Discovery versus Invention

Sloppy definitions lead to sloppy thought processes, a dilemma unrecognized by many people. Clarity in thinking will only happen is the concepts we use are firmly grounded by its antecedent concepts right down to its root in the concrete, real world. It is only then that we can reap the fruit of understand, the pleasure of forming an exact description of what we mean, of clearly comprehending an idea that we hold. For the human mind holds only ideas and they are held in the form of clear concepts, though I’m not going to try to delve into that thought here.

Rather, let’s dissect both discovery and invention as to their true meaning.

The dictionary gives us, … to gain sight or knowledge of (something previously unseen or unknown). That said, just how many things we call inventions are really discoveries? Tomas Edison implied it when he said, “Results? Why, man, I have gotten lots of results! If I find 10,000 ways something won’t work, I haven’t failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is often a step forward…..”

For invention the dictionary give multiple and somewhat conflicting meanings, 1. To originate as a product of one’s own device or connivance. 2. To produce or create with the imagination. 3. To make up or fabricate.

The essential difference that I see is that to discover means to find something in the real world. Invention pertains to what was not in the real world before.

So with that in mind, the philosophy of Objectivism can be considered a discovery rather than an invention as, if the original principles are adhered to, Objectivism concern thinking about the real.

The relationship between these two concepts is that invention is a subset of discovery. With the combination of molecules in a manner never previously done, we have a new, unique machine. It remains a fact of nature, that combination, put together by another, will always give the same result.

Combine the same ingredients in the same order and subject the mix to the same forces and nature will ensure that you will achieve the same result. Be it flour, water and eggs for a cake or iron oxide and coal for steel or multiple etched layers of silicon, separated by impurities for a computer micro chip, nature has ‘rules’ and accurately following them will yield predicable results.

Invention is an intellectual exercise. The idea for something is in one’s head and until it is concretized in the form of a real thing be it, a machine, a book, or whatever The idea non-the-less, is embedded in the product.


Before it is proven, a true invention as a falsehood or a fantasy, something outside of the possible or quite possibly at odds with reality. True inventions are really mythological constructions. Witches, ghosts and perpetual motion machines fall into that category with the internet finally giving substance to one invention, trolls.

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