Reading Julius Evola

by on February 15, 2017 at 12:41 am in Books, History, Philosophy, Religion, Uncategorized | Permalink

Yes, the survey of “works of reaction” will continue, at what speed I am not sure.  I picked up Julius Evola, in particular his Revolt Against the Modern World, because of a recent NYT article claiming Evola’s influence over Steve Bannon.  I don’t consider the cited evidence for a connection as anything other than tenuous, but still the book was only a click away and Evola was a well-known Italian fascist and I’ve been reading in that area anyway (read in areas clusters!).  I read about 70-80 pages of it, and pawed some of the rest.  I was frustrated.  Upon revisiting the book, here is the passage I opened up to at random:

If on the one hand the original synthesis of the two powers is reestablished in the person of the consecrated king, on the other hand, the nature of the hierarchical relationships existing in every normal social order between royalty and priestly case (or church), which is merely the mediator of supernatural influences, is very clearly defined: regality enjoys primacy over the priesthood, just as, symbolically speaking, the sun has primacy over the moon and the man over the woman.

He then went on about sacrifices and “the priestly regality of Melchizedek.”  In later life, Evola sported a monocle over his left eye, and if you are wondering he did have a reputation as an anti-feminist theorist.  Oh give me the clarity of Mosley and Dugin!

I’ve been pawing through de Maistre and de Bonald as well, I’ll let you know if I find anything interesting there.  In the meantime, someone needs to write an Atlantic article about the much-neglected connection between Alt Right and mystical ideas.

1 Coco February 15, 2017 at 12:49 am

Homeric heroes whose ego never changes are the ideal men of the alt-right.

2 Sam Haysom February 15, 2017 at 1:47 am

Who do you have in mind? Have you actually read Homer? Because the only person I can think of this applying too is Agamemnon. Maybe.

3 dasf February 15, 2017 at 4:14 pm

I’m guessing he means Achilles forgetting what the shade of Achilles says and Achilles’ actual deliberations in the Illiad.

Pesudo-Homer is much better known than actual Homer

4 Skeptic February 15, 2017 at 1:01 am

Why are you being a prick re: Evola? How about a Straussian reading? Bc that would hurt your fee-fees?!

5 alt-right snowflakes are hilarious February 15, 2017 at 9:51 am

Why are your fee-fees hurt that he’s being a dick to someone, on top of being a fascist, isn’t an interesting thinker?

6 Jerf February 15, 2017 at 1:04 am

I’m actually currently designing an entire line of esoteric-trumpism merchandise to be sold online with a “The Secret” sorta marketing angle. Far beyond rare pepes, I going to really dig into U of T prof. Jordan Peterson’s youtube lectures and start repackaging it as a spiritual guidance. Planning a doomsday angle with an urgent push to get neoreactionary philosophy coded into American A.I. before the Chinese can unleash their own Confucian singularity.

Wish me luck.

7 Sam Haysom February 15, 2017 at 1:06 am

May you have an interesting time.

8 Troll me February 15, 2017 at 10:22 pm

There’s also the theory that people would very very much rather not have others do their thinking for them, especially an AI.

The Center for Cognitive Liberty & Ethics (CCLE) is among organizations which formalize this position, a position which is highly consistent with what huge volumes of blood have been shed for in more recent centuries.

I’m curious which neo-reactionary principles you think other people or AI-driven processes should be … thinking on the behalf of others.

9 Thursday February 15, 2017 at 1:16 am

You might want to read this modern follower of Bonald, a physics professor in the Mountain West:
He has helpfully put his best and most thoroughly argued essays along the left hand column. The book reviews are well worth checking out too.

10 Thursday February 15, 2017 at 1:24 am

My favourite Maistre quote:

In the whole vast domain of living nature there reigns an open violence, a kind of prescriptive fury which arms all the creatures to their common doom. As soon as you leave the inanimate kingdom, you find the decree of violent death inscribed on the very frontiers of life. You feel it already in the vegetable kingdom: from the great catalpa to the humblest herb, how many plants die, and how many are killed. But from the moment you enter the animal kingdom, this law is suddenly in the most dreadful evidence. A power of violence at once hidden and palpable … has in each species appointed a certain number of animals to devour the others. Thus there are insects of prey, reptiles of prey, birds of prey, fishes of prey, quadrupeds of prey. There is no instant of time when one creature is not being devoured by another. Over all these numerous races of animals man is placed, and his destructive hand spares nothing that lives. He kills to obtain food and he kills to clothe himself. He kills to adorn himself, he kills in order to attack, and he kills in order to defend himself. He kills to instruct himself and he kills to amuse himself. He kills to kill. Proud and terrible king, he wants everything and nothing resists him.

