Rahil

Category Archives for: Philosophy of Literature

Book-shops and Learning

26 June 2016

[aka Re-visiting the Eslite Book-store]

Back to the place I began reading, for a day, before I leave Taipei, and leave reading again.

I now see why this book-store was so conducive before: the selection is amazing. A normal, rather large library in itself is of almost no organizational use. It’s good for the purpose of research, as it can provide written source sources, but that’s it. It doesn’t offer a general education in any way. It’s a mess of information, like the Internet, except more out-dated and disorganized (physical organization hits it’s limit compared to searchable digital organization). The book-store, though sufficiently large for any human, just provides a a few shelves for world history or Western philosophy. The selection top notch: top publishers, highly regarded, highly readable, organizations of knowledge: A Little History of the World, Sapiens, What is Cultural History?, Social Class in the 21st Century (Pelican) – that’s what I’ve got next to me at the moment.

This kind of organization, a well-selected library is quite a different experience from Wikipedia too. Wikipedia doesn’t organize information in the way that people can. People can organize the same information into infinite ways and mediums. For Wikipedia, though not restricted, the format is quite standard. If I look at the history of the world article, it’s likely chronologically and spatially ordered somewhat, leading to separate histories of each country. The small topics chosen by Harari in Sapiens to describe the history of the world through ideas like science and empire of the industrial-research-technology complex just doesn’t fit Wikipedia’s format. The mapping of knowledge, the gaining of wisdom, seems entirely dependent on the way information is organized. That is, after all, what artists do: manipulate information (via material [non-digital and digital]).

This better explains my first experience with books here. I found the Western Philosophy section and the readings must have organized my mind because the selection was so damn good. I [can only] imagine few people [in the world] that [may have] began reading with Bacon, Montaigne, Wittgenstein, Russell, in that order. Perhaps western philosophy initially lead me in the wrong directions; it being merely an intellectual history, but it was a start.

Now, I feel I can peruse the entire library, though I still choose to stick to culture (cultural theory and maybe cultural history) and those finer gems: highly readable, uniquely organized writings. But I don’t feel there’s much use. [Written] Organization is for the weak. Its detail will always be lossy and of low-quality. It’s best to stay skeptic: all written history is false and all philosophy is bullshit. Now, with only a map, go out and consume and alter the world!

Leave a comment | Categories: Applied Philosophy, Art, Communication, Epistemology, Experience, Humanities, Literature, Media, Philosophy, Philosophy of Education, Philosophy of Language, Philosophy of Literature, Uncategorized

My Workflow for Written Expression

03 June 2016

Continuing the thought from the self-note from the last post:

[self-note: this was published using markdown, and is a good for testing it. The original text is in a text file in Dropbox. Can either copy the HTML from the text file using an application (Writebox) or use the WordPress markdown plugin. It seems I may have been playing with the formatting of highlights and notes, using unordered lists (via markdown), which led to some cosmetic updates to the CSS. I don’t know how to write a non-html-list in markdown using “\n- text”. I really sure hope all this messing with digital bullshit will make expressing thoughts easier during more active times in life…

It might be helpful to write down the workflow, perhaps minimizing it.

Here is my current workflow:
1. experience
2. think
– non-verbal / skip to action, oral (in the mind or out loud)
3. decide to write
– written is a choice among infinite choices of actions
4. express via writing to nearest material
– paper, public computer, smartphone
– audio recording an alternative worth considering
if written on physical material:
– 4.5 transcribe to digital text file
5. publish to WordPress

Here is my current workflow with current technology:
if using phone:
write via a writing (likely markdown-supported) smartphone application (Writebox, Plaintext [2], Byword)
copy text or HTML to clipboard
paste into WordPress [web browser (because the WordPress application sucks)]
– possibility: can purchase an update for Byword to publish to WordPress
— this [Byword publishing feature] might be worth purchasing*
— is it worth looking at alternative writing smartphone applications for publishing feature?: iaWriter*, Elements: Design, nvALT and WriteRoom*, MarsEdit, Ulysses (and Daedelus Touch), Desk [PM], Nebulous Notes. No. Stick to the simply wonderful Byword*.

if not:
write directly via WordPress (if near / convenient; it never is convenient)
write to a text file using Writebox
– Writebox is multi-platform, including web browsers, making it simple to use from any personal computer. This is the closing thing to physical paper.

