnovi, -gnitum means to become acquainted with, to get to know or to learn; and the verb cōgnōscĕre can mean to know also in the perfect tenses. This word cōgnōscere is derived from cum/nōscō, formerly gnōscō, where cum means together with and nōscō, -ere means to inquire.  (The actual English word know comes from gnōscĕre and incidentally has a Sanskrit root, jnā-.)  Here is another verb which relies upon the process of becoming acquainted with something quite by inquiry as opposed to knowing per se.  Indeed, cōgnōscĕre could describe the phase of thought formulation wherein data for thinking on a more ultimate level could have been culled through an active inquiry, certainly, or even through fusing with an objective reality by empirical observation first upon inquiry.  Therefore, the meaning of cōgnōsco, -ĕre as it changes to the verb to know in the past tense sense reflects precisely that process of empiricism which precedes definitive conviction of mind during an inquiry, leading up to the state of mind of knowing based upon what has been observed empirically; thus, the adjective formed of the past participle of cōgnōsco, -ere is cognĭtus, -a, -um, meaning known, proved.    

Another Latin verb which does not rely upon the sense of driving such as cōgĭtāre or upon acquaintance through inquiry such as cōgnōscĕre, and yet this verb means to think in the sense of to consider, to weigh or to judge, is pendo, -ĕre, pĕpendi, pensum.  This meaning is a transference of the transitive meaning of pendĕre, to cause to hang down.  A frequentative of pendĕre is the verb penso, -āre which means to weigh out carefully, transferring into the meanings of to estimate, ponder or consider.  (A frequentative is an altered form of a verb, indicating that an action is frequently or repeatedly carried out or is repeated more than once.)  

The English word sapient, meaning wise, comes from the Latin word meaning to taste, to be capable of tasting,  săpĭo, -ĕre, which also transfers into a verb meaning to think, to discern.    

Putō, -āre has the finer meaning in Latin of to think as in to think a particular thought, believe, suppose, or hold a well-considered opinion.  From the past participle of this verb, putātus, comes the adjective in English, putative, a word that frequently comes up in scientific writing which indicates that a concept is yet to be proved, that it is still in a hypothetical stage of veracity.  [For an example of the use of the word putative in scientific research ideation, see this article.]

The concept of understanding or comprehending something also can be parsed for its root-level meaning from the original Latin.  In Latin the verb meaning to comprehend, to perceive, to become aware of, to discriminate or to understand is the verb intĕllĕgō, -ĕre.  This verb is a combination of the preposition inter, meaning among or between, and lĕgere,  meaning to collect, to gather, to choose or even to read, peruse or read aloud.  The derivation itself of the Latin verb intĕllĕgĕre illustrates the mental process which supports the ideation and discriminative thinking which stand behind a conclusive mind of knowing.  The Latin noun intellectus, -ūs, meaning a perceiving, understanding or comprehension, describes a state of awareness which had been preceded by a process of collecting among and choosing between.  

Mentioned previously is the Latin verb which means to know, to understand, to have knowledge of, scio, -ire, scivi, scitum.  However, the verb scisco, -ere, scivi, scitum literally means to seek, to find out, to investigate or to find out by inquiry.  Notice that these two verbs converge upon the common meaning of knowing with the past principle parts.  For example, the past participle, scitum, means knowing or judicious.  Once again, such knowledge had been arrived at  by inquiry in the first instance as in scisco.  The actual English word science is from the present participle of scio: sciens, scientis which means knowing, aware.

As the objective realm, the world of objects, can render the observer an empirical window unto what actually exists or is happening in some dynamic way, so can that empirical data suggest a reason for those observations.  However, such ideas or suppositions as to what is actually true as to the why of an event or as to the nature of an attribute poses a further problem to be solved.  This is what leads to research.  The answer as to what and why can be found out through experimentation in the laboratory.  Any hypothesis must be tested before its veracity can be determined with any certainty.  The verb expĕrĭor,-pĕrīrī means to test, try, prove or put to the test.  Therefore, in the perfect tenses, this verb will take on the meaning of known by experience, to know by having tried.  Henceforth, our English word experiment arose.  Notice the exactitude of the meanings from the Latin origins, and how they came into English

