Sunday, December 17, 2017
"How To Think: A Survival Guide For A World At Odds"
Former Paradise resident John Wilson (@jwilson1812) was for twenty-one years the editor of the now-defunct literary journal "Books and Culture." He published many pieces by his friend Alan Jacobs (@ayjay), Distinguished Professor of Humanities in the Honors Program at Baylor University in Texas.
Jacobs makes significant use of social media and that got him thinking about thinking, especially in a connected world where we can craft our own ideological cocoon. While some writers seem pessimistic about our ability to overcome biases, Jacobs is more hopeful.
The problem is not so much about biases but about "an orientation of the will: we suffer from a settled determination to avoid thinking. Thinking troubles us; thinking tires us. Thinking can force us out of familiar, comforting habits. … Who needs thinking?"
Well, we all do. In "How To Think: A Survival Guide For A World At Odds" ($25 in hardcover from Currency; also for Amazon Kindle), Jacobs focuses not on the fallacies of argumentation but instead attempts to reach the reader at an emotional, self-reflective level.
We do not actually think for ourselves. "We think in active feeling response to the world, and in constant relation to others. Or we should." And we need to recognize how important those relationships are in our thinking and at times push ourselves to connect with the "other." ("People who like accusing others of Puritanism," he writes, "have a fairly serious investment … in knowing as little as possible about actual Puritans. They are invested, for the moment anyway, in not thinking.")
Some groups stifle thinking by insisting we conform. Instead, we should strive for "true membership in .. a fellowship of people who are not so much like-minded as like-hearted. … Learning how to feel as we should is enormously helpful for learning how to think as we should. … You have to be a certain kind of person to make this book work for you: the kind of person who, at least some of the time, cares more about working toward the truth than about one's current social position."
As we approach a new year, there is perhaps no better resolution.