Leave a comment | Categories: Art, Humanities, Literature, Organization, Personal, Philosophy of Literature, Thoughts

Reading Political History

28 May 2016

[aka Criticism of the Experience of Reading Political Histories]

Thoughts after [listening to] 25 minutes of A History of Rome by Hadas Moses:

The format is wonderful: chronologically ordered narrative with huge quotes from ancient sources{, starting with Livy}. It reads like one huge story!

But, is it worth reading such text? It’s so unreal, granted, it does start with the more legendary ancient stuff. Can anything be learned? I highlighted and noted so few bits, especially when compared to, say, Georg Simmel, or any biography: In a biography I can try to see why a person takes the actions that they did; In philosophy, I can match many of my own ideas to the philosopher’s, picking up some words, mapping some ideas together, or with better reading actually learn something or provoke thoughts. But reading a narrative (political) history seems as dull to the mind as reading a narrative fictional book: It feels as if there is no social reality to to try to understand actions; There are no ideas to better understand the world and people’s minds. The society is simply too distant. Perhaps reading about Romans war is similar to reading about New Guinean tribes war. The difference in the experiences of reading and watching a documentary is phenomenal. My mind works during the experience of watching. Things click, neurons are linked.

I will continue, but I think, watching any sort of socially real film is a far better use of time.

Perhaps reading social history is a better experience.

Leave a comment | Categories: Applied Philosophy, Art, Communication, Experience, Humanities, Literature, Media, Philosophy, Philosophy of History, Philosophy of Literature

Lessons in Research of a Past Time

22 May 2016

[todo: working title: Lessons in Research of a Past Time via the written medium that is literature (written history?)]

[related writings: What is Worth Reading?, Notes on Translations of Ancient Literature, Lessons in Research of a Past Time, The Kinds of Literature and the Extraction of Ideas]

This writing was extracted from The Public Sphere during the Second Sophistic. It developed while fetching books about the Second Sophistic, which occurred between the years 54 and 230.

a few lessons in research of a past time via the written medium that is literature (written history?)

I only retrieved this many sources because I’ve trapped myself near a library. Otherwise, [1] almost no one should ever go about researching via literature. It’s an ancient way of doing things. Traveling across time through societies via literature results in far less information and than traveling across space through societies. Furthermore, it offers no real experience. I still stand by my maxim: a single walk through a city cannot be written. (Though it can be filmed…)

[2] Ignore all secondary sources if the primary source exists. In this case, directly reading Philostratus may have been the best thing to do (which fits well into my reading list of ancient biographies after Plutarch and Suetonius), and the most efficient way to spend time. I am the historian, my critical mind, if interested, is able to deconstruct communication better than most. But I certainly wouldn’t spend the time to actually attempt to write history: that is not my goal — that’s a passive’s goal.

[3] Only if the experience of reading the source text is too meaningless without more peripheral information, or, if the primary source is too lengthy or of bad quality, then one may turn toward a political (traditional, political event chronology) historian. They seem to gather the primary sources, think a little — not nearly as much as social (modern, cultural, all-sphere-encompassing) historian –, and poop out a more cohesive single piece of writing. Literature misses the everyday life of the past which requires trying to place one’s mind into the time, with all its cultural and material (environmental) realities, which is impossible even if one experienced that period of time (loss of information in the writing medium [todo: link relevant post]), but alas, ’tis the job of the modern historian. But even great historians are probably no fun to talk to.

[4] If one simply wants to talk about something in particular, that what a certain kind of social historians are for: a social(/cultural) topic historian. They’re modern, have a critical mind, and likely worth talking to. One can talk to these guys any time, on whatever subject one is interested in, but they don’t provide broad neither broad social history or political history, they just offer conversation about something specific, some topic they found interesting in the past. Want to talk about the perception of Indians by Romans? You need to find a social topic historian. They’re like the essayists of history. People can write about anything in the past, hundreds of pages worth, just as people can write about anything, as they do in essays. And that’s where Eshleman’s book came in.

It’s a book about the society of intellectuals in the Roman Empire. It’s not a book about the Second Sophistic, nor is it a political history of it, nor is it a social history of it. That’s the difference. One could read about the Second Sophistic from secondary sources or even primary sources, but if one’s goal was to simply talk about the society of intellectuals in the Roman Empire, then reading this [a social topic history] may be sufficient.