… From the lamb he tears its guts and makes his harp resound … from the wolf his most deadly tooth to polish his pretty works of art, from the elephant his tusks to make a toy for his child: his table is covered with corpses … And who [in this general carnage] will exterminate him who exterminates all the others? Himself. It is man who is charged with the slaughter of man … Thus is accomplished the great law of the violent destruction of living creatures. The whole earth, perpetually steeped in blood, is nothing but a vast altar, upon which all that is living must be sacrificed without end, without measure, without pause, until the consummation of things, until evil is extinct, until the death of death.

I’m a pretty right wing guy, especially on social issues, but, as exhilarating as this is, on the whole I prefer Thomas Aquinas. This is a bit too Hobbesian for my taste.

Articles on Maistre:

11 Ray Lopez February 15, 2017 at 2:49 am

That was a passage that actually can be understood. It seems that, as TC says, this author is very metaphysical (I downloaded his “Revolt against the Modern World (1969)” and briefly went through it). Here is another passage that makes ‘sense’ (is understandable, not that I agree with it): “As far as the Western doctrine of the “holy war” is concerned, I refer here only to the Crusades.”…and then goes on to say the Crusades brought about unity between the different factions in the West, as well as their opponents, the Muslims, and then Evola glorifies this holy war for this reason (providing unity). I see Trump starting a war for the same reason when Trump’s popularity falls to single digits (to get the country behind him, and sadly it will work, in the same way the country backed Bush II in 2001).

12 Thursday February 15, 2017 at 2:54 am

It’s Maistre not Evola.

13 Anonymous February 15, 2017 at 10:43 am

My favorite de Maistre quote:

“When I travel through my room, I rarely follow a straight line: I go from the table towards a picture hanging in a corner; from there, I set out obliquely towards the door; but even though, when I begin, it really is my intention to go there, if I happen to meet my armchair en route, I don’t think twice about it, and settle down in it without further ado.”

14 Sam Haysom February 15, 2017 at 1:27 am

I won’t hold my breath, but there is a ton of fascinating stuff in de Maistre to the point where large portions of War and Peace are simply paraphases of his St. Petersburg Dialogues.

That said if you really want to understand the reactionary thinkers influence on the alt-right as opposed to the neo-reaction guys you would be best served by reading chapter four of Schmitt’s Political Theology and Schmitts three articles on Donoso Cortes (who was the most “fascist” (which is still to say not fascist at all) of the post-revolution traditionalist Catholics). A lot of the alt-right (to the extent that they read these guys at all) came to the traditionalists via Schmitt, who is without a doubt the paramount anti-liberal thinker of the 20th century. But again the really popular and insightful guys on the “alt right” like Steve Sailer aren’t reading these guys.

Alexsandr (sp?) Herzen also has teneditious and overwrought chapter on Donoso Cortes in From the Other Shores which would likely interest you.

15 steveslr February 15, 2017 at 2:35 am

“But again the really popular and insightful guys on the “alt right” like Steve Sailer aren’t reading these guys.”

I’m more into Ben Franklin.

16 A Black Man February 15, 2017 at 10:04 am

Admittedly, I’m not well versed on what defines the so-called alt-right. What’s clear is the term has two meanings. There is the very narrow version that covers just the white separatists like Richard Spencer, who seems to fashion himself as a white Marcus Garvey. Then there is the broad definition that covers everyone outside the blank slate crowd. That’s a really big club. Some will no doubt be inspired by 19th century European reactionaries, but others would have no interest in that material.

My hunch is the key to understanding the broader “alt-right” is to start with the HBD guys.

17 James C February 16, 2017 at 1:01 am

A core thinker of the alt-right is James Burnham, who coined the concept of the managerial state. Another would be Sam Francis. Also, the HBD’ers appear to be despised by the rest of the alt-right crowd for their IQ-fetish that in turn extends to a fetish for East Asians.

