Darwin’s way of reading a book

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RonPrice
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Darwin’s way of reading a book

Postby RonPrice » Thu Aug 14, 2014 5:15 am

GETTING KNOWLEDGE

Part 1:

Reflecting as I now do on my 65 year reading life from 1949 to 2014, I found Darwin’s way of reading a book of interest. He “often annotated heavily, prepared his own index of interesting passages, broke a book in half at the binding if it was too heavy and stopped to write about it in his notebooks.” He showed, as Howard Gruber puts it: “a man at work using books as tools for getting knowledge, not as exhibitions of knowledge already crystallised”.1 Gillian Beer characterizes Darwin’s reading style, as “full of questions and exclamations, enthusiastic rebuttals and problem raising queries”.2

Howard Ernest Gruber(1922-2005) was an American psychologist, and a pioneer of the psychological study of creativity. He had a distinguished academic career working with Jean Piaget in Geneva and later co-founding the Institute for Cognitive Studies at Rutgers. At Columbia University Teachers College, he continued to pursue his interests in the history of science, and particularly the work of Charles Darwin. Gruber's work led to several important discoveries about the creative process and the developmental psychology of creativity.

I have taken an interest in Gruber's studies of creativity now in these years of my 70s due to the reinvention of myself in the last two decades as a writer and author, poet and publisher, online blogger and journalist, editor and researcher, reader and scholar. I have left my 50 year student-and-paid-employment-life, 1949 to 1999, far behind me now as I head into the evening of my life. After decades, too, of extensive work in Baha'i administration, in teaching and consolidation, service and social activism, I have now assumed a largely literary role.

Part 2:

Darwin not only continually challenged and examined the views of other authors, but he continuously questioned his own thoughts and definitions as a result. Darwin’s writing reflected his reading style, and it reflected his view that our judgment of the world around us can never be complete. A new fact or contribution is always potentially around the corner ready to disrupt what we think we know and make us think again.

The ending of his book—“that from so simple a beginning in the chain of life endless forms, most beautiful and most wonderful, have been, and are being, evolved”3 is a testament to this principle.-Ron Price with thanks to 1Howard E. Gruber and Paul H. Barrett, Darwin on Man: A Psychological Study of Scientific Creativity, together with Darwin’s Early and Unpublished Notebooks, London: Wildwood House, 1974, p. 62; 2 Gillian Beer, “Darwin’s Reading and the Fictions of Development,” The Darwinian Heritage, editor, David Kohn, Princeton: PUP, 1985, p.547, and 3 Charles Darwin, Recollections of the Development of my Mind and Character: 1874-76, 1882 cited by Elizabeth Banks in Persuasions On-Line, Vol.30, No.2, spring, 2010.

Part 3:

Literary works from many fields
which bring writing skill & insight
together in the examination of some
aspect of human culture bring me a
great deal of pleasure in this evening
of my life as I head through my '70s
and into old-age, the years after 80,
if I last that long. Such works bring
my critical faculties into play, and in1
the process, a penetrating scrutiny is
brought into the literary game with a
keen observer at the centre of things
bringing about this meaningful & this
deserving happiness in these my years
of late adulthood and retirement from
a 50 year student-and-employment life.

1 I thank Elizabeth Bankes for her essay: “Read and reread until they could be read no more: Charles Darwin and the Novels of Jane Austen", Persuasions On-Line, V.30, N.2, spring 2010. This essay contained many comments on the influence of Jane Austen's novels on Charles Darwin among others.

Ron Price
23/7/'14.
married for 48 years, a teacher for 32, a student for 18, a writer and editor for 16, and a Baha'i for 56(in 2015).

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Re: Darwin’s way of reading a book

Postby Matthew Ellard » Thu Aug 14, 2014 6:12 am

RonPrice wrote:Reflecting as I now do on my 65 year reading life from 1949 to 2014, I found Darwin’s way of reading a book of interest. He “often annotated heavily, prepared his own index of interesting passages, broke a book in half at the binding if it was too heavy and stopped to write about it in his notebooks.” He showed, as Howard Gruber puts it: “a man at work using books as tools for getting knowledge, not as exhibitions of knowledge already crystallised”.


Err....every law student does this. The cases in books are never going to match the cases in real life. Law books don't have "fixed solutions". You end up with more notes than than the content of the original books.

Darwin was just professional.

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Re: Darwin’s way of reading a book

Postby Gord » Thu Aug 14, 2014 9:09 am

That guy's the second smartest fish I've ever seen.

Image
"Knowledge grows through infinite timelessness" -- the random fictional Deepak Chopra quote site
"You are also taking my words out of context." -- Justin
"Nullius in verba" -- The Royal Society ["take nobody's word for it"]
#ANDAMOVIE

RonPrice
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Re: Darwin’s way of reading a book

Postby RonPrice » Sun Apr 26, 2015 11:21 am

It has been nearly 9 months since I was last on this thread. While here I'll provide a piece of writing from William S. Hatcher (1935–2005), a mathematician, philosopher, educator and a member of the Bahá'í Faith. He held a doctorate in mathematics from the University of Neuchatel, Switzerland, and bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. A specialist in the philosophical alloying of science and religion, for over thirty years he held university positions in North America, Europe, and Russia. He writes that " intellectual professions such as scholarship are economically privileged precisely because those who pursue
these professions consume but do not produce tangibles." Hatcher continues:

"Moreover, the ultimate social benefits of scholarly work may appear only after several generations, whereas the benefit to society of other intellectual professions (e.g.,teachers or administrators) is more immediate, and also more easily assessed. (Indeed, it frequently happens that, in the short term, the value of a scholar’s work can only be judged by other scholars.) Thus, the implicit social contract between the scholarly community and the greater community requires a more ample measure of trust than is the case for most other professional communities. It is this trust that scholars must not abuse if they are to maintain their integrity in the eyes of nonscholars."

This comment is somewhat tangential to "Darwin's way of reading", but I found Hatcher's comment of interest, FYI.-Ron
married for 48 years, a teacher for 32, a student for 18, a writer and editor for 16, and a Baha'i for 56(in 2015).

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Re: Darwin’s way of reading a book

Postby Poodle » Thu May 14, 2015 12:46 pm

The King's way of reading a book ...

“Begin at the beginning," the King said, very gravely, "and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland


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