Quora answer: What books helped increase your thinking capacity and build better mental models? How?

Apr 07 2013

Bateson, Gregory MIND AND NATURE

This is a study in the question as to why studying two different subjects at the same time renders higher order of information. We can of course generalize this to say that if we study two knowledge sources that are unrelated at the same time that we get higher order information. If we study two wisdom sources at the same time that are unrelated then we get a higher order of wisdom. If we study two sources of insight that are unrelated at the same time we get a higher order of insight.  . . .  and we can say the same thing about realization. I have practiced this all my life even before I read Bateson’s wonderful meditation on this effect. It is of course an effect that is blocked by specialization. You only run into it if you are willing to be a generalist and span multiple disciplines without worrying about ones image among your academic colleagues. And of course our educational system definitely blocks in every way it can this type of behavior, mostly by ridicule. But if you can get past these blockages build in to our social system to prevent this effect from occurring then you can try it yourself. Pick two subjects which fascinate you and study them with equal intensity up to mastery simultaneously, and suddenly you start to see that unexpectedly there is all this crosstalk between the two subjects. And THINKING about that crosstalk is what yields higher order information, knowledge, wisdom, insight, realization. You get hints at the deep structure of existence which is reflected everywhere if you are open to it.


1) Better Thinking techniques or Systems Thinking
Thinking is not a system and cannot be captured by any technique because concepts are non-representables. The best demonstration of how to think is Heidegger’s books which takes you on the path of thought he follows rather than merely presenting final results that seem to appear deus ex machina out of nowhere without explanation of how one got there. Basically there is no method for thinking as Paul Feyerabend said in Against Method, there are merely paths of thought that you can follow until they lead out into the wilderness of the unthought. As Heidegger says the most profound thought is that we are not yet thinking.

2) Logic, Rationality, Critical Thinking
These are excuses for not thinking or an attempt to reduce thought to models and representations. Best to read Deleuze What is Philosophy and attempt to understand his image of the concept as an infinitely fast traversal of the facets of a concept. Basically Logic, Rationality, and Critical Thinking are the aftermath of thought. It is checking that what has been thought makes sense when we wake up from the dreamtime of our thoughts and speculative fantasies.

3) Psychology, Cognition
These are supposedly objective disciplines that study thought processes. But they can tell us nothing about thought itself, which is a phenomenological part of our lifeworld, if we are thinking. Thinking is synthetic and studying that process of synthesis later or externally does not help us think.

4) Problem Solving/Decision Making
Problem Solving and Decision making are objectifications of thought processes. Even introspection gets in the way.

5) Overcoming Cognitive Bias
Thought is immersed in Cognitive Bias and that cannot be overcome, unless we overcome our finitude, embodiment, living, consciousness, reflexivity which is always our own expressed in the viability of our own lives.

6) Creativity/Innovation
We severely limit who can be creative and innovative and then try to stop who ever does not heed the warning by refusing to employ them. Creativity and Innovation are something defined on the basis of the social attempt to stop it when ever it might occur, despite our ideology because it may lead to emergent events that produce circumstances we cannot control.

A great example of unfettered creativity and innovation is Nietzsche the Free Spirit. He thought 100 years in the future. He created the only philosophy entirely based on metaphors and it was aphoristic because it was his thoughts that occurred to him as he hiked through the mountains.

Now you are not going to get into those mountains of thought by any technique or any method, or via any objectivist study of thought, nor by any pre-thought out plan. Rather the only way to get there is to think deeply and hard in your own way about the things which are significant, and relevant to you as your search for the meaning of ultimates.

Even Bateson’s technique of studying two things at one time will not help if you do not find the golden thread of your own thoughts unwound out of your problematic and fueled by fascination.

Increased thinking capacity or effective model building are secondary side effects that occur based on the hard work put into thought itself that goes beyond the information, knowledge, wisdom, insight, and realization given.

So how do we get there?

First we formulate a problematic that is close to our heart and something we care about deeply.

Second we locate the cutting edge of our own tradition that we have selected out of the vastness of the Western tradition, or that which is a worldwide tradition now that we are overwhelmed by globalization. Finding that cutting edge within the context of ones problematic is the key.

As Husserl discovered anything which has a horizon that can be infinitely explored is real. Thus he confirmed Kant’s contention that the road to true Transcendental Realism is via Transcendental Idealism. It is phenomenology that leads us to understand reality because it presents us in our representations and our appearance with an infinite horizon of explorability.

Then you look for the golden threads that lead out of the thinkable into the unthought wilderness. This is where Bateson’s technique comes in handy because it helps to locate those golden threads that one must follow in order to think ones own ownmost thoughts profoundly.

You will lose that thread many times, then rediscover it again where you least expect to find it. By following the thread you generate meaning for yourself and others. The golden thread is what allows you to find your way back to that cutting edge of your disciplines and thus share with others what you have found. Sharing with others is the most important step, more important than the studies themselves because it is only though the others that you could locate the unthought to be thought.

Finally when you return from the wildness of thought, everything looks differently. We have done more than merely find new data, or develop a new theory, or generate a new paradigm, or run into a new epistle, or founder on a new epoch of Being, or jump to a new existence, or penetrate into the unveiling of a new absolute. Rather we have encountered the truly unthinkable as thought and dealt with its non-representable, non-conceptual, non-dual character. And the veils have fallen from your eyes, like the prisoner returning to the cave, like the man who comes too early carrying a lamp during the day, because the nihilism is so thick it is as if it were dark as the darkest night but no-one can see it, according to Nietzsche.

You have followed the golden thread deeper and deeper into the worldview encountering each layer of nonduality, i.e. order, right, good, fate, sources, root. Like Nietzsche you know that you do not have a better thinking capability because like him you know IT thinks, not you. As Heidegger says IT GIVES is the locus of appropriation called ereignis. You know what ever models you build cannot approximate the non-conceptual, non-representable, non-expressible which is what thought itself thinks in itself when it is true to itself as an uncovering, when it is real with itself, when it identical to itself as a belonging together of sameness, when it is present to itself, in presence and absence.

Thought gives thoughts. Concept gives concepts. Meaning gives meanings. And as Heidegger says in What is Called Thinking our proper orientation to that is thanking.



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