I think a lot about education. What it is, how it’s best carried out, and when it matters and when it doesn’t. Many like to discount what education offers, but the question itself depends on what you value in life. Education allows intellectual progress. Without it, developments and advances start from a primitive state, i.e. one that is likely hundreds or thousands of years below the bar of existing progress.
I’ve known this for years, but it’s been demonstrated very poigniantly by my reading of Richard Dawkins’s The God Delusion. I’ve been thinking about these religious and philisophical issues seriously for well over a decade, and I’ve come up with a number of thoughts that I thought in my youth were interesting. As it turns out, however, these same concepts have been toiled over for centuries; I simply hadn’t read about them.
And that’s the point: there is so much collective wisdom in existence that we, as potential contributors, need to have at least functional knowledge of it before we can hope to advance the dialogue. To give a quantitative model, I’d say that collective wisdom lies at 7 on a scale of 10, and that intellectuals of in all disciplines are striving to push for 8. Unfortunately, the odds of them doing so from the position of a layman are rather dismal.
Even laymen who are highly intelligent and thoughtful are working from a 2 to a 5 on this scale. And because they’re starting with such a disadvantage their advancements are very likely to land them firmly in the realm of previous accomplishments. Only standing on the shoulders of those that came before us can we hope to truly contribute to humanity’s understanding. Anything less and the exercise becomes a hollow, selfish endeavor that benefits no one but the thinker.
This of course is fine, as long as the goal is to simply become versed in a given area. What should be avoided, however, is the smug delusion of original thought when the very same concepts (known for hundreds of years) sit unread on bookshelves all over the world. ::