Thursday, October 20, 2005

Why bacon is better with books.

Why bacon is better with books.  How to get out of illusion and to the truth.
What I will try to do is legitimate learning from reflecting on the books that I read.  This is something that Francis Bacon wouldn't have agreed with, but I hope to win him over. 
Through Experience
Francis Bacon said that knowledge doesn’t come from books it comes from doing things.  (His big thing was that we can't be sure that we aren't falling into illusion if we don't have any direct experience, learning through observation)
In a lecture Mao Zedong gave his comrades two examples of knowing something.  One person can cook following a recipe in a book, a second person who has much experience cooking can do it intuitively.  The first person is literate the second person can cook
Through Discourse
In an interview with Jay Leno Will Smith said, “Whatever you are going through someone has gone through it before and written a book about it.”  - Will Smith isn't so focused on avoiding illusion, but he does bring up the point that we can learn from other people.  Put more eloquently: John Stuart Mill in On Liberty "If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth; if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth produced by its collision with error."  - A person can get to the truth by talking about it with other people and comparing opinions.  

Relationship between Experience and Discourse
To take the example of the person who can cook, that person reflected and discussed the use of spices and the cooking temperature with his fellow learners.  A person experiences something but there is no learning without reflection on that experience.  Theory is the discourse of that reflection on experience.  The cook is backed by booth experience and theory.  
     This leads me to the title for my Blog.  My discourse on theory occurs between talking to my friends, and reading (a one sided conversation).  This is where I will round out the one-sided conversation of reading.  This is my talking back to the authors I read, summarizing what I think they are saying and how that relates to my reflections on topics.  This is discourse.


malachijones said...

come now...reading is not a 'one sided discourse'. I applaud your desire for discourse, coz its necessary. However, don't diminish the role of reflective reading.

There are many great conversations that I've had with writers that I consider genuine dialogue... albeit, unique dialoge.

There is something significantly valuable in discourse and in the reciprocal discussion of topics we've read but if we were stranded on a desert island and we had only books as company...they too could be conversation partners.

Plus, to get all Christian on you...what about the "living word" of the Bible? what about its inherent nature to draw people to God and faith? (if you believe in all that jazz) Could the Bible be the only piece of literature (I hope a fundamentalist doesn't see me calling the Bible a work of opposed to God's HOLY WORD) that is a genuine dialogue?

Just some know...for conversation.

Mr. Jeffery said...

There is no way to influence what has been written, unless you talk to the author.
I think the one-sided reading can come when there is more than one book, because the diversity brings in Mill's thought about ideas clashing to form truth. But I guess I can see how that happens because we don't come into a book without some ideas ready to clash or synergize (buzz word from marketing, lol).
As for the Bible, I think there is dialogue with the author. It's like being in email contact with the author as you go through the book. except a hell of a lot more subtle.

malachijones said...

Maybe...but the extreme postmodern will say, "Once something is created the author no longer has a monopoly on the explaination."

Once words are written, songs composed, art crafted...the creation no longer is connected intimately to the creator and it can now be explored and related to independently.

Sure, our underlying experiences and thoughts interact with what we read...providing fodder to work through. But, possibly, it doesn't really matter what the original intention of the author was or is also about our subjective relationship with the creation.

I think about the lyrics of a song...say Nirvana. Kurt Cobain wrote in a very non-linear, staggered fashion. Some considered him an excellent poet and other thought of him as an angst ridden kid with a thesaurus. When I read his lyrics as a youth they meant something much different to me than they do now. Words, metaphors and concepts can be given an entirely new meaning. I ask myself, "What did he want this word to mean? What could he have meant by that?" as well as, 'What does this word mean to me? What do i want this word to mean? How has this meaning changed in the past 13 years?"

You said: "There is no way to influence what has been written, unless you talk to the author."

How about something like, "There is no way to influence what is being written unless you talk to the author." Once it's on paper its fair game...that's why (for good or for bad) two people can take the same piece of work and come to very different understandings legitimately.

Mr. Jeffery said...

I think my main point was that Bacon said you can't know something unless you do it, through observation. What about the observations of other people. It kind of went in another direction with the subjectiveness of reading though, so your point is well taken.
Here is another point that was raised for me on the topic though, Galileo worked in a workshop, Einstein got his inspiration from closing his eyes on a train. To think of things that other people aren't thinkig about, to be original requires active observation.
But they also knew what the current and historical train of thought was, so that is where reading comes in. For example, my experience of poverty informs my rejection of mainstream economics. The answer of a better way of thinking is out there in the world, it just has to be found. I think that the extent to which the marginalized can publish is the extent to which answers can be found in books.
The assumption behind that statement comes from a recent lecture on evolution. Think of a normal curve, the wings are what is abnormal, the variance. Evolution is a situation where abnormalities favour one group over the other in a certain environment, so the answers to humanity adapting to the world is found in our diversity, in the variance, not in the normal.

malachijones said...

Yeah well...rudey poo to you!!