Quora Answer: What online resources provide many interesting philosophical questions?

Oct 18 2014

There is an argument that online resources are actually dumbing us down.

The real online resource is your brain thinking. When your brain is thinking it is “online” and provides amazing resources that you will never find on the internet.

When I started out I thought that the internet would provide a marvelous opportunity for those of us interested in philosophical questions who are in our own communities isolated and fairly sparsely populated across the planet to discuss things of mutual interest, and to find the communities we lacked close at hand.

But I must say that it seems to me this has not happened. What we find is that people even if they are interested have very little to say, and the promise of sustained conversation is almost impossible to achieve. Here we have the first global interactive medium and it seems that we don’t know how to use it to talk about anything serious. So sad. What a missed opportunity.

So I have come to the conclusion that what we need is not more online resources, but actual learning and human contact amongst those interested in learning and delving deeper into things. Having the online resources really do not help us learn to think for ourselves, express our ideas, listen to others, and work toward mutual understanding. What the internet seems to produce is actually more alienation and anomie. What we call social networks are in fact anti-social as it gives us an excuse for not paying attention to those we are with.

So I suggest forgetting about Online Resources, and to concentrate on inner resources, like ones capacity to think for oneself. We need to bring the thinking capabilities “online” in our selves first, and then perhaps we will find it possible to help others discover the intellectual adventure of thinking things through at a bit deeper level than usually happens in a place like Quora for instance, which is full of chatter, and does not take kindly to those who want to go a bit deeper than chatter to talk about something of significance for a change.

So my suggestion is to put down your computer, and read a book from the library, and then write down a few thoughts on paper with a pen. And then communicate those thoughts to someone you actually know and can talk to face to face. And when you completely exhaust your offline resources, then you might frivolously participate in some online discussions, just to confirm that there is nothing happening there that is worth wasting time on. Of course, you might find someone who says something engaging, but it is rare that it would be possible to engage them in prolonged conversation about anything significant. Sometimes I think it is rarer online than offline because the noise and chatter have been turned up and there are myriad distractions. And you can basically waste a lot of time messing around online when you could have leaned by going to the library, finding the most fascinating book, and actually reading it. And then, heaven forbid, thinking about what is said in that book. and then reading another one. Using online resources is like grazing of cattle. It appears that one is eating all the time, but that is forced on us by the fact that the food is so hard to digest. Ultimately it is books that are made for the digestion of the mind, and one should just keep track of how many actual books one has read lately and that is still the best gauge of ones intellectual growth. That and how many papers or books one has written oneself. Want to know something? Read a paper book with your computer turned off for a change. Want to remain superficial and ignorant, read  a lot of things online, and use a lot of online resources. It is not that the resources are not great. The problem is that we do not know how to use them properly in the context of our own study regime. Fortunately, I started out when the only way to find anything interesting was to go to the library and search the stacks. And as far as I can see that is still the only way to actually learn something significant. It appears that one is doing something when one is scanning questions and answers on Quora, but for the most part one is wasting time that would be better spent reading a book about a subject that fascinates you, and then writing something about it. Now you may end up posting that to your blog or as an article online. But basically if you write for a blogpost that is normally not a good sign that there is any depth to what is being written. Normally 99% of what is written in articles and books are worthless. Most things written on the internet only make the 99% bigger and thus the 1% smaller. Almost all of it is utterly worthless as far as actual thinking is concerned. So it does not matter how many wonderful resources are made available on the Internet if we don’t know how to use them to think ourselves and together. Online resources are not what we need, what we need are offline reading and thinking time without distractions.

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