The English word science refers to an existing body of knowledge, yes; and the power of intellect is exerted as a tool of proper discrimination upon empirically observed phenomena.  Further, this exertion of the intellect upon concepts or given data is a subtle process and a methodical one that is founded upon inquiry and implemented by experimentation and reasoning abilities.  Commonly referred to as thinking, such scientific cerebration tends to be regarded as elevated and has allowed the thinking scientist to so prove a premise of truth -- that very thought or kind of thinking has been now widely validated, thereby adding to the existing body of knowledge from which it had been most likely derived somehow.  That which had been hypothesized to be real and so through the scientific method has been turned into knowledge as thinking worked actively together with knowledge : cogito et scio invicem, translating once again, "I think and I know interchangeably."

There is an expression 'working knowledge' which refers to the idea that as much as is known and applied in an active thinking context bears fruits to the purpose or task at hand; 'working knowledge' implies that more is yet to be known, but since it works, the methodology is a substitute for deeper understanding.  

The readiness of any discriminating intellect to believe on faith the results by hearsay of a given scientific point of truth is certainly a matter for deeper consideration; especially if that point of truth bears directly on the quality of life at hand or upon a vital decision in life's maze towards preservation and proper destiny, is the discriminatory factor of the working intellect vital.

The literary classics specialize in illustrating through an intensive language platform the vital importance of awareful thinking and the necessity to consider and at times reconsider any knowledge commonly accepted as true.  The classics tell mythical stories and give historical recount that may pose the ultimate way in such as living, strife, and governing; through tales of war and observations on the nature of things, for example, great lessons from these classics are given for all of posterity to deem worthy of pondering for their own edification and subsequent introspection.  In today's  modern world we live as according to tenets of scientific truths upon which we have relied and can still steadily rely for sustenance and even good governing; modern provisions such as communications systems give us open and at times live privy to the doings in the governing systems of our locales, our states and our national and now even global forums.  However, in the question of the fare of health, the allocation of federal monies for scientific research, and the ethics involving such issues as cloning, nuclear science, and the politico-military questions of bio-terrorism as well as nanotechnology to name a few, the individual intellect must regroup and establish a careful discriminating faculty at the fore of the thinking process; this careful discrimination will mirror the way a scientist works and thinks as according to existing knowledge in concert with new thoughts as the knowledge grows during the discovery process in scientific research.  So must man think and ever think judiciously and with values for humanity within immediate reach, remembering that to fundamentally uncover the nature of things is one matter; how to put the resultant knowledge which grows from the basic scientific inquiry as to the nature of things in a perspective which will foment a proper and sane avenue for further research in respect to humanity to all potentially affected by such work is a leading quest in the scientific ponder today.  It therefore would behoove any thinking individual with an interest in science and some reading knowledge of science not to mention those highly educated scientists to practice and guide the pursuit of knowledge with careful discrimination.  In this way will the political corridor down which we choose to walk as a scientifically enlightened culture be of more sure footing.  And this is again seen in the meaning of the Latin verb scisco, -ere, discussed previously, whose literal meaning -- to inquire, to find out -- becomes transferred into the politically scientific sense meaning  to vote, to approve by voting or to resolve.  This elaborate provision of concise words from the rich classical language of Latin once again disciplines the mind of the scientific thinker into realizing the rudiments of the very science in which we revel, in a sense.  Indeed, what had led to the development of science as we now know science had been the dream of a better understanding of the world, so invisible, somehow higher authorities could not by dicta and dogma tell an individual how to think and what to think.  That particular arena of free thinking by value and popular remand had to evolve, and its history tells the story of the growth of the highest science of mankind, political science.  No matter what is known of the nature of matter stretching from the atom and sub-atomic particles to the stars and the nature of matter at the origin of the universe -- if man cannot know a free day of good living but for a fair and democratic governing system through which the political arena is scientifically structured and actuated in the favor of the freedom and human rights of all equally, then the scientific knowledge of the leading thinkers might as well be profligated unto the dictates once again of a ruling few or of a dangerous despotic regime, per chance.  This is a chance we cannot take as an enlightened culture of people, so we must understand the scientific method and the very nature of the working scientific mind as precisely and as  minutely as we care for the betterment still of all of mankind.  May the classics and such languages as Latin remind us that no matter how evolved we are as a scientific culture whose science has blossomed out of the objective, relative world the fundamental values we cherish must still guide mankind as we think and plan.  Moreover, how we think in the pursuit of knowledge has not changed in essence over the centuries through which mankind has evolved.  Even though knowledge is now highly advanced and elaborate upon the nature of the world about us through the many branches of science, still the nature of that world has not changed even despite our sophisticated tools of technology.  Therefore, we must guard against a backlash in the acquisition of our advanced knowledge in the sciences, and we must remain ever vigilant to social and philosophical mores and ethics.  May we remain one-pointed in our quest to always serve in the best interests of all of mankind without hesitation; and with great fervor must we forge ahead as pioneers equally as brave as Galileo must have been in announcing his discovery.  That is why the more refined universities still teach the classics, and many have across-the-board requirements of courses in the humanities as well.  Since the quest of objective science is expansive in kind and endless in its challenge and ponder, the thinking scientific mind has absolutely nothing more vital to accomplish than that of an agenda based upon the sound principles of moral duty and righteous endeavor wherein the classics of antiquity's hold will even in this modern day yet instruct us and hold us securely now as ever before.  


