Sunday, 25 December 2011

Over One's Head

In "How To Read A Book" by Mortimer J. Adler & Charles Van Doren, they recommended that it is advisable for one to read well, rather than widely as quality is more important than merely quantity. Choose books that are well over one's head, in order to gain the most from reading, to not just learn how to read better, but to also stimulate the mind, to gain connection between ideas and to make sense of them.

"Walden", by Thoreau is by far the book that I treasure the most, which I discovered from watching and reading "Into The Wild". When I first read it, the language was absolutely beyond me, and I read almost like a parrot speak, with little to no understanding at all. Persistently I reread Walden a few more times over the past few years, and each time there is always something new that I have not quite realized before.

Reading and writing are just like any other skills, they require sheer persistence and practice. Books are like challenges in life, harder ones grow our minds, challenge our beliefs, and force us to think deeply about facts and fantasy of life. Why then, should we not approach them the similar way?

Three quotes from Montaigne's Essays at the bottom of this post, emphasize how important it is for philosophers, to first and foremost practice what they read and write. I see reading as a way to gain new knowledge, and writing to reformulate, digest and understand the ideas better. These two actions give rise to what the brain thinks, and indirectly lead to how the limbs were to act.

"God forbid, says one in Plato, that to philosophise were only to read great many books, and to learn the arts"
"The lad will not so much get his lesson by heart as he will practice it: he will repeat in his actions. We shall discover if there be prudence in his exercises, if there be sincerity and justice in his deportment, if there be grace and judgment in his speaking; if there be constancy in his sickness; if there be modesty in his mirth, temperance in his pleasures, order in his domestic economy, indifference in palate, whether what he eats or drinks be flesh or fish, wine or water:"
["Who considers his own discipline, not as vain ostentation of science, but as a law and rule of life; and who obeys his own decrees, and the laws he has prescribed for himself.""- Cicero, Tusc. Quaes., ii. 4. ]

The Essays Of Montaigne, Chapter XXV

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