The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Monday, August 04, 2008

Philosophy and the art of categorization.

Not all is as it seems in the world of Fintan, pocket philosopher and splitter of hairs.

In June, when Fintan was still four, I had a brief encounter with his own particular brand of logic.

Fintan looked up at me with the air of someone about to make an important announcement. "I need a bicycle with two wheels, Daddy."

"You've got a bicycle with two wheels, Fintan.", I pointed out, most accurately, I thought.

"No Daddy, the tires are not wheels, because they are flat."

He had a point after all.

"They have to be turned into wheels by Atto.", he went on, finding an answer to the problem of his No-wheeled Bicycle.

Atto is the title for Fintan's grandfather on his mother's side. Atto is famous for his gift with his hands, able to coax any uncooperative mechanical object to behave itself. I wasn't put out that he thought of Atto before me in such a context: for it was a true observation that Atto was better at all things mechanical, than I have ever been. Then again, he was better at such things than almost anybody.

I found Fintan's categorizing amusing. It meant that, for him, a wheel was not a wheel, if it could not do its job. It may look like a wheel but, for Fintan, if it was not fully functional, then it was something else. It is not a bad way to look at the world and may, in fact, be more useful than a more conventional way of seeing the world. Most people would have looked at his "bicycle" and seen a bicycle. Fintan looked at it and saw a "No-wheeled machine" that could not function as a bicycle since it hadn't got any wheels yet. So, to him, it wasn't even a bicycle - hence his request for a bicycle with two wheels. Speaking to him, sometimes, is like speaking to a philosopher, because he draws distinctions which are subtle, but valid, when you examine the underlying logic.

I like the way he sees the world. He views it differently from the way I do - and from the way others do, too. I hope he grows up with his own world view intact. I hope that exposure to the way others think, doesn't cause his own thinking to be given up, for theirs. His is both funny and interesting.

His bicycle, by the way, is now a "two-wheeled" one, according to Fintan's philosophical definition of a wheel.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and seven months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, five years exactly, and Tiarnan, twenty-eight months, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, wunderkind, wonderkind, genio, гений ребенок prodigy, genie, μεγαλοφυία θαύμα παιδιών, bambino, kind.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 11:32 PM 


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