BOOKS ARE SIGNPOSTS ON THE ROAD OF LIFE
“I cannot live without books”
– Thomas Jefferson
First, I’d like to thank Dr. Barnett and Dan of tdaxp for the kind remarks and links the past few days. Both men have often provoked me to new thoughts or reconsidered views and it is nice to know that I can return the favor on occasion.
Tom had a post Sunday entitled ” Why the grand strategist/visionary needs the discipline of books” that echoed something I’ve long believed. Something Lexington Green, in his enviably book-lined home, probably would agree with,
a) First, there’s really no substitute for a good “hard” book.
b) Fiction becomes a guilty pleasure.
Perhaps, the physicists and mathematicians among us ( Von, Shane, Wiggins) will put a word in for the elegance of the mathematical equation, but for me, the supremacy of the book reigns without a rival. As I reflect on the evolution of my thinking as a teen and an adult, inevitably there are many books and a handful of people who leap to mind. Many, many, books and very, very, few people.
As much as I love history, the best reading I have done, in terms of determined, sustained, thought, involved philosophy and economics – Aristotle, Plato, Marx, Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill, Keynes, Galbraith, Von Mises, Von Hayek, Nietzsche, Marcus Aurelius, Ayn Rand, Milton Friedman, Machiaveli, Kuhn -because it trained my mind to accept the discipline of formal logic. Logic is invaluable for a rational mind but wisdom is discerning logic’s limitations of functioning within paradigms and that the paradigms themselves are tools for the mind to understand a part of reality; and not one of these paradigms is sufficient to encompass the whole. You have to synthesize, learn, adapt – there is no point at which you ” rest” or become complacent with your expertise.
The joy is in the journey and not in the destination.
July 30th, 2007 at 11:44 am
No elegance in equations – just oversimplification of the complex world in which we live. I never told you that I was almost an English major (and had a Prof. in my freshman year who implored me to switch).
July 30th, 2007 at 2:43 pm
Humans are pretty terrible logical reasoners, so relying on logic doesn’t do much. Expertise comes from analogical reasoning, which allows faster processing, more reliable rejection of bad options, and effortless cognition in general.
July 30th, 2007 at 3:34 pm
I approached my study of mathematics in much the same way you looked to logic. Sort of the ultimate boot camp for rigorous, abstract and critical thought.
July 30th, 2007 at 7:27 pm
it was the semester of analytical philosophy that rewired my brain, especially reading Frege and Kripke, and writing the paper.
July 30th, 2007 at 11:16 pm
There is no frigate like a book
To take us lands away,
Nor any coursers like a page
Of prancing poetry.
This traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of toll;
How frugal is the chariot
That bears a human soul!
July 31st, 2007 at 3:51 am
Gentlemen, in order….
The only professors imploring me to switch departments were my own ;o)
As you know, I’m a believer in the power of analogies and metaphors as well as automaticity. Logic remains a useful analytical tool for falsifying bad reasoning and refining the coherence of our own.
I’m also not sure that logic does not become “internalized” to some degree with practice and we begin picking up on logical errors in complex arguments intuitively before we make the effort for a methodical analysis.
Boot camp was a good descriptor. Anybody who has plumbed through Marx’s theory of surplus value or Immanuel Kant knows what I am talking about.
Like you for example -LOL!
“Perhaps no person can be a poet, or can even enjoy poetry, without a certain unsoundness of mind.”
August 1st, 2007 at 3:58 am
My Dad is a mathematician and physicist by training. He has a ton of books on his subjects, many of which he rescued from a dumpster when a college library purged out a bunch of “old books” that were out of print classics in math and physics and other stuff. So, the desire to surround yourself with the classics in your chosen field can get to the quantitative guys, too.
I write this from my book-lined office. I wish I had more time to read them!
I have found that work and family demands are pushing me toward somewhat “easier” history books in recent years. I hope when my kids have grown up if I am still alive to get some of my intellectual mojo back … .