I imagine finding a book so specific is rare. I actually initially was interested in the social society of philosophers from Archaic to Classical Greece. How philosophers formed schools, what they did in everyday life, how they competed, etc. Then I stumbled upon this gem. Hurray for the Internet. Even the Internet, blog or journal or whatever, probably doesn’t have much about this. The discourse can only be found in this book. Crazy.

Blah, what a waste of time downloading the other books!

further reading

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historiography
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_history
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_history
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historiography#The_Cultural_turn
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historiography#Approaches

[todo: move to The Kinds of Literature?]

examples of social/cultural topic history writings

Eshleman, Kendra – The Social World of Intellectuals in the Roman Empire_ Sophists, Philosophers, and Christians (Cambridge, Greek Culture in the Roman World, 2012)
this book was the cause of this thought
this series of books is entirely composed of social topic histories; it serves as a good example of what social topics people at Oxford chose as recent as 2015
— “Greek Culture in the Roman World offers a rich field for study. Extraordinary insights can be gained into processes of multicultural contact and exchange, political and ideological conflict, and the creativity of a polyglot, changing empire. This was also a period when many fundamental elements of Western society were being set in place: from the rise of Christianity, to an influential system of education, to long-lived artistic canons. This series is the first to focus on the response of Greek culture to its Roman imperial setting as a significant phenomenon in its own right. To that end, it will publish original and innovative research in the art, archaeology, epigraphy, history, philosophy, religion and literature of the Empire, with an emphasis on Greek material.
— König, Jason – Saints and Symposiasts: The Literature of Food and the Symposium in Greco-Roman and Early Christian Culture
Hamilton, Edith – The Greek Way (1930[!])
also a study of intellectual life, the perfect companion to Eshleman’s book
Bailey, Douglass W. – Balkan Prehistory: Exclusion, Incorporation and Identity (Routledge)
Croix, G. E. M. de Ste. – The Class Struggle in the Ancient Greek World: From the Archaic Age to the Arab Conquests (Cornell)
– books like these seem awesome, though this one is supposedly Marxist (economic) heavy
– Metzler, Irena – A Social History of Disability in the Middle Ages: Cultural Considerations of Physical Impairment (Routledge Studies in Cultural History)
— one can see the Fouccault attempts of finding the origins of ilk contemporary cultural norms
— Araujo, Ana Lucia – Politics of Memory: Making Slavery Visible in the Public Space
– Pettigrew, Jane – A Social History of Tea
attempts of tracing a particular custom to its origin

examples of social/cultural history writings

social/cultural history

– these usually have the words “social”, “cultural”, “new” in the title. Also could have “everyday”, “daily”.
a Goodreads popular cultural history books
a Goodreads popular social history books
— see any difference? It’s a mess of a boundary.
a Goodreads list titled “Social History Books All About People Society”
— this list is more about societies rather than customs

ancient

can’t be written from experience, thus, a difficult task, requiring someone simultaneously highly tuned with contemporary life and ancient life, such as Edith Hamilton or Eileen Power, both of whom seem to be quite special women
– usually covers a single society or nation-state (i.e. empire) over a period of time
– Trigger, Bruce – Ancient Egypt: A Social History (Cambridge)
Eaton, Richard – The New Cambridge History of India, Volume 1, Part 8: A Social History of the Deccan, 1300-1761: Eight Indian Lives (Cambridge)
— social history through the lives of 8 people [within the society]! There are infinite methods to write a social history.
– Mommsen, Theodor – A History of Rome (1856)
— the only Nobel Prize awarded to a historian, includes both political and history. Ohhhh the humans futile attempts to organize the world!
– popular “time-traveling” books: from a goodreads review by Pete daPixie: “There appears to be a plethora of historical time travelling books appearing, such as Matyszak’s ‘Ancient Rome on 5 denarii a day’ and ‘Ancient Athens on Five Drachmas a Day’. Mortimer’s ‘The Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England: a Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century’ was published in 2008”
Pelican [Books, main series], a now defunct (and re-launched!) educational imprint of Penguin, seems to had many social histories, not just written by insular academics, but by more caring, artist-teacher-types, written for the public, which probably made them so good.
— you know, I’m guessing these little books might be the best way to throw one’s imagination into a past society, perhaps better than larger books because one can’t carry that crap around or use an iPhone to listen to it, because it has a bunch of pictures, and it’s simply to large to carry.
Burckhardt, Jacob – Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy (Penguin, originally Phaidon, 1860[!])
Power, Eileen – The Medieval People (Penguin, Pelican, 1924)
Barrow, R.H. – The Romans (Penguin, Pelican, 1949)
Kitto, H.D.F. – The Greeks (Penguin, Pelican, 1951)
— she also wrote a social topic history: Medieval Women in 1975 (problems with publishing it?)
also some others such as Etruscans, Hittites, The Chinese People, Iran, The Irish, The Scots, etc. seem to be difficult to get now
I made a Goodreads list of these books.
— someone published the catalog of the Pelican main series, 500 books total
— Note: This is different from their Pelican History series, which I’m guessing is more chronological, if not, political.

