It’s easy to think without reading, but also easy to read without thinking.
I’ve started reading nonfiction again. I have a good reason for stopping: I was stuck halfway through Proofs and Refutations for about a year and a half, and as a committed completionist, I couldn’t start any other books until it was done. After powering through the dregs of P&R, I know a lot about…. proofs, less about polyhedrons, and I’m free to re-engage in educational literature.
It’s easy to read without reflecting, though. I’d venture that 90% of “consumed content by volume” — especially online content — functions only to:
- Reinforce biases, in an (optimistically) intellectual circlejerk
- Get the reader frothing mad when they Read Stupid Opinions by Stupid People
I don’t think I’m uniquely bad at “intellectually honest reading” — but “median human” is a low bar, and not one I’m confident I always clear. If I’m going to go through the motions of reading brain books, I need a forcing function to ensure the input actually adjusts my priors; if after having read a book, I haven’t changed my mind about anything, I’m wasting my time on comfortable groupthink.
My forcing function — until I get tired of doing it — will be to write something here. There may be inadvertent side-effects (like accidentally reviewing the book, although I hope not), but my only commitment is: to outline at least one stance, large or small, the book has changed my mind on. Or, lacking that, forced me into an opinion on a topic I hadn’t bothered to think about.
If I can’t find one updated stance, I’m wasting my time. Committing that stance to writing forces crystallization, and committing that writing to a (marginally) public audience forces me to make the writing not entirely stupid.
I make no commitment to keeping this up, but I waited to write this until I had actually written an un-review, so at least n=1, and by publicly declaring a plan, I can (hopefully) guilt myself into maintaining the habit.