In answering Teach's question "Learning Abstract Math from First Principles?", I wrote

I find that anyone who says they "learned it from first principles" is usually putting on airs. It's an odd intellectual purity norm that I think is unfortunately very common among the mathematically- and philosophically-minded.

This does match my personal experience, but I also have some mild OCD tendencies that tie in with this stuff, and so it may just be me. What do other LWers think?

Without examples of someone who did it, I'm guessing Learning from first principles is a myth.

The treatment of this subject in Novum Organum might be illuminating.

From The Baconian Method:

There are small things someone might notice or come up with on their own*. Learning, the

firsttime around, seems like it's usually not done that way.*Like how to take a sequence of numbers (1, 4, 9), and come up with a polynomial equation that fits (f=x^2). Working out that there's a faster/algebra way to add consecutive numbers together is fairly straightforward (and probably anything

elseGauss did is more impressive).Maybe Euclid did? There's also some relevant philosophy of science from Einstein (a la plato.stanford.edu):