some school’s architecture program “handbook” contains these Pelican books and more interesting things for the history in architecture course, including a now rare [illustrated?] Living Through History series by Batsford [Books]
— from the wonderful The Classical Weekly Vol. 49, No. 10 (Feb. 27, 1956), pp. 135-143, one finds the “Inexpensive Books for Teaching the Classics: Seventh Annual List”, and particularly on page 139, one sees Double Day [publisher] Anchor [imprint] Books (now merged with Knopf): 8 Selected Titles of the Classical Weekly, and in there one finds (in addition to the new self-correcting film series):
Socrates by A. E. Taylor (1933)
—- might as well snag Epicurus too, or more
— Five Stages of Greek Religion by Gilbert Murray (1914)
The Age of Constantine the Great by Jacob Burckhardt, Moses Hadas (1853[!!])
The Ancient City: A Study on the Religion, Laws and Institutions of Greece and Rome (1877)
—- this is indeed a classic for urban planners
A History of Rome from Its Origins to 529 A.D by Moses Hadas (1956)
— the other three are translations of literature (one by Kitto)
— ohhhh, the goodness of a liberal, self-education in the 1950s
Robinson, Cyril – Everyday Life in Ancient Greece (Oxford, 1933)
The Celtic World (Routledge Worlds)
if one is able to balance contemporary life and these big ‘ol books, then this might just be the best [social history] series [of ancient civilizations]

modern

written from experience (hopefully!)
Demick, Barbara – Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea

Leave a comment | Categories: Applied Philosophy, Art, History, Humanities, Literature, Notes, Philosophy, Philosophy of History, Philosophy of Literature

The Kinds of Literature and the Extraction of Ideas

22 May 2016

[related writings: What is Worth Reading?, Notes on Translations of Ancient Literature, Lessons in Research of a Past Time, The Kinds of Literature and the Extraction of Ideas]

Why Read? To map words with ideas? To get ideas? To talk about a certain subject? To help me express myself? To argue against how reality works? To compare the theories of reality of others with mine? To understand others’ minds? To gain factual historical knowledge?

Whatever the reason, one enters the world of written word. It’s worse than the world of gossip, because it’s far less fun. But surely there must be an efficient way to get the texts one wants? Find ideas about the things one is interested in?

To begin, one must know the kinds of literature.

kinds of literature

(from basic to large)
dictionary

encyclopedia
– including Wikipedia!

dictionary/encyclopedia of selected words/concepts/ideas
– ex. Dino, Franco Felluga – Critical Theory_ The Key Concepts (Routledge, Key Guides, 2015)

a dictionary/encyclopedia of a history of selected words/concepts/ideas
to communicate in a human language, it sometimes helps to use the terms other people created, for mutual understanding. Though, of course, one can just make up words for ideas one desires to express. That’s way more creative.
– also quite cool to see how words have changed meaning over time
– ex. Williams, Raymond – Keywords_ A Vocabulary of Culture and Society (1985)
– ex. Nealon, Jeffrey T._ Giroux, Susan Searlsb – The theory toolbox _ critical concepts for the humanities, arts, and social sciences (Rowman & Littlefield, 2012)

selected text/reading
– a piece of writing/work
Penguin Great Ideas series

writing/work/”book”
– usually has an annoying intro and preface and quote and thanks, can almost always skip them

selected works
– selected (multiple pieces of complete) writings of a single category, usually a single author
– ex. Benjamin, Walter, Peter Demetz – Reflections_ Essays, Aphorisms, Autobiographical Writings (Schocken, 1986)

