On trolls: Remember that foul words or blows in themselves are no outrage, but your judgement that they’re so. So when anyone makes you angry, know that it’s your own thought that has angered you. Therefore make it your first endeavour not to let your impressions carry you away. When we’re hindered, or disturbed, or distressed, let’s never lay the blame on others, but on ourselves, that is, on our own judgements. To accuse others for one’s own misfortunes is a sign of want of education; to accuse oneself shows that one’s education has begun; to accuse neither oneself nor others shows that one’s education is complete.
On basement dwellers: By the gods, when the young man feels the first stirrings of philosophy, I’d rather he came to me with his hair sleek than dishevelled and dirty: for that shows a sort of reflection of the beautiful, and a longing for the comely, and where he imagines these to be, there he spends his effort.
On copyright and information sharing: Never say of anything, “I lost it,” but say, “I gave it back.” Has your child died? It was given back. Has your wife died? She was given back. Has your estate been taken from you? Wasn’t this also given back? But you say, “He who took it from me is wicked.” What’s it matter to you through whom the Giver asked it back? As long as He gives it to you, take care of it, but not as your own; treat it as passers-by treat an inn.
On blogging: Lay down for yourself from the first a definite stamp and style of conduct, which you will maintain when you’re alone and also in the society of men. Be silent for the most part, or, if you speak, say only what’s necessary and in a few words. Talk, but rarely, if occasion calls you, but don’t talk of ordinary things—of gladiators, or horse-races, or athletes, or of meats or drinks—these are topics that arise everywhere—but above all don’t talk about men in blame or compliment or comparison.
On alt-tabbing and procrastination: When you relax your attention for a little, don’t imagine that you’ll recover it wherever you wish, but bear this well in mind, that your error of today must necessarily put you in a worse position for other occasions. Does the carpenter by inattention do his work better? Does the helmsman by inattention steer more safely? And is any of the minor duties of life fulfilled better by inattention? Don’t you realize that when you’ve let your mind go wandering once, you lose the power to recall it, to bring it to bear on what’s seemly, self-respecting, and modest: you do anything that occurs to you and follow your inclinations?
On the culture of oversharing: When a man seems to have talked frankly to us about his own affairs, how we’re drawn to communicate our own secrets to him and think this is frankness! First because it seems unfair to have heard our neighbour’s affairs and yet not give him a share of our own in turn: next because we think we won’t give the impression of being frank if we’re silent about our own affairs. Still, though he has confided his affairs to me with security, am I to do the same to the first man I meet? No, I hear and hold my tongue, if I’m that sort of man, but he goes off and tells everyone. “Yes; but I trust you, and you don’t trust me.” In the first place you don’t trust me; you’re only garrulous and therefore can’t keep anything back. For if what you say is true, trust your secrets to me and no one else: instead of which, whenever you see anyone at leisure, you sit down by him and say, “My brother, you are the dearest friend I have; I beg you to listen to my story.” And you do this to those you haven’t known even for a short while. If you really trust me, you trust me, of course, because I’m trustworthy and self-respecting, not because I told you my secrets.
I have long thought that if a person could only read one book in their lifetime, it ought to be Epictetus’ Enchiridion.
And Whatever You Do, DON’T READ LACAN
When I say “don’t read,” I don’t mean it in a fascist kind of way. I’m not suggesting these thinkers should be burned, or that they’re dangerous, or that they’re subversive. I’m just suggesting that reading them not the best possible use of your time. If you want to waste your own time, be my guest. Reading Zizek’s 60 or so books is a lot like watching reality shows on Bravo - it’s pretty much all the same annoying shit with a slightly different packaging each time, and after a while you lose track of the words and all you can see is the flying spittle.
