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  1. #1
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    Default Does an Intellectual Life Endanger Peace of Mind?

    Does an Intellectual Life Endanger Peace of Mind?

    Few individuals discover and display a talent, a personal resonance that can truly excite public appreciation. Those who do display such a resonance are truly rewarded. However, I am not particularly interested in those few but I am interested in considering all the rest of us who have resonances (talents?) and especially all those that remain undiscovered by ourselves.

    I am of the opinion that we all have a number of personal resonances (talents?) that if discovered give great emphasis to our life’s satisfaction. Those individuals who discover and exploit such a personal resonance can find great self-satisfaction. If that particular resonance strikes a social resonance then the accompanying social display of appreciation can add to the personal satisfaction to the individual.

    I think a successful artist is a good example of what I speak. The singing artist who happens not only to discover a particular musical talent and, if that talent is in accord with a public musical taste, that individual would reap great personal and economic satisfaction. The actor or painter, or any of many possible talents that are appreciated by the public would serve as examples of what I mean by resonance.

    It seems that society and all its institutions are focused upon making everyone of us efficient producers and consumers. Nothing prepares us for self-discovery when such discovery is not supportive of a drive to produce and consume. I think that most social pressure from birth to death is directed at the drive to make us effective producers and consumers.

    I chose to use the word “resonance” rather than talent because I think our sense of the meaning of the word “talent” will distort the point I wish to make. “Talent” is such a ‘produce and consume’ word. In fact we have little vocabulary available when discussing what I mean.

    At mid-life when our career ambitions dim and our family are cared for is the time that is available to us to begin to de-emphasize the world of ‘production and consumption’ and begin exploring the world of the intellect directed as an end-in-itself’. Our intellects have been so totally directed as a means to an end that we will have some difficulty thinking of knowledge and understanding that is considered as an end-in-itself.

    Our first encounter with resonance, as the word is normally used, might have been when we first discovered on the playground swing that a little energy directed in synchronization with the swing’s resonant frequency would produce outstanding movement. What a marvelous discovery. We might make similar marvelous discoveries if we decide, against all that we have learned in the past, that the intellect can be used as an end-in-it-self.

    I also think that if a person reaches mid-life without having begun an intellectual life that person will be unlikely to begin such a life. It appears to me that if we do not start such an effort before mid-life we will never have an intellectual life. After our school daze are over it might be wise for a person to begin the cultivation of intellectual curiosity even though there may not be a lot of time available for that hobby.

    Get a life—get an intellectual life!

  2. #2
    & Badger, Ratty and Toad Mole's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by coberst View Post
    Get a life—get an intellectual life!
    An intellectual loves ideas and it is a life-long passion.

    But even intellectuals get jaded so they are constantly looking for new ideas. And when they discover a new idea it is as though it tickles a part of their brain.

    And a new idea not only tickles their brain, it refreshes and revitalizes all their old ideas. For all their old ideas must be seen in the light of the new idea.

    But things are not all sweetness and light in the intellectual world, for paradigms compete against paradigms. And usually we have to wait for the old guard to die before a new paradigm is adopted.

    But the intellectual life is about the discovery of new worlds - and we never know what we will discover.

  3. #3
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    Studying disinterested knowledge is like taking off a month every year to visit a strange new land. Curiosity is reinvigorated and new meaning is created.

    Disinterested knowledge is the energy bunny; studying disinterested knowledge creates more energy than it consumes. It generates the energy for exploration and for overcoming some of our inhibitions.

    Disinterested knowledge is an intrinsic value. Disinterested knowledge is not a means but an end. It is knowledge I seek because I desire to know it. I mean the term 'disinterested knowledge' as similar to 'pure research', as compared to 'applied research'. Pure research seeks to know truth unconnected to any specific application.

    Knowledge is like a jigsaw puzzle. We have created many puzzles in coping with reality and when we receive a new piece of knowledge that does not fit our present puzzles we forgetaboutit (Italian word for ‘forget about it’). However, if through disinterested knowledge we have created new puzzles within which the new knowledge might fit we might find a whole new meaning in life.

    After we leave school if we want to become a self-learner and to become knowledgeable of new domains we will follow this same procedure but with a significant difference. We will have no teacher to supply us with the pieces of the puzzle. Especially difficult will be gathering the appropriate side pieces so that we can frame our domain. After this we might very well have to imagine the image of the puzzle because we will not have a teacher to help us ‘see’ what the domain ‘looks like’.

    When we become a self-learner we will often find pieces of knowledge that do not fit our already constructed frames, when this happens we have two choices. We can throw away the new fragment of knowledge or we can start a journey of discovery in an effort to organize the construction of a new domain. The odd piece of knowledge is either trashed or we must begin a big effort to start construction on a new big puzzle.