reader
– selected writings of a single category, the category could be a single author, literature from a period of time, or a category of knowledge. Of them, [selected writings of] a category (could be vague) of knowledge is the most important kind [of reader].
– ideally a reader contains all of the source texts needed for a class. Otherwise, it’s usually up to the teacher to grab a pieces of text from all sorts of places and give out copies. This may be the most efficient way to read, as one doesn’t waste time to fetch and gather several source materials, neither physically nor digitally
– ex. Leach, Neil – Rethinking Architecture_ A Reader in Cultural Theory (Routledge, 1997)
– (the Viking Readers, such as The Portable Beat Reader, mentioned under anthology fit here too)

anthology/sourcebook/source book

– selected writings of a single period of time?
this may be the most efficient way to understand a period of time, or the social development of minds of the time
there seems to be two kinds: fiction (poetry, [fiction] prose, drama, etc.) and non-fiction (history, biography, philosophy, essay, jouurnal/diary, travelogue, speeches, dialogues, letters, communicative action: verbal utterances that matter). Of the two, the second kind is superior, because it tells of real communicative actions. To simply understand: People in the past may have read Homer, Epic of Gilgamesh, and Journey to the West, but that clearly doesn’t represent the social reality of the world, and often, doesn’t affect the social reality at all, just as media (entertainment) in contemporary society doesn’t. The main use of literature to a historian is for the information, and it’s up to the historian to decipher what is fictional and what isn’t. Even then, it is better to read a history or biography [than fiction] written in or around that time to obtain more information [about that time].

fiction

– ex. the Viking Portable Library series, the ones that have “Reader” in the title
— I have a bunch of these at home. Although an experience to read, it was probably a one-time experience: to see how language change over time, how minds change over time, what people write, what people were thinking about, history of literature aesthetic, etc. Although the format of the books are wonderfully basic, they are best left in in random locations in one’s dwelling. I don’t desire to read any fiction, just as I didn’t desire to when I first began to read.
– ex. Mair, Victor H. – The Columbia History of Chinese Literature (Columbia, 2001)
– ex. many editors – The Norton Anthology of World Literature (W. W. Norton & Company, 2012)
this seems like quite the feat, check out the contents
— alternative: Longman Anthology of World Literature
a Goodreads list of anthologies
— see the eurocentrism yet?

sourcebook

– the terms sourcebook and the less commonly “source book” seem to be used for anthologies that mainly have translated writings (fiction and non-fiction), usually of ancient writings (as in probably written on stone or bamboo). “Source book” seems to be more commonly used for odd things like mysticism, table-top role-playing games, and science writings (because they are rarely read, except for a history of science).
– ex. Radhakrishnan, Sarvepalli, Charles A. Moore – A Source Book in Indian Philosophy (Princeton, 1957)
– ex. Chan, Wing-Tsit (Chen, Rongjie) – A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy (Princeton, 1969)
ex. Internet History Sourcebooks Project
— this is a wildly ambitious project covering ancient, medieval, modern, and even, though comprehensively covered, African, East Asian, Global, Indian, Islamic, Jewish, and some special things, like history of science, women’s history, LGBT history

non-fiction

– As I mention in Lessons in Research of a Past Time, there are many kinds of history books, mainly, political (traditional), social (modern), and specific social (modern). Similarly, there are many kinds of sourcebooks, thankfully, they can be divided into the same categories: social (modern) and social topic (modern, specific). A source political history book is the political (traditional) sourcebook.

social sourcebook

these kinds of anthologies of sources of social/everday/daily life may be one of the best ways to understand the society/culture of the past time. This is documentation of reality. This is the equivalent of watching a documentary film. There’s real knowledge to be had here. This is more important than philosophy. This was reality.
– ex. Bagnall, Roger S., Peter Derow – The Hellenistic Period_ Historical Sources in Translation (Blackwell, Sourcebooks in Ancient History, 2003)
— “This book presents in translation 175 of the most revealing documents that have survived on stone and papyrus from the Hellenistic period.”, ex. chapter: Social Relations and Private Life
– ex. Parkin, Tim and Arthur Pomeroy – Roman Social History_ A Sourcebook (Routledge, Sourcebooks for the Ancient World, 2007)
— “this excellent resource covers original translations from sources such as inscriptions, papyri, and legal texts. Topics include: social inequality and class; games, gladiators and attitudes to violence; the role of slaves in Roman society; economy and taxation; the Roman legal system; the Roman family and gender roles.”
– ex. Shelton, Jo-Ann – As the Romans Did: A Sourcebook in Roman Social History (Oxford, 1998)
– ex. Dillon, Matthew, Lynda Garland – Ancient Greece: Social and Historical Documents… (Routledge, Sourcebooks for the Ancient World, 2010)
– ex. Dillon, Matthew, Lynda Garland – Ancient Rome (Routledge, Sourcebooks for the Ancient World, 2010)
— an observed trend: it seems critical theory publishers such as Routledge and Blackwell are on to publishing social sourcebooks, social topic sourcebooks, social histories, and social topic histories

