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【書摘】Thinking as a Science|Henry Hazlitt


摘錄:Thinking as a Science|Henry Hazlitt

文:吳莉瑋
圖:Ludwig von Mises Institute

《Thinking as a Science》是 Henry Hazlitt 在 1916 年發表的教學,他在 1916 年就以專著來談「思考」,我認為,Hazlitt 本身就是實踐獨立思考的最佳實例。

Hazzlitt 首先談到思考是什麼、為什麼這麼重要、怎麼思考、有哪些思考方式、要怎麼練習、又可以從哪裡開始練習,最後還提供許多延伸閱讀指引,簡言之,這是一本簡明精要的「思考教戰手冊」,有興趣的讀者,可以在 Mises Institute 網站免費下載閱讀。

人類最重要的能力並不是「知識」,而是「思考」,在一個知識爆炸的年代,謹記這點於心更是重要,閱讀再多知識,都比不上好好靜下心來把所接觸到的訊息思考過至少一輪,想要這麼做的人,這本書讓你能夠按部就班地撿回自己思考的能力。

【書摘】

Page 4 | Added on Sunday, May 26, 2013 4:10:24 PM
When they think at all, the last thing men think about is their own thoughts.
Page 5 | Added on Sunday, May 26, 2013 4:14:24 PM
If we are to find rules and methods of procedure, these methods must come from somewhere—must be based on certain principles—and these principles can come only from close, systematic investigation.
For our purposes, all sciences may be divided into two kinds: positive and normative. A positive science investigates the nature of things as they are. It deals simply with matters of fact. Such a science is physics, chemistry, psychology. A normative science is one which studies things as they ought to be. As the name implies, it seeks to establish a norm or pattern which ought to be adhered to. It studies means of reaching desired ends. To this class belong such sciences as ethics, education, agriculture.
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Now these normative sciences, with the exception of ethics, are nearly always referred to either as “arts” or “applied sciences.” To both of these terms I technically but strenuously object. I object to the term “art” to designate any set of organized rules for doing a thing, because “art” also means the actual doing of that thing. And this thing may be done, and often is done, in total ignorance of the rules governing it.
I object also to the term “applied science,” because to me this term implies that the science it refers to is based on one positive science only.
The science of thinking, then, if such a science there be, is normative. Its purpose is to find those methods which will help us to think constructively and correctly.
Page 7 | Added on Sunday, May 26, 2013 4:24:08 PM
Our ship is headed for the port Truth. Our mind is the engine, the science of thinking the propeller, and logic the rudder. Without our engine, the mind, the propeller of the science of thinking, which transforms our mental energy most effectively into motion, would be useless. Without the propeller, which gives motion, the rudder of logic would be useless. But all three are needed to reach our goal.
Page 9 | Added on Thursday, May 30, 2013 11:35:59 AM
Modern psychologists tell us that all reasoning begins in perplexity, hesitation, doubt. “The process of reasoning is one of problem solving.... The occasion for the reasoning is always a thwarted purpose.”
If a man were to know everything he could not think. Nothing would ever puzzle him, his purposes would never be thwarted, he would never experience perplexity or doubt, he would have no problems. If we are to conceive of God as an All-Knower, we cannot conceive of Him as a Thinking Being. Thinking is reserved for beings of finite intelligence.
Page 10 | Added on Thursday, May 30, 2013 11:39:42 AM
To think at all requires a purpose, no matter how vague. The best thinking, however, requires a definite purpose, and the more definite this purpose the more definite will be our thinking. Therefore in taking up any special line of thought, we must first find just what our end or purpose is, and thus
To think at all requires a purpose, no matter how vague. The best thinking, however, requires a definite purpose, and the more definite this purpose the more definite will be our thinking. Therefore in taking up any special line of thought, we must first find just what our end or purpose is, and thus get clearly in mind what our problems are.
One of the most frequent sources of confusion in stating questions is in failure to distinguish between what is and what ought to be.