18 Ricardo February 16, 2017 at 1:36 am

“the HBD’ers appear to be despised by the rest of the alt-right crowd for their IQ-fetish that in turn extends to a fetish for East Asians.”

This supports the hypothesis that a core element of what holds the “alt-right” together is white nationalism.

19 Ricardo February 16, 2017 at 1:29 am

On people “outside the blank slate crowd,” Steven Pinker strikes me as a moderate liberal with some libertarian sympathies, not an “alt-right” thinker at all. He pointed out that believing that one’s socioeconomic outcomes are strongly influenced by one’s genes doesn’t have any clear-cut ideological content. A liberal could use that as the basis for arguing for a stronger welfare state, for instance.

I don’t know what the boundary is between the “alt-right” and reactionary and/or white nationalist ideas but alt-righters do seem more likely to be young and not religious.

20 Troll me February 15, 2017 at 10:29 pm

Do you know that “liberal” means “freedom”?

What’s an “anti-liberal”?

21 Sam Haysom February 16, 2017 at 3:49 am

Shhhh adults are talking.

22 Agrippa February 15, 2017 at 1:30 am

“In the meantime, someone needs to write an Atlantic article about the much-neglected connection between Alt Right and mystical ideas.”

Yes to this. Where’s Umberto Eco when you really need him? That Steve Bannon is no Karl Rove, but is he a Templar?! He sure does seem to have a thing for Christian pilgrims.

23 Sam Haysom February 15, 2017 at 1:35 am

And now that I think about so did Chaucer. And he and his little cohort invented Valentine’s Day. Also chaucher was super intrigued by those Homeric heroes and heroines (does that make him more or less alt-right).

Which means we basically just celebrated the high holy day of the Alt-Right without knowing it.

24 Isaac February 15, 2017 at 1:34 am

Not the Atlantic, but Religion Dispatches had an illuminating piece on the compatibility of New Thought spirituality (e.g., The Secret or Trump’s hero Norman Vincent Peale) with authoritarianism:

In general, the degree to which the alt-right is a homegrown phenomenon, as opposed to a European import, is underexplored. Certainly the vehicle by which the alt-right came to prominence, Trump, owes more to the American tradition of hucksters and con artists (John Brinkley comes to mind) than anything in Steve Bannon’s library. And Emersonian self-invention, while often associated with cosmopolitanism, can be (and I would say is) a major component of reactionary movements in the U.S., where appeals to individualism often are used to blunt efforts at social justice. It seems like this would be a potentially fruitful line of inquiry.

25 Sam Haysom February 15, 2017 at 1:39 am

Benjamin Franklin, otherwise known as the prototypical American, was kind of fascisty when you put it like that. Good thing the only thing that matters when defining the American character is a statue the French gave us.

26 Anonymous February 15, 2017 at 10:37 am

Correction: some graffiti on a statue the French gave us.

27 The Original D February 15, 2017 at 2:54 am

I don’t think Trump is alt-right per se. He just has a gift for finding and nurturing an audience. He’s even said that when he does public speaking he just sort of rambles until he senses he’s found a theme that energizes the crowd. When the Obama birth certificate thing caught fire he realized he’d found a new audience.

28 Troll me February 15, 2017 at 10:31 pm

I had never heard of any such idea as the American alt-reicht being a European import, except perhaps in the sense of some residual racism leftover from colonial times and the slave era which have endured longer in the USA than elsewhere.

29 Mark Thorson February 15, 2017 at 1:38 am

Why is the fasiculate axe still on the reverse of the dime? When will we finally root out all of the elements of slavery, racism, and hate? Remove that slave-owner George Washington from the dollar, the capital of the nation, and that state north of Oregon!

30 Sam Haysom February 15, 2017 at 1:40 am

I’d settle for abolishing tenure at any commuter school named after a slave owner.

31 Troll me February 15, 2017 at 10:36 pm

Why not? I don’t see Englishmen paying obeiscance to King Henry the 8th who freed them from Vatican control.

I mean, no need to whitewash history. Certainly the slaveowners of 1776 should be considered in light of the times, with much allowance for their redeeming factors. But I think it’s fair to say that being a slaveowner is a pretty legit strike against someone, and with rare exceptions like Washington, who practically founded the country in some ways of putting things … well, why the hell should slave owner names be on university libraries, etc., 200 years after the guy’s dead?