   Table 1.  Etymology: From Latin  

Summary of Etymology of Words Relating to Thinking, Knowing and Science

Latin Word


Part of Speech


English Word

invicem or in vicem

in + vice = prep + noun (vice is abl.; noun not found in nom.)           

in = into, against or upon (+ acc., vicem); vicis (gen.) = change, interchange, alternation, vicissitude; in turn, in place of 

adverb ; used in adverbial phrases  

interchangeably, alternatively, reciprocally, by turns

vicissitude, viceroy, vicereine, vice-(president, admiral, etc.)

scīo, -īre, -īvī, -ītus

sciĕns, -entis (partic.) adj. = knowing, aware

scientia, -ae, f., = knowledge; theory  

scītus, -a,-um = knowing, judicious


to know, understand, have knowledge of

science; scientist; sc. or SS., abbrev. for scīre licet = (one may know, it is permitted to know), namely, to wit; cf. viz., abbrev. for vidēre licet or videlicet [adv.] = (one may see or it is allowed to see), plainly, manifestly, namely, to wit

scisco, -ĕre, scīvī, scītus

from scio such that past part. scītus, -a, -um = knowing, judicious (said of people)

transfer. as polit. t. t. = to approve by voting


to seek to find out, inquire, investigate

 sciscitation [Obs.] the act of inquiring; inquiry; demand (Ref., Webster, 1913)

ago, agĕre,  ēgī, actus

equally interchangeable with agitō, -āre (freq. of ago) = to put in constant motion, to drive about


to drive, go, do, perform or act; transf., to treat of a subject as in speech, thought, etc.; to incite to aciton

act; agitate (agitāre, freq. of agere)

cōgo, -ĕre, cŏēgi, cŏactus  

cum + ago (cum = with or together with; ago: see above)


to bring, drive or draw to one point; transf., to bring together, restrict, confine


cōgĭtō, -āre, -āvī, -ātus


 cum + ăgĭto = with + to put in constant motion


to turn over in the mind, think, reflect or consider


cōgnōsco, -ĕre, -nōvī, -ĭtus

cum + nosco (gnosco, old form ) = with + to inquire


to become acquainted with, get to know or learn [perfect tenses = to know]


cognĭtus, -a, -um

from cōgnōsco, cōgnoscĕre


known, proved


pendo,- ĕre, pĕpendi, pensus

transit., to pay since money was originally paid by weight


transit., to cause to hang down; to weigh; transf., to consider, judge, think



penso, -āre, -āvī, -ātus

freq. of pendĕre


to weigh out carefully; transf. to estimate, ponder or consider


săpĭo,săpĕre, săpīvi or săpĭi

lit. physically = to taste, be capable of tasting; sometimes to smell


transf. mentally, to discern, be sensible, be wise, think


putō, -āre, -āvī, -ātus

lit. to cleanse, clear


to hold a well-considered opinion, think a particular thought, believe or suppose




inter + lego = among or between + to collect, choose, gather, read;

intelligens,-entis  = intelligent, well acquainted with anything, understanding  



to distinguish, discriminate, perceive, understand, grasp, become aware of



intellectus, -ūs, m.