Our first step, then, is to get our problem or problems clearly in mind, and to state them as definitely as possible. A problem properly stated is a problem partly solved.
Page 11 | Added on Thursday, May 30, 2013 11:44:51 AM
Classification is the process of grouping objects according to common qualities. But as almost all objects differ in some qualities and almost all have some qualities in common, it follows that, contrary to common belief, there is no one classification absolutely essential to any group of objects. An infinite number of classifications may be made, because every object has an infinite number of attributes, depending on the aspect we take of it. Nor is any one aspect of a thing “truer” than any other. The aspect we take depends entirely on the purpose we have in mind or the problem we wish to solve.
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Before starting to solve a question—while deciding, for instance, on the validity of some nice distinction in logic—we should ask ourselves, “What practical difference will it make if I hold one opinion or the other? How will my belief influence my action?”—(using the word “action” in its broadest sense). This may often lead our line of inquiry into more fruitful channels, keep us from making fine but needless distinctions, help us to word our question more relevantly, and lead us to make distinctions where we really need them.
One method applicable to almost all problems is what we may call either the deductive or the à priori method. This method reaches a conclusion without observation or experiment. It consists in reasoning from previous experience or from established principles to particular facts.
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The comparative method is as old as thought itself, but it is strange that even scientists did not begin to use it consciously and consistently until almost the present generation. Nowhere is it better illustrated than in modern psychology. Most of the so-called branches of psychology are merely different forms of the comparative method of treatment. “Abnormal psychology” is merely a comparison of abnormal mental types with normal mental types for the light they throw on each other. “Child study” is a comparison of the mind of the child with that of the adult. “Animal psychology” is a comparison of the actions of animals with each other and with those of man. And none of these methods is of any value except in so far as it makes use of comparison.
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If we started out merely to observe, with no definite purpose in mind, we could keep it up forever. And get nowhere. Nine out of every ten observations would never be put to use. We would be sinfully wasting our time. To observe most profitably, just as to think most profitably, we must have a definite purpose. This purpose must be to test the truth of a supposition.
Page 16 | Added on Thursday, May 30, 2013 12:21:16 PM
The example sums up roughly the general process of all thought, and brings out the motive and value of observation.
The first thing to happen is the arousal of a feeling of perplexity, the appearance of a problem.
After this doubt has been aroused the most obvious solution suggests itself—“y own footprints.” But if true, this suggestion involves the co-existence of other facts, some of which are known and some of which may be determined.
The first consequence involved—that he had been there before—was a fact, but the others were not, and so the suggestion was dropped.
Then a second hypothesis occurred —“he man came in a ship”—and this was tried out in a similar way.
Page 17 | Added on Thursday, May 30, 2013 12:26:29 PM
Notice that in each case the consequences dependent on the truth of the suggestion are tried out (1) by memory, (2) by observation or experiment.
The suggestions or suppositions are tested by observation, memory, experiment.
The methods we have been discussing may all be considered simply as means for helping good suggestions occur to us.
We are often aided in the solution of a problem by asking its opposite. If we ask ourselves “What constitutes gracefulness?” we may find ourselves at a loss for suggestions, because gracefulness always seems “so natural.” But if we ask its opposite, “What constitutes awkwardness?,” suggestions are more apt to occur.
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The method of analogy likewise encourages suggestions. Analogy consists in noting certain likenesses between things, and assuming that they also possess other common qualities.
In the whole discussion of constructive method thus far, I have left out the two most common and useful methods of all. The first of these we may designate by a somewhat formidable title: empirical observation. Empirical, at least for our present purposes, means merely that which comes within experience. But the term is generally opposed to scientific.
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Logicians usually call this method simply observation, and oppose it to experiment. But I object to calling this simply observation because experiment itself is really observation, only in one case we observe merely events which happen to occur, and in the other we observe the results of events which we have made occur. The true way of distinguishing these two methods would be to call one empirical observation, and the other experimental observation.