social topic sourcebook

– Again, just as there are histories of social topics, there are sourcebooks of social topics. But as one can see, as the information becomes more and more organized, it becomes more and more insular, showing the ugly insular choice of elite schools’ publications of solely Western civilizations. As one proceeds toward the particular in the order of the organization of sources (primary, sourcebook, social topic sourcebook), the world becomes smaller. There are many primary sources that haven’t been translated. There are even more primary sources that haven’t been compiled into a handy sourcebook. And there can be an infinite amount of social topic sourcebooks.
– ex. Yardley J.C., Iain Mcdougall, Mark Joyal – Greek and Roman Education: A Sourcebook (Routledge Sourcebooks for the Ancient World)
– ex. Wiedemann, Thomas – Greek and Roman Slavery (Routledge, Sourcebooks for the Ancient World, 1980)
– ex. Asmonti, Luca – Athenian Democracy: A Sourcebook (Bloomsbury Sources in Ancient History)
– let’s just use one social topic: women’s history:
by using one example, women in history, one can already the amount that has been and can be written, and one can see what people choosing to focus on / be socially aware about. People still read eurocentric sources, then write social histories about them! What a crazy insular world the world of physically printed material is. And most are published very recently! It seems, historians, stuck in the printed world, have perpetuated insulation as opposed to doing their sole job: to write new histories.
– ex. MacLachlan, Bonnie – Women in Ancient Greece: A Sourcebook (Bloomsbury Sources in Ancient History, 2012)
– ex. MacLachlan, Bonnie – Women in Ancient Rome: A Sourcebook (Bloomsbury Sources in Ancient History, 2013)
– ex. Rowlandson, Jane – Women and Society in Greek and Roman Egypt: A Sourcebook (Cambridge, 1998)
– ex. Johnson, Marguerite, Terry Ryan – Sexuality in Greek and Roman Literature and Society: A Sourcebook (Routledge, Sourcebooks for the Ancient World, 2005)
and so the social problem of media [todo: link] continues. All other societies in any other space or time are ignored [excluded].

history of literature (or a kind of literature)
– selected writings of a period of time with writings to introduce the works
– in case one doesn’t feel like using Wikipedia while reading an anthology, this can be more or less efficient as reading an anthology, depending on the supplemental writing and formatting of the book
– ex. Lin, Yutang, many others – The Wisdom of China and India (arhive.org, 030122mbp)
– ex. Russell, Bertrand – History of Western Philosophy (Routledge, 1945)

other weird things:
history
history books written during the time one is investigating is a source, usually, the best source

school textbook, or simply, textbook
– some strange attempt at throwing a history of ideas within a category? Intellectual history?

academic/scientific paper
– forced writings?

academic journal

extraction of ideas

Now, that we have the kinds of literature, how to get the ideas? If one simply wants words, then a quick Google of an ideas with “Wikipedia” in the search will likely lead to it. That’s how I got most of my vocabulary/ideas. I’ll try Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society and The Theory Toolbox book soon. Otherwise, ideas can come from any experience. After Wikipedia, my first book was a History of Philosophy (by Bertrand Russell, then Anthony Kenny to fill in gaps). That probably wasn’t necessary, as it consists of the Western canon, but neither was it the worst place to begin in the written world. At my home I have a bunch of books from the Viking Portable Library series; Just finding that series in a bookstore could be heaven, as it consists solely of primary source texts from periods of time; Flipping through several Viking Readers was an experience. From my experience, essays or selected text (usually selected from an essay) seem to be the most concise formulation of the extracting and understanding of an idea via written communication. Essays or selected texts are usually given to students to read, as part of the syllabus. Without a syllabus, essays or selected works that contain ideas can be found in the excellent Penguin Great Ideas series; but it has no direction. Similarly, a reader, such as The Place, People, and Space Reader (by the CUNY environmental psychology department), is also excellent at transmitting ideas, and it has direction. The problem with readers, and all books, is that is it is not a real experience.