partic., intellegō,-ĕre, -lēxī,-lēctus  


understanding, comprehension; perceiving


expĕrĭor,-pĕrīrī,expertus sum

ex + pĕritus = out of + tested

pĕritus,-a,-um, adj. = experienced, practiced, acquainted, tested

experiens, -entis pres. partic., enterprising, venturesome 

verb (dep.)


to try, test, prove, put to the test




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In conclusion, anyone who is fascinated by science and considers studying it in depth in order to accomplish a degree in science might be constrained by such serious study due to the nature of the language of science.  The language of science, taken from many Latin and Greek words, can be foreign-sounding, cumbersome and threatening to a newcomer.   In this article of Science for the Knowing it has been my aim to focus not upon the sheer size of the vocabulary of the sciences by defining the multitudinous affixes which fit together to make up a working vocabulary for the great body of knowledge in the various sciences; rather, the nature of thinking and knowing has been examined herein for any potential student in academia and/or for any potential self-educated thinker and doer.  Further, a single illustration of the use of etymologically derived truth to be found in the process of thinking and knowing, a process essential to understanding and practicing science, has been vetted; and this analysis may help qualify why it is that Latin and Greek (Latin is derived from Greek) are used to define scientific terms.  As was demonstrated, the way we think and learn is of course intimately connected to scientific reasoning, and it is connected to scientific method itself by a larger projection of how the intellect works.  Thus, a single and uniquely practical case has been made for the value of language in the way it can impart meaning if understood from the etymology onwards.  This may soften the rigor of the scientific discipline for some since it brings home the language of Latin in a fundamentally useful context: how to think and reason scientifically.  Moreover, respect for the greater understanding of the vocabulary of the sciences may be enhanced from the given brief review of how science and scientific enlightenment came about historically.  Those who study the history of science from the sources may be reading and translating from Greek, Latin or Arabic in order to render an account of how a great scientist thought on a leading question of his time, thought that brought mankind to this current era of epistemology and information.  

Science of the Self : The Beacon of Mankind             Back to Top

It is instructive to remember that our scientific method is certainly validated and fruitful towards the culling of knowledge, while at the same time, the use of scientific research has been made possible and popular; and this popularity is partly due to the freedom we enjoy in this nation, and the philosophy of democratic living and governing.  The higher purpose to which we have as a dynamic culture of enlightened scientists dedicated ourselves, and who also lead and enlighten the people unto the knowledge uncovered through science and its application for the common good, is partly what has fed the growth of science in its many branches and prospects for the assurance of continued growth.  There is a current threat abroad which has caused ethicists to be called to the fore of the direction we might choose as an evolving, scientifically effective culture.  For we are a nation free to mold lives from a substantial premise of knowing what is good for the human being and our environment, and that through the vision of changes in various sectors of living which have been determined through scientific discovery.  Where the democratic forums of ancient Greece and Rome concerned themselves with largely agrarian economies and the sheer rudiments of living and governing, and perhaps conquering by dint of cause, the contemporaneous democratic states, or the free world together, must now open its forums to such questions as nuclear threat and proliferation, the ethical questions arising from possibly cloning humans, genetic engineering of humans and nanotechnology.  Much as a young man or woman would consult his or her elder from a previous generation on matters of vital and challenging import, so does modern man gain direction in studying the messages of truth from our historical roots.  Particularly because our technologically-ridden culture is considered to be so advanced and sophisticated  might we ask after the wisdom of the ancients in times of great and pressing uncertainty; truth does not change, though it may be subluxated momentarily.  Never before has mankind been at such a juncture as this, wherein we have the power on the one hand of an atomic bomb to destroy widely in a militaristic or terrorist might of unprecedented proportion, and on the other hand, to consider the possibility of pursuing nanotechnology as a visionary alternative in the practicum itself of living, creating needed food, clothing and other necessities from a standpoint of molecular building.  The sanctity of an individual is now under fire, as that individual's clone might be called forth as a substitute for freedom in the name and spirit of immortality.  The place of the family is now also labile to a categorical re-definition of sanctity as to genetic flow, since life's giving attributes as expressed in the uniqueness of the human born to a set of given parents  might be altered through engineering, invoking a decision-making process for a price.  To be able to write out the desired characteristics of a child of the future is a kind of power which can conceivably cause dire social unrest, upsetting the sense of equality of all citizens born, and  which equality was hard-won in our history as we asserted our desire for freedom of self-determination through wars together.  If clones can be built instead of people being born to free and loving parents, imagine the destructive power made thus available to any despotic ruler; for such beings might have no sense of loss in the depth of their enslavement, since no real, viable genetic line had through humanity's cloister ever fostered them.  Such clones would be widely hated and feared by  natural human beings, those reared in the traditional context of family.  Parents are a basis of power in the socio-political fiber of a society, and proper parenting is what makes a given people strong.  To attempt to counter that natural formation of a society through the family unit with such artificial people as clones, amounts to a subtle form of incitement to civic injustice and therefore, civic unrest, if not a form of deep-seated terrorism in its eventual outcome.