Empirical observation is used where experiment is impossible—often, unfortunately, where experiment is merely inconvenient.
Page 20 | Added on Thursday, May 30, 2013 12:42:50 PM
But valuable as empirical observation is, and often as we must use it, it should never be employed when we can experiment.
When the empirical method is rightly used allowance always has to be made for certain irrelevant factors. But “making allowances” is always sheer guess work. The experimental method consists not in making allowances for certain factors, but in eliminating those factors.
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what is important is that every problem should be dealt with by as many methods as possible. Doubtless you have used, at some time or other in the course of your thinking, nearly every one of the methods I have so far suggested. But the point is not that you have never used these methods at all, but that you have not used them often enough. You were unaware what method you were using. Consequently you used it only occasionally. You used it only when you stumbled on it accidentally. To formulate methods is to bring them to your attention, so that you may use them always, thoroughly, correctly, consistently.
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The systematic thinker is careful of the manner in which he marshals his difficulties. He knows that certain problems should properly be considered before certain others, and he saves himself labor and sometimes error by considering them in that order.
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Knowledge furnishes problems, and the discovery of problems itself constitutes an intellectual advance.
All method can do is to awaken the most fruitful associations of ideas already in mind. Hence the more methods we adopt—the greater the number of views we take of any problem—the more solutions will suggest themselves.
In our example of the inheritance of acquired characteristics in animals, if we had been sure that the results of our deductive reasoning were correct, it would have been a sinful waste of time to experiment. But when we attack a problem by several methods we can compare the results from each. If these results agree we have good evidence that our solution is correct. But if we have adopted quite a number of viewpoints, and have not let the results of one influence those of the next, they are almost certain to be at variance. This means that we have erred in applying one or several methods.
Page 29 | Added on Thursday, May 30, 2013 6:12:24 PM
The two most prominent errors made in classifying are (1) not making classifications mutually exclusive, (2) not making them cover all the objects or phenomena supposed to be classified.
Page 31 | Added on Thursday, May 30, 2013 6:25:30 PM
I have spoken of analogy as a constructive method. This, however, should be used only for suggestion, for it is most dangerous. Often we use an analogy and are quite unaware of it. Thus many social and political thinkers have called society an “organism,” and have proceeded to deal with it as if it were a large animal.
The quickest way to detect error in analogy is to carry it out as far as it will go—and further.
Another way to find whether an analogy is fallacious is to see whether you can discover a counter analogy.
Page 32 | Added on Thursday, May 30, 2013 6:29:54 PM
It is best to avoid analogy except for purposes of suggestion, or as a rhetorical device for explaining an idea already arrived at by other means.
Page 38 | Added on Sunday, June 2, 2013 1:37:11 AM
No thought can enter our minds unless it is associated in some way with the previous thought. Psychologists have traditionally classified associations into four kinds: association by succession, by contiguity, by similarity and by contrast.
Page 39 | Added on Sunday, June 2, 2013 1:42:06 AM
Concentration may best be defined as prolonged or sustained attention. It means keeping the mind on one subject or problem for a relatively long period, or at least continually reverting to some problem whenever one’s thoughts momentarily leave it.
Page 40 | Added on Sunday, June 2, 2013 1:44:14 AM
For if you start to concentrate on some question which you have decided is really important, you should keep at it, allowing no deviation. It may be that during the course of your thought associations will be aroused which will suggest or bear upon important problems, problems more important perhaps than the one you originally started to concentrate on. But if you immediately abandoned every problem you started to think of, whenever you came across one which you imagined was just as important, you would probably never really solve any big question.
