I think occasionally about the value that my writing offers the world. Common questions include,
Hasn’t this probably been said somewhere else?
Even for original thoughts, what value does an incremental improvement really bring?
How much value is there in summarizing wisdom, with a “next steps” component added on?
The reasons I care about such questions should be obvious, and Episode #94 of the Partially Examined Life addresses them squarely.
Here are some notes I took on the episode. Some are their thoughts, some are from the texts, and some are my own.
- One approach to assessing the meaning and quality of art is to abstract the creator from the work and immerse oneself in the work itself.
- Shoppenhaur thinks you should remain master when consuming other works. You must not lose your own solitary direction.
- It’s a good practice to go through the motions of learning what a primary literature is teaching instead of going to a secondary literature and having only a shallow understanding.
- It’s respectable to do the work yourself, even if you’re only going to arrive where others have already traveled.
- It’s shallow to be obsessed with who thought of what, and when, which creates something of a “philosophical court” instead of pure thought.
- Be as simple as possible. Use everyday language. Anything less is posturing and, ultimately, the sign of a lesser thinker.
- The podcasters think that authenticity is more important than having a unique thought (since that’s hard). It’s more important to be honest about how you think and write.
- Being naive is honorable, and being impure or non-authentic is dishonorable.
- Good style is that the author should have something to say, but not necessarily something original.
- The drive to be completely original is unnatural, i.e. adding 50 references and reading everything. This is false. It’s contrived. It’s not as good as being naive.
- Many people of this type regularly use unapproachable style, writing, or vocabulary.
- The podcasters seem to be supporting people who come up with good thought on their own—even when it’s not new.
- There’s a fear to think for yourself, because other people might have already done it.
- Talking about current events and politics, etc., is shallow compared to exploring ideas.
- Never let anything disturb your thinking. Thinking is heavenly, and a source of freedom.
- They grapple with whether it’s ok to be an asshole if you’re a genius
- Pointing out how dumb people are is entertaining
- One angle of genius and good writing is isolation and radical individuality. You may be able to interact with others, but it’s hard because it taints your individuality and creativity
- I think the point above is great and I agree with it, which is why I don’t watch TV. Basically, if you’re pulled into popular things, they’re by definition shallow and take you away from thinking.
- If you want to be a genius, you’ll have blind spots. You can’t be super well rounded. Doing so will blunt the few sharp weapons you do have.
- Kant supposedly thought for 12 years before writing
- Wes is now writing to think. It clarifies.
- Saying that a thought is too pure or good to be captured by writing is a copout and lame. It’s more accurate to say that they either didn’t have a good thought or they’re too confused to articulate it well.
- You need to be able to put out crap when you write, and write quickly, otherwise you just won’t.
- He seems to be recommending that writers take the musician’s approach, which is to basically ignore and disrespect anyone else’s stuff and live in your world alone.
- S. would prefer authentic people who are not producing original content to those who are thrashing about trying to be someshat original. The first is genuine, and the second is contrived.
- Originality is often just not having read the same stuff.
- My thing is that free will makes the originality conversation moot. What we should do instead is admire interesting things that the universe has presented to us through this person.
- At what point did Bob Dylan become original original rather than an emulation of Woody Guthrie?
- Authenticity is different than originality. Authenticity is being genuine. Being naive. Creating on your own. Originality is coming up with something new.
- There’s a distinction between being active and passive. Don’t try to quiet the mind.
The most significant extraction here for me is being more happy with my type of thinking and writing. I naturally have a mix of respect for previous thought, but I also place most of my focus on thinking through things myself.
It needs to be a hybrid—no question. The discussion lies in where the line is. I think I know where mine is.
The other thing this exploration does is give form to my pre-existing sentiments that certain academics and other formal professionals in spheres that are supposed to be creating new thoughts are empty and shallow at best, and false and cancerous at worst.