That may be as far as I’ve got in my experience of reading, and trying to extract ideas. Those are the best sources I know of: They are the best because the editors select the text [from a primary source] which best forms an idea in the mind. No extra garbage text is added. Furthermore, Secondary texts are usually unnecessary, and generally do not provide nearly as much thought as the primary, because when reading primary sources the mind tries to grasp the author’s mind. It’s comparable to watching a Hollywood film as opposed to a documentary.

Perhaps just reading a few Penguin Great Ideas books and a few readings (selected text) from a reader is enough. It’s 2016. It’s time to play some games, watch films, take the train, meetup, live it up. The ideas come tacitly, there’s not need to explicate them. Perhaps Wikipedia was enough after all. No need to read.

Leave a comment | Categories: Art, Communication, Essays, History, Humanities, Literature, Organization, Personal, Philosophy, Philosophy of Education, Philosophy of Literature

Why Did I Read?

02 December 2015

This is part of a series of thoughts that are thematically bounded by a criticism of capitalism, communication, and rationality.

[todo: old title: why I read, and how and when to read]

[todo: needs work]

The reason I began reading is because I wanted to talk about things that I experience in the world, from epistemology to the culture I’ve lived in and back. I’m not sure if describing it adds to understanding or merely transforming ideas into language, and therefore quite a waste of time as one could be experiencing and learning and acting instead, or even transforming ideas into a more potent medium.

In the process of describing the world, I use Wikipedia and other forms of modern media to gather ideas. Because of this, books of my interest tend to be theoretical. They provide words, ideas, and frameworks to help me continue to talk to myself in order to continue thinking about the world. It’s not a matter of truth. These things just serve as tool for organizing the big picture. Though, this too may be a waste of time, as it’s much more efficient to simply make up words for ideas that one thinks of. And the existence of common words create a bias of what one thinks about, as the mind focuses on the language, instead of reality and the infinite amount of ideas behind reality. And again, I run into the limits of language. Isn’t it better to skip language formation and simply act? But then one often needs to communicate to others for socio-political reasons. Hrmm… I miss playing games. [todo: should continue this thought]

To to get the most out of media one must match it to one’s current desire of knowledge and/or current experiences, as to aid one’s own understand and creation of theories. In my case: Jane Jacobs would be helpful in trying to improve a neighborhood, and would be good to read while living in a city. David Harvey would be helpful in trying to understand capital in modern times, and would be good to read while living in a capitalistic society. Anthropology is helpful to look at many societies at all levels of development to see what works and where society screwed up, and would be best to read while traveling, or living in another society. Daniel Kahneman is helpful in understand the decisions people make, and should be read when is trying to influence behavior. Practical handbooks is helpful for things one may want to do very soon, and should be read close in time. And so on.

The desire for socio-political change may take creative forms, which simply depends on the past and current things in the mind. In the case of design, city experience — visual, traveling, talking, living — is far more useful than books.

Another reason to read is for the subjective experience of others. I usually don’t enjoy getting experience this way and prefer simply talking to others, or watching a film, but that may be a fault of mine, as anything could be in another’s mind. It is however interesting in the form of factual biographies, so that I can try to rationalize the subject’s actions, especially a more romantic, nomadic person’s life.

Yet another reason is to read is to gain knowledge (does it count as experience?) in the form of facts from newspapers, or better, primary sources, to understand the world through the medium of language i.e. the life of Noam Chomsky. I never read newspapers, for the same reason, I prefer city, travel, and creative experiences: they provide infinitely more data and hopefully knowledge.

Just another thought on this: A reason not to read is that it puts human language into working memory, as opposed to the infinite data of the working memory of experiences. One can experience a city in a day and have a better understanding of it than an infinite amount of books could provide. Focusing on language limits creativity to language. Instead of thinking in terms of space, time, material, and social life, one is reduced to thinking about language, and not thinking about the infinite data behind the language. One must continually experience as much life as possible to understand another’s communication to a greater extent in order to reap the benefits.

from thoughts:

to theorize reality, use Limits to Capital, Jane Jacobs, Christopher Alexander. – a thought from that time I was in Taipei for three months

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