Friday, May 02, 2008

The virtue of writing and writing and writing

A quote from a very good book I'm working on "The Romantic Imperative" by Frederick C. Beiser, about the philosophy of the early German Romantics of the 19th century:

Talking about the influence of Plato in Romantic philosophy:

"The Platonic tradition never held that the mind is simply passive in receiving the truth but always stressed the importance of the activity of mind in appropriating truth. Furthermore, it never admitted a sharp distinction between creating and discovering the truth. When reason reflects upon itself to know the laws of its own activity, it discovers these laws in the act of recreating them. These laws are not created ex nihilo, of course, but they do have to be reproduced by the finite mind if it is to know them. The finite mind knows them only by making the implicit, inchoate, and potential into the explicit, organized, and actual; but in no respect is the object just given, as if it were lying perfectly formed before the perceiving mind"

What he's getting at is that to get understanding you have to be engaged intellectually with it. Being engaged means actually using your brain creatively in reference to whatever it was you're studying or thinking about. If you write, for instance, and write a lot, you're engaging in a kind of process of discovery in whatever subject you're writing about, something that ultimately produces understanding of the subject beyond just reading about it.

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