Page 41 | Added on Sunday, June 2, 2013 1:46:25 AM
Suppose a man started to put up a barbed wire fence, got as far as driving in all the posts, then lost interest in the fences and decided to grow potatoes in his field, plowed up the ground, lost interest in the field and neglected to plant the seeds; decided to paint his house, got the porch done, lost interest... That man might work as hard as any other man, but he would never get anything done. So with the mind wanderer and the concentrator. The mind wanderer thinks of a problem, loses interest, and abandons it. The concentrator sticks to it until it is solved.
before beginning to concentrate you should assure yourself that the problem you are about to attack is one worth solving, or at least devoting a certain time to. And during that time you should think only of that problem, and unhesitatingly throw out all irrelevant suggestions coming either from your course of thought or from external sights and sounds.
Page 42 | Added on Sunday, June 2, 2013 1:52:17 AM
Ordinarily we wander without being aware of it, and bring our minds back to a subject only after sudden intermittent realizations that we have gone astray. When we write our thoughts, however, we doubly secure ourselves against mind wandering. All writing requires a certain effort, and this alone is sufficient to keep most of us from writing irrelevant thoughts, or anything not directly bearing upon the subject in hand.
In spite of these great advantages, writing has certain serious handicaps as a practical method for concentrating. First among these is its slowness. Thoughts flash through our minds much faster than we can write them. We either lose many ideas by the wayside, or fail to go as far in our subject as we otherwise would. Another disadvantage is that we are forced to give part of our attention to the physical act of writing, and thus cannot concentrate entirely on our subject.
Page 43 | Added on Sunday, June 2, 2013 1:55:15 AM
It consists in simply talking your thoughts as you think them. One who has not tried this can have no idea of its effect. It possesses almost all the advantages of writing. You cannot wander without realizing the fact immediately. It makes your thinking much less vague than if you thought silently, increases your vocabulary, always keeps pace with your ideas, and requires practically no attention.
Page 44 | Added on Sunday, June 2, 2013 11:44:11 AM
No matter how slight our interest in a thing, we would always concentrate on it if we were interested in nothing else. To secure sustained attention, then, we should (1) stimulate or increase interest in problems we want to concentrate on, (2) decrease or remove temporarily any interest in the things we do not want to think about.
Page 50 | Added on Sunday, June 2, 2013 1:32:21 PM
A real thinker, however, if confronted with the same problem, will look for a solution from every possible viewpoint. But failing an answer he will not give up. Instead he will let the subject drop for a while, say a couple of weeks or perhaps longer, and then refer to it again. This time he will find that certain obscurities have become a little clearer; that certain questions have been answered. He will again attack his puzzle with energy. And if he does not obtain a complete solution he will once more put it aside, returning to it after another interval, until finally a satisfactory solution presents itself.
Page 51 | Added on Sunday, June 2, 2013 1:37:41 PM
Thinking on one useful subject for a long while will not hurt you any more than thinking on a thousand different useless subjects for the same period.
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Prejudice has less connection with truth and falsity than is generally supposed. The fact that a man is unprejudiced does not make his opinion right. And the fact that a man is prejudiced does not necessarily make his opinion wrong; though it must be admitted that if it is right it will be so only by accident.
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We are all willing to get rid of prejudice in the abstract. But when some one troubles himself to point out any particular concrete prejudice of ours we defend it and cling to it like a dog to his bone. The only way we can get rid of this desire to cling to our prejudices, is thoroughly to convince ourselves of the superiority of the truth; to leave not the slightest doubt in our own minds as to the value of looking with perfect indifference on all questions; to see that this is more advantageous than believing in that opinion which would benefit us most if true, more important than “being consistent,” more to be cherished than the comfortable feeling of certainty.
Page 64 | Added on Sunday, June 2, 2013 2:31:43 PM
The distinguishing mark of the great thinkers of the ages was their comparative freedom from the prejudices of their time and community. In order to avoid these prejudices one must be constantly and uncompromisingly sounding his own opinions. Eternal vigilance is the price of an open mind.
Page 65 | Added on Sunday, June 2, 2013 2:36:47 PM
It is useless to stimulate doubt unless you intend, on grounds of reason, to settle the doubt. The doubtful attitude should be maintained only so long as you are actively searching for evidence bearing on a question. Maintained at any other time or used in any other way it means merely uncertainty, indefiniteness, vagueness, and leads nowhere.