What I mean more than anything when I say “read” or “don’t read” is ignore people who tell you you should be reading these thinkers and not these other thinkers. Obviously, that gives you carte blanche to ignore my advice, too, but since I get pretty frequent messages asking me what and how to read in the history of philosophy, I’m putting in my two cents. Think of it this way: our ideal of the humanities is to have as many people thinking as many different things as possible, right? We want, ideally, to avoid both ideological blind spots and the kind of homogeneity that stifles innovation and creativity. Well, there’s a statistical excuse right there to read the people I’m recommending - every English major has heard of Lacan and Hegel, very few of them have heard of Epictetus. Bring something new to the table. Take a chance. This is exactly what Deleuze calls “minor philosophy.”
Obviously, this razor cuts both ways. In an imaginary future academy where, as Foucault once predicted, the 21st century has become Deleuzian, perhaps reading Hegel will be an act of subversion. Perhaps. But for now, all we have is a nihilistic obsession with the Master-Slave Dialectic and negation, while Spinoza’s pure immanence and Hume’s common sense remain largely ignored.
I have walked through the hell of phenomenology. I’ve read Ecrits, Being and Time, and The Phenomenology of the Spirit. I’ve read pretty much everything Derrida ever wrote and I’ve worked my way through all of Kant’s critiques. And I am alone escaped to tell thee: thinking doesn’t need to be so painful. Just trust me. Start reading. You have no idea how much more beautiful your intellectual labor will become when the motor of your critical thinking stops being the dialectic of anxiety and starts being the experience of joy.
I now know that the place I sensed just outside of my sight was the imagination. I knew it then, but I didn’t have the words for it. Barsoom, the Hyborian Age and Earthsea weren’t places I could drive to, I knew. Still, I had the sense that they were real, by some measure of reality that was different than the way in which my house and my dog were real. There was resonance there. Things in the stories touched on things in life. Conan’s thrill at combat and adventure was as real as the feeling I got running, jumping, and hitting other boys on the football field. When Heinlein’s characters expounded on human society and the value of the individual, it reflected the things I was noticing about life as a geek in high school.
The reality of the stories lived (or, in some cases, died) with that resonance. Stories with that resonance were true, even if they never happened. Characters with that resonance were real, though they’d never lived. They’re phantasms that live by borrowing from the experiences of their readers. It’s not just elegy, though. Good stories aren’t just pushing the buttons of memory. The good stories, the great ones, take that borrowed reality and extend it beyond the immediate resonance and into the things that never happened and never could.
“Novelty-seeking is one of the traits that keeps you healthy and happy and fosters personality growth as you age,” says C. Robert Cloninger, the psychiatrist who developed personality tests for measuring this trait. The problems with novelty-seeking showed up in his early research in the 1990s; the advantages have become apparent after he and his colleagues tested and tracked thousands of people in the United States, Israel and Finland.
“It can lead to antisocial behavior,” he says, “but if you combine this adventurousness and curiosity with persistence and a sense that it’s not all about you, then you get the kind of creativity that benefits society as a whole.”
“Nothing reveals your personality more succinctly than your characteristic emotional reaction to novelty and change over time and across many situations,” Ms. Gallagher says. “It’s also the most important behavioral difference among individuals.”
"[Dr. Cloninger] and colleagues looked for the crucial combination of traits in people who flourished over the years — the ones who reported the best health, most friends, fewest emotional problems and greatest satisfaction with life. What was the secret to their happy temperament and character? A trio of traits. They scored high in novelty-seeking as well in persistence and “self-transcendence.”"
"“We now consume about 100,000 words each day from various media, which is a whopping 350 percent increase, measured in bytes, over what we handled back in 1980,” Ms. Gallagher says. “Neophilia spurs us to adjust and explore and create technology and art, but at the extreme it can fuel a chronic restlessness and distraction.”
She and Dr. Cloninger both advise neophiles to be selective in their targets. “Don’t go wide and shallow into useless trivia,” Ms. Gallagher says. “Use your neophilia to go deep into subjects that are important to you.” That’s a traditional bit of advice, but to some dopamine-charged neophiliacs, it may qualify as news.”