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Archive for May 4th, 2011

This post follows on from some thoughts on polymathy that were being discussed on a forum I frequent.

One idea that was suggested was that in order to count a skill as part of a person’s polymathic portfolio, then the skill should be at least at a base level where the person would be able to make a living at it.

I had attempted to count how many professional or professional-level skills I have, but found that it was not terribly clear-cut in the absence of a definitive definition. I took the poster’s suggestion about being able to perform the skill to the level necessary to earn a living, but elaborated upon it to include the following:

  1. Positions held, whether paid or unpaid, where a legally-binding employment contract has been signed.
  2. Services which I have directly offered to a the public for financial payment or equivalent exchange.
  3. Official positions within a group to which I was formally elected by the membership, or had to be selected/approved by a panel further up the hierarchy.
  4. Performances (such as in the arts) which were judged and won major prizes.
  5. Other ad-hoc work where my expertise and results were specifically sought after.

For the further avoidance of confusion, I had to be clear what NOT to include. Hence the following things did not make it onto the list:

  1. Subjects where a course had been taken, but the information never translated into action or discernible products.  (So no, you’re not a polymath just because you took several subjects at school. You need something more tangible than A+ grades to demonstrate a base level of competence.)
  2. Subjects that had been studied outside of a formal school setting, but never translated into action or discernible products.
  3. Obviously, anything that got dropped before a minimal level of skill had been achieved.

This may need some further knocking into shape, but the purpose here was to get some kind of working outline set of criteria in progress.

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