It is important that we be unprejudiced. It is even more important that our views be definite.
Page 66 | Added on Sunday, June 2, 2013 2:37:58 PM
If you go buzzing about between right and wrong, vibrating and fluctuating, you come out nowhere; but if you are absolutely and thoroughly and persistently wrong, you must, some of these days, have the extreme good fortune of knocking your head against a fact, and that sets you all straight again.”
Page 68 | Added on Sunday, June 2, 2013 2:54:15 PM
Any decision would be better than no decision. When the importance of the question is vital, or when the possibility of having to act on the answer is distant, we can afford to preserve our doubts, to suspend final judgment, for years—perhaps during our entire life; and we should spare no pains to investigate fully all that relates to the question.
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the value of conversation depends both on what we talk about, and whom we talk with. Too much of our talk is on petty matters, is uneducative. And even if we converse on worthy topics, it will profit us little if we do not talk with worthy people. When we commune with a dull mind, our thoughts are forced, in some degree, down to the level of that mind. But dull people do not usually talk of weighty matters, nor do active intellects dwell long on trifles. Therefore if we rightly choose our companion we can conscientiously leave our path of conversation to choose itself.
Page 73 | Added on Sunday, June 2, 2013 3:44:16 PM
Learning to think by reading is like learning to draw by tracing. In each case we make the work of another man our basis, instead of observing directly from Nature. The practice has its value, it is true; but no man ever became a great artist by tracing, and no man will ever become a great thinker by reading. It can never become a substitute for thought. At best, as John Locke says, “Reading furnishes the mind only with materials of knowledge, it is thinking makes what we read ours.”
Page 78 | Added on Sunday, June 2, 2013 4:13:57 PM
Our independent thinking, too, will have given us an idea of the difficulties presented by problems, and will make us more critical in reading and more appreciative of the solutions of an author. Not least of all, if we read first we are extremely liable to fall into the routine and traditional ways of considering a subject, whereas if we first think, we are more likely in our insophistication to hit upon an idea of real originality.
Page 83 | Added on Sunday, June 2, 2013 4:29:32 PM
Do not start the study of psychology, for instance, by reading a history of the subject giving the views of different thinkers. Begin by taking up one definite system.
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In order to avoid this perhaps the best we can do when we object to any statement or believe we have found a fallacy, is to make written note of it in the margin. To some extent this will prevent forgetting it. Too few or too many marginal notes are both extremes to be shunned. If we make too many we shall be apt to lose a true sense of proportion and fail to distinguish essential criticisms from nonessentials. The only way we can keep clear of this extreme is to avoid quibbling and hair-splitting, making only such written criticisms as we feel we could unblushingly defend before the author himself.
Page 86 | Added on Sunday, June 2, 2013 4:43:05 PM
If they think it is wasting time to try to understand every idea, it is surely a greater waste of time to read an idea without understanding it.
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Whenever you are puzzled as to an author’s meaning, or whenever you do not care to accept his solution of a problem but are undecided as to what the solution is, or whenever you want to carry an idea further than he has, or above all, whenever an original and important relevant thought is suggested to you, you should take your eyes from your book—shut it if necessary—and let your thinking flow on; give it fair play, even if it takes an hour before your vein of suggested thought exhausts itself. Of course this practice will prevent you from finishing a book as soon as you otherwise would. And if finishing a book be your aim, I have nothing to say. But if your end is to attain true, sound knowledge, knowledge which you will retain; if your object is to become a thinker, the practice will prove of unspeakable benefit. It will not interfere with concentration. Remember your object is to concentrate primarily on the subject, not on the book; you intend to become a thinker, not an interpreter or a commentator or a disciple of any author.
