Though I have often compared Sun Tzu's Art of War
to Euclid's Geometry
, the comparison has always been limited to a formulaic approach, building from simply propositions to the more complex. However, there are limitations to this comparison. In this article about a book by William C. Wimsatt discussing philosophy and science
, he following quote describes two approaches to science:
Near the start of the book, Wimsatt brings up Feynman's distinction between the Euclidean and Babylonian methodological approaches. The first requires that we start from a minimal set of axioms and deduce the rest of the theorems using elegant arguments. The second has a much less ordered approach, with the various theorems being richly interconnected in ways that do not favor any of them other than that some are more richly connected to others. Just like Feynman, it is this second approach that Wimsatt favors.
Given this distinction, Sun Tzu uses a much more "Babylonian" approach. What makes his system so interesting (and deep) are the many connectiions within the system. These connections are less linear than networked and, in many cases, circular. While the Euclidean approach was deterministic, the Sun Tzu approach is stochastic, where results are based on merely increasing the probabilities for success.