    I think that knowledge is easily acquired when that knowledge fits easily within one’s accepted ideologies. If we have a ready place to put a new fragment of knowledge we can easily find a place to fit it in. When the knowledge does not fit within our already functioning ideas that fact will be discarded unless a great deal of effort is made to find a home for that fragment of knowledge.

    We are unable to move beyond our ideologies unless we exert great effort. No one can give us that type of knowledge; we must go out of our way to stalk it, wrestle it to the ground and then find other pieces that will complete a frame. That is why our schools do not try to take us beyond our narrow world because it is too costly in time and effort. Our schools prepare us to be good workers and strong consumers, anything beyond that we must capture on our own.

    No one can give us that kind of knowledge. It can only be presented as an awakening of consciousness and then we can, if we have the energy and curiosity go and capture the knowledge of something totally new and start a new puzzle.

    Creativity is the synthesis of the known into a model of the unknown. The value of the unknown is yet to be determined. Creativity requires a comfort with the unknown.

  4. #4
    Senior Member eagleseven's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by coberst View Post
    It seems that society and all its institutions are focused upon making everyone of us efficient producers and consumers. Nothing prepares us for self-discovery when such discovery is not supportive of a drive to produce and consume.
    I do not see this as a bad thing.

    Until just very recently, there was almost never enough produced to sustain consumers (the human population), and so mass premature death was common.

    Fortunately, thanks to the development of cheap non-slave labor (engines and generators powered by fossil fuels), there is now more than enough produced to sustain human life beyond our ancestor's wildest dreams. The only reasons people still go hungry are politics and internal strife.

    The more that is produced, the more non-producing artisans an economy can support. Eventually, due to the universal presence of robots and virtually unlimited power generation (fusion generators, for instance), we will all have the opportunity, and indeed be obliged, to become "resonant" artisans.

    This process will happen naturally, as our technology advances, though some who cannot adapt will feel the pain.

    Thus, I don't see any reason to push or socially engineer people to become "resonant," as economics will dictate and guide people to be artisans when it is optimal, nay, necessary to do so.

  5. #5
    The elder Holmes Mycroft's Avatar
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    I can't get behind your notion of knowledge as dissociated islands of inquiry. Reality is a gestalt; if a vein of study tells us nothing about reality -- it tells us nothing at all.
    Dost thou love Life? Then do not squander Time; for that's the Stuff Life is made of.

    -- Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard's Almanack, June 1746 --

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    I would say that an individual seeking to develop an intellectual life would after their school daze are over spend at least seven hours a week reading what I would call disinterested knowledge. After reaching mid-life that study time would increase to about 15 hours a week. After reaching 65 that time would increase to maybe 20 hours a week.

    I would call this effort self-actualizing self-learning.

    I am a retired engineer with a good bit of formal education and twenty five years of self-learning. I began the self-learning experience while in my mid-forties. I had no goal in mind; I was just following my intellectual curiosity in whatever direction it led me. This hobby, self-learning, has become very important to me. I have bounced around from one hobby to another but have always been enticed back by the excitement I have discovered in this learning process. Carl Sagan is quoted as having written; “Understanding is a kind of ecstasy.”

    I label myself as a September Scholar because I began the process at mid-life and because my quest is disinterested knowledge.

    Disinterested knowledge is an intrinsic value. Disinterested knowledge is not a means but an end. It is knowledge I seek because I desire to know it. I mean the term ‘disinterested knowledge’ as similar to ‘pure research’, as compared to ‘applied research’. Pure research seeks to know truth unconnected to any specific application.

    I think of the self-learner of disinterested knowledge as driven by curiosity and imagination to understand. The September Scholar seeks to ‘see’ and then to ‘grasp’ through intellection directed at understanding the self as well as the world. The knowledge and understanding that is sought by the September Scholar are determined only by personal motivations. It is noteworthy that disinterested knowledge is knowledge I am driven to acquire because it is of dominating interest to me. Because I have such an interest in this disinterested knowledge my adrenaline level rises in anticipation of my voyage of discovery.

    We often use the metaphors of ‘seeing’ for knowing and ‘grasping’ for understanding. I think these metaphors significantly illuminate the difference between these two forms of intellection. We see much but grasp little. It takes great force to impel us to go beyond seeing to the point of grasping. The force driving us is the strong personal involvement we have to the question that guides our quest. I think it is this inclusion of self-fulfillment, as associated with the question, that makes self-learning so important.