Page 89 | Added on Sunday, June 2, 2013 4:56:02 PM
Uncritical students of the history of philosophy often find themselves agreeing with each thinker in turn, no matter how much he contradicts previous thinkers, and end by acquiescing in the last system they read about.
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in thinking for yourself you should not make the author’s remarks the basis of your thinking. You should deal with a problem almost as if it had never occurred to any one else but you. Simply because somebody else has been satisfied with a certain solution, that is no reason why you should be. You should deal directly with the facts, data and phenomena under consideration; not with the opinions of others about those facts, data and phenomena.
Page 91 | Added on Sunday, June 2, 2013 5:02:11 PM
Never allow mere intellectual laziness to stifle your doubts and make you think you have solved a problem, when you know in your heart of hearts that you have worked yourself into the state of belief
Never allow mere intellectual laziness to stifle your doubts and make you think you have solved a problem, when you know in your heart of hearts that you have worked yourself into the state of belief merely to save yourself mental discomfort.
Page 94 | Added on Sunday, June 2, 2013 5:15:28 PM
what is important is not your attitude or method at the time of reading a book, but the thinking done later. The critical attitude has its shortcomings, for when we are on the lookout for an author’s mistakes we often miss the full significance of his truths. On the other hand when “reading for suggestion” we may too often allow an error to pass unquestioned. But both these disadvantages may be overcome if we do enough thinking afterward.
Do not “guess” you understand it. Do not slide over it in the hope that the author will explain it later. Do not work yourself into the belief that after all it is not really important. Bather than this, better by far do not read the book at all. Not only will you get little or nothing from it but you will be forming the worst of intellectual habits—that of thinking you understand when you do not.
Page 98 | Added on Sunday, June 2, 2013 5:29:14 PM
The good you get out of reading will depend entirely on how you allow it to affect you. If every book you read suggests more problems, gives you worth-while questions and topics to think about in spare moments, enriches your intellectual life and stimulates your thought, it is performing its proper function. But if you read solely to answer problems you cannot answer for yourself, if every time you are puzzled about anything you run to a book to have it explained, and accept without question the explanation there given; in short, if you use your reading to save yourself from thinking, you had better stop reading altogether. Smoking is a far less harmful form of dissipation.
Page 104 | Added on Thursday, June 6, 2013 10:42:26 PM
Thought and style are mutually dependent to a far greater degree than is generally supposed. Not only will an improvement in a thought improve its wording; an improvement in wording will improve the thought.
In short, we shall not only have improved our way of stating our thought; we shall have improved the thought itself. To study clearness of statement or acquisition of vocabulary is to study means of improving thought. Your notebook should not be used solely for the entry of “thoughts” as such, but any striking way of wording a thought which occurs to you should likewise be immediately written.
Page 105 | Added on Wednesday, June 12, 2013 10:23:37 AM
The wording is never the thought. Strictly speaking, “thought” is something which can exist only in the mind. It can never be transferred to paper. What then is it that we write? If words and sentences are not thought, what are they? If they are not thought how is it possible to transfer thought through the medium of writing? The fact is that words, though they are not thought, are the associates of thought. You hear the word “horse.” Very likely the visual image of a horse arises in mind. This image, idea, notion, “concept,” will depend on your experience of particular horses.
Page 107 | Added on Saturday, June 15, 2013 1:19:45 PM
How greatly the reader’s thought differs from the author’s it is difficult if not impossible to determine, for minds can only communicate by words. It is this difference in associated concept which often makes a reader fail to appreciate the profoundest thoughts of an author, and even, on the other hand, occasionally to see depth where it does not exist.
An author’s language is a photograph of his thought. He can never actually transfer an idea, but by wording it in different ways he can show different photographs of it.
Page 109 | Added on Saturday, June 15, 2013 1:24:14 PM
Perhaps the best way of ensuring efficiency in writing is by the card system. This consists in writing on a separate card every valuable idea that occurs to you, immediately after it occurs. When you finally come to writing you can arrange these cards in any order desired, throwing out the ideas you no longer consider important, and adding those which are necessary to complete or round out the work.
