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Below are some texts that can provide a perspective on the importance of the reading-thinking-writing nexus. Take a look, and share your views on what is your approach to intellectual pursuits, and what they mean for approaching the global challenges of our time.
For this American linguist and thinker, the role-models of educated persons is Wilhelm von Humboldt, German humanist, friend of GoetheandSchiller, and “founder of the modern higher education system.” Humboldt, Chomsky says, “argued, I think, very plausibly, that the core principle and requirement of a fulfilled human being is the ability to inquire and create constructively, independently, without external controls.” A true education, according to Chomsky, opens a door to human intellectual freedom and creative autonomy.
Why Study Philosophy? 'To Challenge Your Own Point of View'
In this interview for the Atlantic, Rebecca Newberger Goldstein discusses why it is important to study philosophy:
"...but I would say that it’s always a good thing to know, no matter what you go on to study—to be able to think critically. To challenge your own point of view. Also, you need to be a citizen in this world. You need to know your responsibilities. You’re going to have many moral choices every day of your life. And it enriches your inner life. You have lots of frameworks to apply to problems, and so many ways to interpret things. It makes life so much more interesting. It’s us at our most human. And it helps us increase our humanity. No matter what you do, that’s an asset."
American philosopher Daniel Dennet explains how to compose a successful critical commentary:
- You should attempt to re-express your target’s position so clearly, vividly, and fairly that your target says, “Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way.
- You should list any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement).
- You should mention anything you have learned from your target.
- Only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism.
"In 1985, Argentine publisher HyspamericaaskedBorges to create A Personal Library— which involved curating 100 great works of literature and writing introductions for each volume. Though he only got through 74 books before he died of liver cancer in 1986, Borges’s selections are fascinating and deeply idiosyncratic. He listed adventure tales by Robert Louis Stevenson and H.G. Wells alongside exotic holy books, 8th century Japanese poetry and the musing of Kierkegaard."
In the time of the discourses of "global disorder", the political thought of Hannah Arendt is probably the best source to look into for understanding of the current challenges in the world. From the condition of post-truth and rising populism in world politics, and its various manifestations, such as "gaslighting":
"The result of a consistent and total substitution of lies for factual truth is not that the lie will now be accepted as truth and truth be defamed as a lie, but that the sense by which we take our bearings in the real world—and the category of truth versus falsehood is among the mental means to this end—is being destroyed."
In this essay, Colin Koopman writes about French philosopher Michael Foucault and how his thinking helps us understand the logics and mechanisms of power in its various shapes in the world.
Read more in this Aeon article"In seeing through the imaginary singularity of power, Foucault was able to also envision it set against itself. He was able to hypothesise, and therefore to study, the possibility that power does not always assume just one form and that, in virtue of this, a given form of power can coexist alongside, or even come into conflict with, other forms of power. Such coexistences and conflicts, of course, are not mere speculative conundrums, but are the sort of stuff that one would need to empirically analyse in order to understand... Foucault showed how the sovereign power of Leviathan (think crowns, congresses and capital) has over the past 200 years come to confront two new forms of power: disciplinary power (which he also called anatomo-politics because of its detailed attention to training the human body) and bio-politics."
It is said that you are what you read. Some books can change our life or shift the ways we see the world, as well as affect the decision-makers and leaders in their public and political pursuits. James Wallace Harris loves writing about books, and in this article he discusses how some books could change the realities of the US society and politics.
Cover Image: Book tunnel, Prague
What are your views on education, books, philosophy, critical thinking, power, discourse and all that jazz? Let's discuss what we read in the comments' section below.