    The self-learner of disinterested knowledge is engaged in a single-minded search for understanding. The goal, grasping the ‘truth’, is generally of insignificant consequence in comparison to the single-minded search. Others must judge the value of the ‘truth’ discovered by the autodidactic. I suggest that truth, should it be of any universal value, will evolve in a biological fashion when a significant number of pursuers of disinterested knowledge engage in dialogue.

    At mid-life many citizens begin to analyze their life and often discover a need to reconstitute their purpose. Some of the advantageous of this self-actualizing self-learning experience is that it is virtually free, undeterred by age, not a zero sum game, surprising, exciting and makes each discovery a new eureka moment. The self-actualizing self-learning experience I am suggesting is similar to any other hobby one might undertake; interest will ebb and flow. In my case this was a hobby that I continually came back to after other hobbies lost appeal.

    I suggest for your consideration that if we “Get a life—Get an intellectual life” we very well might gain substantially in self-worth and, perhaps, community-worth.

    I have been trying to encourage adults, who in general consider education as a matter only for young people, to give this idea of self-learning a try. It seems to be human nature to do a turtle (close the mind) when encountering a new and unorthodox idea. Generally we seem to need for an idea to face us many times before we can consider it seriously. A common method for brushing aside this idea is to think ‘I’ve been there and done that’, i.e. ‘I have read and been a self-learner all my life’.

    I am not suggesting a stroll in the park on a Sunday afternoon. I am suggesting a ‘Lewis and Clark Expedition’. I am suggesting the intellectual equivalent of crossing the Mississippi and heading West across unexplored intellectual territory with the intellectual equivalent of the Pacific Ocean as a destination.

  7. #7
    Carerra Lu IZthe411's Avatar
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    This disinterested knowledge you speak about can definitely endanger your piece of mind. Just because it's available doesn't mean you necessarily have to take it in. Like someone mentioned- if it doesn't eventually support some reality- it's time wasted. And someone could go down a path that will intellectually stimulate them but at the same time put doubts in their mind where doubts shouldn't be. That's not a good feeling either.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by IZthe411 View Post
    This disinterested knowledge you speak about can definitely endanger your piece of mind. Just because it's available doesn't mean you necessarily have to take it in. Like someone mentioned- if it doesn't eventually support some reality- it's time wasted. And someone could go down a path that will intellectually stimulate them but at the same time put doubts in their mind where doubts shouldn't be. That's not a good feeling either.
    I can remember La Congrégation des Sœurs Missionnaires du Sacré-Cœur, (the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart (MSC)), an international order of Catholic Monks and Nuns, warning us of those who read themselves out of the Church.

    And to back this up the they had the Index Librorum Prohibitorum (List of Prohibited Books), now discontinued.

    But the tradition remained. And I remember as a twelve year old boy reading both Das Capital and Mein Kampf. The monks took an interest in what I was reading, but allowed me to keep Mein Kampf and confiscated Das Capital.

    This made sense from their point of view as they were still telling us lies about Franco's Fascist and Catholic Spain, namely that the democratic, Spanish Republicans nailed priests to the doors of their churches.

    This was simply right-wing Catholic propaganda and had nothing to do with the disinterested pursuit of truth.

    However curiosity, or the disinterested pursuit of truth, is the hallmark of science, just as doubt is the hallmark of science.

    However you are right, for the disinterested pursuit of truth does lead to cognitive dissonance. And cognitive dissonance is emotionally painful.

    So if you want to feel good, the disinterested pursuit of truth is out of the question.

    But feeling good is not the same as being good.
    Likes elodia liked this post

  9. #9
    A passer by yvonne's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by coberst View Post
    Creativity is the synthesis of the known into a model of the unknown. The value of the unknown is yet to be determined. Creativity requires a comfort with the unknown.
    or the unknown into a model of the known - test - fit, "drop", or shape the model of the known... explore.

    some people think like this actively (INTPs)... imo, it is not a waste of time, nor does it threaten peace of mind, if it's done with being in touch with reality. balancing and a positive attitude are important.

    we need different kinds of minds in the world...
    Enneagram 5w4.

  10. #10
    The Memes Justify the End EcK's Avatar
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    You confuse intellectual pursuit with cowardice.
    Not the same thing, at all.

    It's like the difference between people who say, play golf for the symbols and people who play golf for love of the activity itself.
    Expression of the post modern paradox : "For the love of god, religions are so full of shit"

    Theory is always superseded by Fact...
    ... In theory.

    “I’d hate to die twice. It’s so boring.”
    Richard Feynman's last recorded words

    "Great is the human who has not lost his childlike heart."
    Mencius (Meng-Tse), 4th century BCE

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