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Does an Intellectual Life Endanger Peace of Mind?

coberst

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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!
 

Renae

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So what you're saying is that people should embrace intellectual growth for the sheer joy of doing so.

Of coruse, trying to follow your spam email format writing style and circular discussions...
 

lizzie

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Not everyone is capable of or interested in an intellectual life. There are thinkers, there are doers, and there are dreamers.;) Personally, I like a nice balance of the three.
 

tacomancer

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There are thinkers, there are doers, and there are dreamers.;)

And then there is everyone else.

But to answer the OP, for me, the more I learn, the more beauty I discover in the world.
 
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coberst

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And then there is everyone else.

But to answer the OP, for me, the more I learn, the more beauty I discover in the world.

Amen brother/sister. I think that our (American) educational system has left most of us with sever learning handicaps.
 

coberst

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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.
 

Cephus

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Not everyone is capable of or interested in an intellectual life. There are thinkers, there are doers, and there are dreamers.;) Personally, I like a nice balance of the three.

Whether one is interested or not, having an intellectual life is necessary to being a rational human being. Anyone not interested in being rational... is pathetic.
 

lizzie

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Anyone not interested in being rational... is pathetic.

Although I agree, it's not pathetic in that I have a distaste for them as people, but that I understand they may not be capable and/or interested. This certainly does not make them any less as human beings.
 

Cephus

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lizzie said:
Although I agree, it's not pathetic in that I have a distaste for them as people, but that I understand they may not be capable and/or interested. This certainly does not make them any less as human beings.

I think it does, at least in the intellectual sense. People who just follow their emotions around without any rational thought simply are no better than animals that survive on instinct, following their pre-programmed path because they have no choice. People at least have options. People who do not exercise those options are lesser people IMO. While I certainly can't deny there are a lot of superstitious, irrational, dim-witted people in the world who thrive on emotional comfort over reality, that doesn't mean I have any obligation to respect any of them.
 

First Thought

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Whether one is interested or not, having an intellectual life is necessary to being a rational human being. Anyone not interested in being rational... is pathetic.
Your opinion is noted.
 

1069

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I always imagined there was truth in the platitude "ignorance is bliss".
Since I've worked with profoundly mentally retarded individuals, though, I'm not so sure.
They are capable of experiencing extreme distress- in some cases, almost constantly- and not even being able to communicate to their caretakers what the problem is.
 

lizzie

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There's really nothing to refute, as it is your own opinion on the value of humans who are not what you deem rational.
 

Cephus

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There's really nothing to refute, as it is your own opinion on the value of humans who are not what you deem rational.

At which time a response of any kind was not necessary. However, this being a debate forum, the validity of opinions is always up for debate and evaluation and by bothering to post a response that was entirely without substance, it was obviously a means of implying the lack of validity of the opinion without actually demonstrating such.

Clearly it was an opinion, clearly the respondent could not offer anything to show the opinion was wrong.
 

tacomancer

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Although I agree, it's not pathetic in that I have a distaste for them as people, but that I understand they may not be capable and/or interested. This certainly does not make them any less as human beings.

I don't respect their humanity any less but I am less interested in their insights.
 
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Ikari

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The "intellectual life" is the human life. Humans are thinkers, humans can imagine, humans can comprehend. More than any other creature on the planet, we're given to our intellect above all else. If humans didn't seek an intellectual life, we'd just be monkeys.
 

Cephus

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How does one prove an opinion wrong?

How does one prove any assertion wrong? By presenting evidence that the claim is untrue, of course. :doh
 

Goobieman

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But to answer the OP, for me, the more I learn, the more beauty I discover in the world.
Funny... the more I learn about the world, the more I realize how good we have it here.
 

Mach

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There's really nothing to refute, as it is your own opinion on the value of humans who are not what you deem rational.

You actually have a rational argument buried in there though, don't believe you have nothing to refute.

You mentioned dreamers, for example. I'd wager that we actually do need some % of the population to be irrational in a way. We need people who ignore common sense and make outrageous plans that sometimes...shakes up the rational ones. Or in cliche terms, they may be really good at thinking outside the box in a brainstorm type way. Or even if it's just inspiration. We have all sorts of hokey sci-fi shows with entirely irrational ideas about space travel and the like. Yet we have generations of scientists inspired by it.

It also helps to contrast to reasoning...how can you get really good at identifying reason when there are no "bad cases" to measure against? Don't the best systems get built when they are constantly tested and improved? I think they do.
 

tacomancer

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Funny... the more I learn about the world, the more I realize how good we have it here.

Well, I am a bit odd in that I find weird things like number sequences or weird quirks of nature to be beautiful. That's what I meant.

However, for me numbers are just
Lordofthefiles_homer-drool.gif
 
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Orion

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The only thing that endangers having a peaceful mind is deciding to ignore your own mind and behavior, and blame the outside world for your problems.

People who have peaceful minds look inward and learn to observe their emotions and mental states, and then remedy them if necessary.

Inner peace has nothing to do with if you're an intellectual or not.
 
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