Thinking About Thinking

502255276_49925090d6_oI’ve been dabbling in social media for a number of years and have always enjoyed completing the “Bio” screens, aiming for something pithy, but accurate. I eventually settled on “Philosopher, Know nothing, Dude” and feel it fits quite nicely. I am not a philosopher by trade nor by education, yet in the truest sense of the word, I most certainly am:

  • Word origin: Philosopher–lover of wisdom

While I may love wisdom, I don’t really know anything about anything, although I know enough to know that, and I feel comfortable applying all of the connotations of “dude” to myself, so my “bio” met my objectives.

I just finished Dan Dennett’s book on thinking called Intuition Pumps and other Tools for Thinking and it was not the experience I’d hoped for. Upon concluding it–and I freely admit I flipped through quite a bit of it without reading it–I began thinking I had not done enough basic groundwork in philosophy to appreciate the esoteric nature of this book. I needed more elementary instruction on how to think about thinking.

At Starbucks, where a person can sit in quiet contemplation of why a small cup of coffee is labeled “tall,” I searched for how to begin my study of philosophy and got a couple of hits on Ayn Rand. I know of her of course, and her most famous, or infamous, novel Atlas Shrugged, but I’ve never read it and have only a vague notion of what it, and she, are about. I downloaded a book sample by an associate of hers, who in the Preface suggested it would be an easier read for me if I first read her book, Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, and so I have started it by reading the sample.

Knowing myself as I do, philosophy will challenge me intellectually because it will force me into positions I’m not comfortable in, make me consider things from positions foreign to me, perhaps pointing out my innate biases. It may also try my patience as I’m not one to mull things over for extended periods. I tend to be fairly decisive in a pragmatic fashion.

I found myself nodding in agreement as my first impressions reading Rand’s arguments for objectivism sank in. It seems a reasonable argument to make that we begin forming concepts from our senses as infants. We see a table, and can recognize it as a thing that exists, and when we see others that are similar, we can equate them as being so, creating the concept of a table which is clearly different from a chair or a pencil. When we see a pencil, a fork and a toothpick, we can grasp length as an attribute they share, although calculating the difference in length isn’t important early on. Thus begins the long process of the development of human consciousness, of perceiving those things that exist and the relationship between them. I was struck by her pointed statement that “existence exists,” that is, that the fact that things exist is self-evident and the base for all knowledge. She rejected all supernatural, mystical and transcendent ideas and hey, so do I!

​I love persuasive argument so dabbling in philosophical writing has sparked my intellectual curiosity, but I must proceed cautiously for if I choose poorly out of the starting blocks, I may stumble and never recover. I likely need to ease in with some lighter pieces than to dive head first into the deepest end of the reflective pool where I may drown.

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