Page 119 | Added on Saturday, June 15, 2013 1:51:17 PM
The best practice for boxing is boxing. The best practice for solving important questions is solving important questions.
Page 122 | Added on Saturday, June 15, 2013 1:57:38 PM
Whether consciously or not, we tend to imitate the authors we read. If we read shallow books we are forced, while reading them, to do shallow thinking. Our plane of thought tends toward the plane of thought of the authors we study; we acquire either habits of careful critical thinking, or of dogmatic lack of thinking.
They expect the serious reading to benefit them. They do not expect the shallow reading to harm them. This is just as if they were to buy and eat unnutritious and indigestible food, and excuse themselves on the ground that they ate nourishing and digestible food along with it.
Page 123 | Added on Saturday, June 15, 2013 1:59:38 PM
if you do not want your mind to retrogress, you should not rest satisfied with books already read, but should continue to read books at least as good as any previous.
As an aid in forming this scheme of knowledge, Mr. Bennett suggests Herbert Spencer’s First Principles. I heartily endorse his choice. I would add to it the essay on The Classification of the Sciences by the same author.
Page 124 | Added on Saturday, June 15, 2013 2:04:18 PM
Ever since Sir John Lubbock published his list of one hundred best books, the number of selections has been legion. Charles Eliot’s selection for his Five Foot Shelf is to be commended, and a little volume by Frank Parsons The World’s Best Books.
Page 125 | Added on Saturday, June 15, 2013 2:07:43 PM
Society could not long exist if it persisted in acting on beliefs altogether wrong, though it is safe to say that popular ideas are never more than approximately right. But unless and until you have either thoroughly thought over a question for yourself or have consulted an acknowledged and trustworthy authority, it is best tentatively to accept and act on common belief. To think and act differently, merely for the sake of being different, is unprofitable and dangerous, all questions of ethics aside.
Page 128 | Added on Saturday, June 15, 2013 2:13:18 PM
Above all I urge the reader to avoid falling into that habit so prevalent and at the same time so detrimental to character:—acquiescing in advice and not following it.
Page 129 | Added on Saturday, June 15, 2013 2:15:32 PM
Concentration, method in book reading, and all the other practices here advocated should be learned in the same conscious, painstaking way, one thing at a time, until thoroughly ingrained.
Most of our thinking is influenced in this way. The great thinkers of the past improved their innate powers not by the study of rules for thinking, but by reading the works of other great thinkers, and unconsciously imitating their habitual method and caution.
Page 130 | Added on Saturday, June 15, 2013 2:21:55 PM
Rules are needful because they teach in little time what would otherwise require much experience to learn, or which we might never discover for ourselves at all. They help us to learn things right in the beginning; they prevent us from falling into wrong habits. The trouble with unsupplemented imitation, conscious or unconscious, is that we tend to imitate another’s faults along with his virtues. Rules enable us to distinguish, especially if we have learned the reason for the rules.
Page 131 | Added on Saturday, June 15, 2013 2:26:05 PM
Among the few books or essays devoted exclusively or mainly to thinking may be mentioned:—John Locke, The Conduct of the Understanding; Isaac Watts, The Improvement of the Mind; Arnold Bennett, Mental Efficiency; T. Sharper Knowlson, The Art of Thinking; Arthur Schopenhauer, On Thinking for Oneself, in his Essays. The last is especially recommended. It is only about a dozen pages long, and is the most stimulating essay written on the subject. This, together with John Locke’s Conduct (which, by the way, is also fairly short) may be considered the two “classics” in the meager literature on thinking.
Page 133 | Added on Saturday, June 15, 2013 2:28:20 PM
On the art of living—the art of planning time so as to have room for thinking, as well as valuable hints as to how that thinking is to be carried out—consult Arnold Bennett, How to Live on Twenty-four Hours a Day, and E. H. Griggs, The Use of the Margin (both very, very small books).