Friday, April 29, 2016

A Commonplace Entry






This month's entry comes from On Thinking for Oneself
an essay by Arthur Schopenhauer in The Art of Literature





"A library may be very large; but if it is in disorder, it is not so useful as one that is small but well arranged.  In the same way a man may have a great mass of knowledge, but if he has not worked it up by thinking it over for himself, it has much less value than a far smaller amount which he has thoroughly pondered.  For it is only when a man looks at his knowledge from all sides, and combines the things he knows by comparing truth with truth, that he obtains a complete hold over it and gets it into his power.  A man cannot turn over anything in his mind unless he knows it; he should, therefore, learn something; but it is only when he has turned it over that he can be said to know it."

8 comments:

Stephen said...

There's a collect in the Episcopal tradition about reading scripture, and it mentions "inwardly digesting" the words. Schopenhaur's thought here reminds me of that. There's a big difference between knowing something in the abstract and understanding it, connecting it to other aspects of knowledge.

Brian Joseph said...

This is a great quote.


I knew a few people who it seems very relevant to :)

R.T. said...

Interesting! But who among us has the genius to synthesize all of our knowledge into a well-ordered "library"? I guess it is a reachable goal for some people, but I remain at a loss about how to make order out of my aging mind's chaos. And I don't know why, but I am suddenly thinking about Borges and his library metaphor. Thanks for the thought-provoking posting, the best kind to be found in blogging.

James said...

Stephen,
Thanks for sharing the connection with Episcopal tradition. Schopenhauer emphasized the importance of developing one's understanding.

James said...

Brian,
Thanks for your observation. Quotes like these really resonate with one's life and thoughts.

James said...

R. T.,
Thanks for your observation. It certainly is a challenge to develop one's understanding. And I think your connection with Borges and his library is one worth considering, even pondering.

Stephen Boydstun said...

I'm trying for Arthur's ideal. Related, though without the luxury much time in earlier life, I think of James Watt and his character of catching ideas on the run of making a living and of Rand's self-educated youth Stretch Wynand: "There was no order in his reading; but there was order in what remained of it in his mind."

James said...

Stephen,
That is what ideals are made for. The example of Wynand is revelatory and interesting.