Write about it in a book, put the book in the library, and get a new name. It’s only been 200 years already, right?

32 steveslr February 15, 2017 at 2:44 am

I’m fascinated by emergence of the esoteric cult that fervently worships the most anti-democratic and plutocratic of the Founding Fathers, with rites conducted every day except Monday at the Richard Rodgers Theater on 46th St.

Minimum donations begin at $460.

33 Sam Haysom February 15, 2017 at 4:16 am

Unless you are a pro-Puerto Rican independence terrorist. Your only chance to see it with the original cast Steve might be to play up your support for PR independence.

34 steveslr February 15, 2017 at 4:27 am

Scott Alexander writes at Slate Star Codex:

“QZ’s profile of Steve Bannon. I keep on hearing about this guy as some kind of esoteric conservative mastermind with unpredictable goals and visions, but his positions don’t look that different from what you’d expect to hear on Rush Limbaugh or something.”

There’s a lot of hysteria in the media right now.

35 Pensans February 15, 2017 at 6:10 am

In fairness, given his Christian audience, Melchizedek wasn’t that obscure. He is central type of Christ in the Old Testament because he is a priest, outside the order of the Levites, and a king. He is used regularly in explaining the unification of kingship and priesthood in Christ and the sense in which Christ, though born of the royal line of David of Judah, could still be a priest, when kings most ordinarily could not, since they were not Levites.

E.g., Heb 6:20 … Jesus, who went before us, has entered [the inner sanctuary] on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek. This Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most High. He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him, Heb 7:2 and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything. First, his name means “king of righteousness”; then also, “king of Salem” means “king of peace.” 3 Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, like the Son of God he remains a priest forever. 4 Just think how great he was: Even the patriarch Abraham gave him a tenth of the plunder! 5 Now the law requires the descendants of Levi who become priests to collect a tenth from the people– that is, their brothers– even though their brothers are descended from Abraham. 6 This man, however, did not trace his descent from Levi, yet he collected a tenth from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. 7 And without doubt the lesser person is blessed by the greater. 8 In the one case, the tenth is collected by men who die; but in the other case, by him who is declared to be living. 9 One might even say that Levi, who collects the tenth, paid the tenth through Abraham, 10 because when Melchizedek met Abraham, Levi was still in the body of his ancestor. 11 If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the law was given to the people), why was there still need for another priest to come– one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron? 12 For when there is a change of the priesthood, there must also be a change of the law.

36 rayward February 15, 2017 at 7:16 am

Cowen is making much more of this than necessary. It’s simply restoring, or preserving, the ancien regime, and putting the pretenders in their place. The Romans had the most effective method, very public crucifixion of the pretenders. Douthat even understands that’s what is at stake in the Church, although he sides with the ancien regime over the pretender, Pope Francis.

37 rayward February 15, 2017 at 7:25 am

Of course, those who wish to restore, or preserve, the ancien regime cast themselves in the opposite role, that of revolutionaries who are out to overthrow the ancien regime. It requires a lot of creativity, and gullibility.

38 Niroscience February 15, 2017 at 8:29 am

One of my favorite novelists Yukio Mishima is also a darling of the alt-right blogsphere. I think examining him may help understand how the alt-right – especially for fellow millennials – provides a consumption good that other ideologies don’t.

I’d suggest any sympathetic biographies, his bodybuilding memoir: Sun and Steel and the short story Patriotism. Added benefit is that he

Alt-right and far-left ideologies may provide meaning (and meaningful personal and political action) in a way that clinical social democracy, technocratic liberalism, and gentle conservatism never can.

39 Dain February 15, 2017 at 1:18 pm

“Alt-right and far-left ideologies may provide meaning…”

Both of these camps are familiar with Carl Schmitt, hostile to broadly liberal platitudes, and know what’s really at stake in political disputes. It’s fascinating how both gritty realism and nutty far out ideas about how society works – or ought to work – can co-exist in the same group(s).

40 steveslr February 15, 2017 at 9:03 pm

What percentage of far right militarist leaders have been gay, like Mishima and Ernst Rohm?

