Autodidactism

November 27, 2012

I believe that every person at some point of their life is an autodidact.

If you want to succeed in any endeavor you must be an autodidact. If you constantly need a guide, master or teacher it implies that this person has a significant advantage over you.

The journey towards self-knowledge, self-mastery and self-realization, must involve an element of self-learning. No one can teach you about yourself but yourself. The lessons regarding ourselves transmited to us by others are based on their understanding of what we are.

Even if the person who is giving us advice is let’s say a trained psychologist, he/she could only give us an approach towards our self-awareness based on their experience with other individuals. Then we would be receiving an average of common findings in any given population, which by itself it’s a great initiative, but will eventually fail to create a wise, self-mastered individual.

Personally I think that this is a perfect age to be an autodidact. With the almost omnipresent internet and ever-increasing ease of access to it, we have access to the greatest collection of human knowledge ever. But even when we have this great opportunity of access there are many roadblocks to beat in the course of being an autodidact:

  • Where to start?
  • How to meassure the quality of the information?
  • Acquiring non-virtual resources required for learning?

As an example let’s say you would like to teach yourself how to play a musical instrument. Many virtousi have done it before, and some commoners as us have actually achieved it, even so it is not unheard of that a person who knows how to play x instrument transposes he’s abilities to a different one.

  • Where would you start learning how to play the piano?
  • How do you know if the person who is providing the lessons is knowledgeble in the subject?
  • How do you get a piano?
  • How do you know you have proper technique?
  • How do you know you are interpreting music as it’s supposed to be?

A teacher or even a good video series might help you with all of these, but what neither of them can do is to tell you is:

  • What does this experience mean to you?
  • What is your personal way of appreciating and interpreting a piece?

How could anyone teach you your own path to wisdom? How could anyone teach you what it means to be yourself?  We can only provide each other with techniques and pointers, but the end result would only come from our practice alone.

Self-learning is a prerequisite to achieving wisdom and self-mastery.

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November 2, 2012
The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read. Mark Twain

This quote has a strong lesson just by itself.  But I think it adds meaning to a previous post (Wisdom as an action): what good it is to possess wisdom if we don’t use it?

It also raises an important issue: wisdom is not a purpose by itself, wisdom must serve a purpose. (This sounds too good not to be already claimed, citation needed) What purpose each of our wisdom will serve? I guess only time and ourselves can answer this question.

Regardless of the final purpose which wisdom will serve, it must be used and practice.

It would be unwise, not to practice wisdom once attained.

Can wisdom be taught?

October 26, 2012

Previously I exposed my thoughts regarding the acquisition of wisdom. After accepting wisdom as an acquirable trait/ability, a question we might face is: can wisdom be taught?

I don’t think that wisdom or its products can be taught. Nevertheless I believe a teacher might be able to give you is guidance towards achieving wisdom. In this sense the teacher stops being a teacher and becomes a companion.

When we accept wisdom as a culmination of reflection and action based on experience and knowledge, it becomes subjective understanding of the beholder. The subjectivity by which we experience each event, and our understanding of any information we are exposed to, provides a different shade of color to everyone’s experience.

In consequence, a teacher might be able to teach you what he has learned throughout his life, but the meaning or even usefulness of it to you will vary greatly. I am by no means underestimating the importance of advice and lessons from those who are further down their paths in life. But what I am pointing to, it’s the lack of an absolute paradigm towards achieving wisdom.

Acquisition of Wisdom

October 18, 2012

One of the initial questions posed here was if wisdom was acquirable? The short answer is yes, but I will share with you my thoughts regarding this matter.

The idea of wisdom as a non-acquirable ability/virtue/trait doesn’t make much sense to me. Although a reasonable amount of philosophers have proposed wisdom as an innate trait, I differ from this notion. Perhaps my background in Biology/Medicine short-sights me into a worldview in which traits are acquirable throughout generations, and to some extent be developed once acquired.

Following our previous definitions of wisdom, an innate wisdom goes agaisnt the definition we are standing upon: without experience, without awareness and  without reflection, wisdom surely will not blossom. What is innate is the possibility of acquiring wisdom, the chance to become wise.

Every single human being, regardless of their cognitive abilites, is able to acquired wisdom to some extent. As noted previously, even adults recognize bullets of wisdom in remarks from child, who because of its short lifespan has limited experience.

This ability, or opportunity, to develop wisdom is to be fostered by all humans, specially those as myself who seek to define themselves before trying to define others.

But if wisdom is acquirable, how can we tap into this such elusive yet appealing trait? which steps are to be taken to become wise? are there any tools we might use during this journey?  can we meassure wisdom?

Wisdom as an action

October 3, 2012

After supercially exploring the definitions of wisdom, it dawned on me that wisdom is essentially an action. Wisdom that doesn’t act, doesn’t exist. The idea of passive wisdom is funny: without action wisdom remains as knowledge or experience and therefore it’s not wisdom at all.

I think that  a fundamental step towards becoming wise is continously asking oneself: how can x previous experience help me in my current y experience? how can others experiences translate into personal anecdotes?

What is Wisdom?

September 21, 2012

Searching for definitions of wisdom yields many results. For brevity’s sake I will limit myself to only pasting 2 different defnitions here:

1) Wikipedia: Wisdom is a deep understanding and realization of people, things, events or situations, resulting in the ability to apply perceptions, judgements and actions in keeping with this understanding. It often requires control of one’s emotional reactions (the “passions”) so that universal principles, reason and knowledge prevail to determine one’s actions. Wisdom is also the comprehension of what is true coupled with optimum judgment as to action. Synonyms include: sagacity, discernment, or insight.

2) Merriam-Webster:  1)a : accumulated philosophic or scientific learning : knowledge b : ability to discern inner qualities and relationships : insight c : good sense : judgment : generally accepted belief <challenges what has become accepted wisdom among many historians — Robert Darnton> 2) a wise attitude, belief, or course of action 3): the teachings of the ancient wise men

In my actual perception of what wisdom is I believe that key words are understanding, comprehension and action.  I don’t think that wisdom necessarily correlates with scientific or even philosophic knowledge. Wisdom can surely come without formal or informal instruction in these fields. An example of this situation would be people who are street-wise or experienced.

Also I completely disagree that wisdom can only come from ancient wise men. Any given person that has moderate-to-extensive experience with developing children will find that there are streaks of wisdom and insight in their simple remarks.

Summing these up: wisdom can come or not from experiences. This term proves elusive if not contradictory.

I don’t know how wisdom relates to the theme of this blog “What am I?” but surely sounds like a helpful thing to have during this trek. In the coming entries hopefully I will stumble upon a personal definition of Wisdom that I can use.

Wisdom

September 19, 2012

What is wisdom? How can we acquire wisdom? Is wisdom acquirable? Or Is wisdom something you develop? Is wisdom a desirable possesion? How does wisdom relate to science? How does wisdom relate to philosophy?

Foundation

September 19, 2012

I probably started working on this blog a long time ago, but decided to start it today. This blog is a journey throught my thought process and the different elements involved in it.

Must surely it will contain references to philosophy, arts and science, but won’t  be dedicated to solely one of them.

Hopefully I can learn something out of this, without taking too much bandwidth out of any particular server.