From the well-spring of love do a people grow and produce, giving contributions to the preservation of their fellow citizens and culture which are greatest when such contributions arise from a holistic sense of balance and compassion working in a given field born of knowledge.  In such cultures wisdom can be nurtured and held in great value, and that wisdom lives in people; wisdom is passed on from person to person, and in some traditional cases, from generation to generation in the family line.  There is no substitute for the wisdom which resides in a human being, even if it is rare, for it is powerful enough to influence, guide and rule even though it is rare.  If we as a scientifically-oriented culture remand the social context of our family unit to the questions of ethics which are placed upon the legislative table of our governing bodies, then we are experiencing the quest for control over the destinies of born citizens of the future, abstract people.  Such people are not yet present and accounted for, they cannot vote, they are not yet born.  Our value should be for the wisdom of the living people, for wisdom is the equivalent of the know-how of knowledge.  Instead, there are scientific sensationalists who hunger for the power and name of creating clones of people.  This is an example of how the value for knowledge must be kept strict and true to the best interests of all, which best interest indeed is being dramatically imposed upon by this question of cloning, a dire question.  The purpose of this essay, What Is Science, is not to delve into an attempt to resolve the many particulars of the ethics of such topics as have been named here; rather, the purpose here is to summarize all such sensationalist prospects for science going awry from its proper place to study the nature of things. We should hope to contribute humbly and also remarkably still to the preservation of the good of all, and also, to the good of all of mankind at times and in certain instances.  Such a cursory level review herein of any sensationalist prospectus of modern science will allow in the abstract an unfolding of the place of the true individual to remain in charge of the culture from the unit level of the sanctified individual. Our democratic philosophy holds the individual as sacred, and upon that creed is our republic built by constitutional writ.  Such sanctity of the individual  should never be socio-politically assaulted with artificially and mass-produced people such as clones, nor instructed as to what kind of children must be born in the face of the possibility of genetic comptrollers, for instance.


1. Algamest, Book 1. Ptolemy. A.D. 150; "With respect to the general portion of the treatise the following preliminary assumptions are to be made: (1) that the heaven is spherical in form and rotates as a sphere; (2) that the earth, too, viewed as a complete whole, is spherical in form; (3) that it is situated in the middle of the whole heaven, like a centre; (4) that by reason of its size and its distance from the sphere of fixed stars the earth bears to this sphere the relation of a point; (5) that the earth does not participate in any locomotion."  Back to text

2. See-Kiong Ng*, Zhuo Zhang, Soon-Heng Tan and Kui Lin (2003) InterDom: a database of putative interacting protein domains for validating predicted protein interactions and complexes. Nucleic Acids Research, 2003, Vol. 31, No. 1 251-254.

3. Charlton T. Lewis, Charles Short, A Latin Dictionary.   

4. Online Etymology Dictionary.

5. Cassell's New Latin Dictionary.


      St. Paul's Chapel Columbia University               

              Picture by M. Stark   2009  

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