Monday, October 24, 2016

Types Of Learning

There are many ways toward intelligence, and each one thinks that it is the only one. I keep reading false statements by academics, such as that an artist needs to have copied all the masters before he can become an adequate artist, or that one has to absorb the whole canon before he can make any original contributions. Both statements are patently untrue. Michelangelo did not spend years copying other artists before he became an artist, and his work is far greater than that of any artist educated in the American academia. And among the world's major contributors, many did not absorb the full canon, or did not have a canon to absorb at all. 

Then we see people, especially in business and politics, claiming that academic learning is worthless and that having it gives no understanding of the real world. This is wrong as well. Common sense may get you places in business and politics, but it will get you nowhere in engineering, medicine or science. If you need to see a doctor, he better have good education. If you need to see a lawyer, he better have good education. If you are going to build a business based on selling technology, it has to be based on work of scientists who better have good education and be produced by engineers who better have good education as well.

When I was in school, and pondering an academic career, a criticism that I kept hearing about the academics was that they were studying life without having lived it. I took that criticism to heart and decided to live life before studying it. This gave me a fuller perspective, allowing me to see all sorts of errors in academic thought. If I had gone on with graduate education before having life experience, I would have been bound to wrong ideas in the academia. And many ideas in the academia – especially on social, psychological and cultural issues – are very wrong.

When one's learning has been wrong or incomplete, often one has a hunch about it. He may not be very well to articulate what he is feeling or properly understand it, but often that hunch is right. While going based on hunches is not something usually seen as being valid or rational or responsible, it can in many cases lead to rightful understanding and rightful realizations. I had a suspicion at many times that many of the things to which I have been exposed were wrongful. And now I know that they were.

By no means is it rightful to dismiss academic learning. But one develops a fuller understanding of what one studies when he has experienced it from within as well. A person who has only studied something externally has no understanding of how it is experienced by participants. A person who has only experienced something has no idea of its external effects. But when a person has both, he understands something from within as well as from without; and that allows a more insightful understanding than is done through either acting alone.

Since I now live in Australia, I have had comments by many Americans that I am not qualified to speak about American politics. In fact I am more qualified to do so than they are. I've lived in America for a long time, and I've also lived in places outside America. I have both the internal perspective and the external perspective. I can explain the experience of American people to people outside of America who do not understand it and act from position of mere judgment. And I can also explain to Americans how their actions affect the rest of the world. Having both the internal and the external perspective, I can achieve greater insight than can be done by either acting alone.

In no way is it valid to dismiss education. It is however valid to supplement the perspective of observation with the perspective of experience. This, once again, creates a fuller understanding than can be done by either acting alone.

So that while going by hunches is not usually seen as a valid way to study anything, it can in fact lead to rightful and useful realizations. In many cases, the hunches – which one cannot understand or explain using the knowledge that he has been given – are right.

One common criticism of scientists – a legitimate or illegitimate one – is that they lack common sense. That is because scientists do not use common sense; they use the scientific method. In science, common sense is known as bias and is attacked or refuted. In many cases this works for the better. In any number of other cases it works for the worse.

The manifestations of new ideas are always rebellious. In many cases they are also angry, even hateful. As the idea matures, it becomes calmer and more reasonable. What starts with a hunch or rebellion turns into mature understanding. At which point the same can be imparted to others to lead to many good things.

One of the wisest people I know is a successful entrepreneur who has spent 7 years teaching in the academia. He has both the perspective of common sense experience and the perspective of academic learning. He has rightful criticisms of both people in business and people in the academia, and he also has valid insight into political issues.

If you have a hunch that you have been misinformed, do not automatically dismiss it. In many cases it is going to be correct. Look for knowledge in all sorts of places, including ones that disagree with your upbringing or education. That way you will have a more complete understanding than what you have been given. And a more complete understanding creates more informed action and one that, as such, is ultimately more responsible. Expect to be seen as a fool, a lunatic, a traitor, a whore, irresponsible, evil, whatever. And then expect to create knowledge to benefit people, even the ones who see you in such a way.

Combining different forms of learning gives a fuller perspective than practicing merely one form of learning. Someone who has both experienced and studied something will understand it better than someone who's either only studied or experienced. It is not an intellectually easy path, but one that leads to fuller understanding. If you want to have a comfortable mind, practice just one or the other. If you want a more complete understanding, do as I have done.


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