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Sunday, June 15, 2014

Intellectual lessons from a father to his children

Given my own experiences in intellectual inquiry, I wanted to give my children a few simple ideas that would be helpful for them in their pursuits.  They all have a bit of curiosity which is a good fuel for learning.

Intellectual lessons from a father:

1. "I don't know" is a perfectly acceptable answer.  (brights often have a hard time with this...)

2. "This is my best understanding so far" is often an appropriate answer.  (even hard won knowledge is contingent...)

3.  There is no substitute for doing the homework. Most people won't do the homework. (they're  too busy or are unwilling to put in the effort)

4. Many things are complicated, they entail tradeoffs because there are no good answers.  (they have to be studied from many perspectives and many layers deep because of their complexity - "Ogres" was a fun reminder when they were young)

5. People say stuff.  (could be blind parroting, intentional deception, best understanding that comes up short, or simply valid)


Peter said...

#6: If you want to be taken for a smart person in life, make sure you spell "intellectual" properly. :-)

Howard said...

Thanks Peter. May that be my biggest error.

Bret said...

Tough crowd (Peter)!!! :-)

Howard said...

Tough, but not unfair. Also not bothersome for those who place knowledge and wisdom ahead of smarts.

Howard said...

Tough, but not unfair. Also not bothersome for those who place knowledge and wisdom ahead of smarts.

Howard said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hey Skipper said...

If you don't understand opposing arguments, you don't understand your own.

Hey Skipper said...

From Lileks:

Which reminds me: [my daughter and I] had an interesting conversation the other night about group identity and racism and the necessity of seeing people as individuals, and the particulars don’t matter here. It’s the fact that we had the conversation and she argues with me. I’m not concerned with making her agree with me, but teaching her how to argue. Stay on target. Logic, not emotion. Evidence, not dogma. A father’s job is teaching them what to think, yes, but how to think might be more important.

erp said...

All true, but how can one argue a point with someone who gets their "facts" from morning TV programs or televised news ... or the NYT and the Washington Post or their school text books?

Clovis e Adri said...


I suppose you can point him to other facts, from other sources.

If you don't, and still get exasperated by the person not believing you, it just shows you may need to review Howard's lessons.

erp said...

There are no other sources except old text and reference books.

It's not a question of believing me! I don't care. It' a question of believing and spreading lies, like Harry's references to mission accomplished banners and stolen Iraqi artifacts.