Some of this stuff is a fun way for gays to play at dressing up butch. It’s like an ideological version of the Village People.

41 Troll me February 15, 2017 at 10:43 pm

I was not aware that hating or disrespecting people was a “consumption good”.

Or … maybe I misunderstand something?

42 Donald Pretari February 15, 2017 at 8:34 am

Did you read Isaiah Berlin on de Maistre?

43 Sanjiv February 15, 2017 at 5:48 pm

Second this. It’s a great essay.

44 Steve Marks February 15, 2017 at 8:58 am

On fascism I would recommend the works of A. James Gregor:

45 Dan in Euroland February 15, 2017 at 11:34 am

Another Italian working in the area of fascism. Interesting.

Here is Umberto Eco on Ur-Fascism:

46 Hansjörg Walther February 15, 2017 at 11:41 am

To Americans, neoreaction may seem like something new. But from a German perspective, it sounds quite old, like German Conservatism before 1933 and the more radical strands of it, the Pan-German League, the German Fatherland Party during WWI, the “völkisch” movement (later absorbed by the Nazis, but somewhat distinct), a large part of the German Youth Movement, the Conservative Revolution of the 1920s: basically a consistent rejection of everything that started with the Enlightenment: anti-Western, anti-liberal, anti-representative democracy, anti-free trade (pro-autarky), anti-free market (pro-corporatist), … This was not exactly Fascism, but a broader intellectual development intertwined with it.

Hard to name _the_ author who represents this best. It was more like a consensus view on the Right (and in part also beyond) that most took for granted and felt little reason to elaborate on. Just a very incomplete list of authors (sometimes only with an overlap, not with some common party line): von Treitschke, von Hartmann, Lagarde, Langbehn, Möller van den Bruck, Spengler, Klages, Heidegger, the Jüngers, Niekisch, Carl Schmitt, etc. No two of them would have agreed on much, but they shared many basic assumptions. Some ended up with the Nazis, some were opposed to them.

One could trace this strand back to Bismarck (although he was not an ideologue, more through his attack on liberal policies from the 1870s on) and the Socialists of the Chair like Wagener, Schmoller, or Sombart. Of course, all kinds of earlier forerunners who contributed ideas (not necessarily that they had a similar view themselves) like Herder, Fichte, List, … Hard to track down all the influences because it was so pervasive, almost like German culture (also beyond the Right, and even to some extent on the Left). The Nazis only assembled it into their own special version.

47 Troll me February 15, 2017 at 10:48 pm

Heidegger once said something mildly offensive about Jews on the radio (or something…).

The fact of being surrounded by Nazis during perhaps the largest genocides of history, and that being about as severe as he got … I just don’t think he fits into that group.

He was mostly preoccupied what questions like “what IS?”, right?

Why would a Nazi philosopher’s most important works revolve around concepts like … the defining feature of being human is to question things. I don’t think Hitler would have been a huge fan of “humans are essentially questioning beings, before all else”.

48 Ted Craig February 15, 2017 at 12:05 pm

Tyler: ‘because of a recent NYT article claiming Evola’s influence over Steve Bannon. ”

The actual article: “Mr. Bannon, who did not return a request for comment for this article, is an avid and wide-ranging reader. He has spoken enthusiastically about everything from Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” to “The Fourth Turning” by William Strauss and Neil Howe, which sees history in cycles of cataclysmic and order-obliterating change. His awareness of and reference to Evola in itself only reflects that reading. But some on the alt-right consider Mr. Bannon a door through which Evola’s ideas of a hierarchical society run by a spiritually superior caste can enter in a period of crisis.”

49 Dain February 15, 2017 at 1:29 pm

It’s not that it’s a lie that Evola has influenced Steve Bannon. It’s just that Sun Tzu – and lots of thinkers, apparently – have as well, rendering it not so very interesting as a guide to his real, true, deep down thoughts.

50 Hansjörg Walther February 15, 2017 at 12:07 pm

A book that comes to mind with Donald Trump is Heinrich Mann’s “Der Untertan.” The standard reading is that this is a quasi-Marxist critique of “bourgeois society.” That’s not Mann’s point: The protagonist, Diederich Heßling, is portrayed as a National Liberal (by that time, the “Liberal” had become rather meaningless). His nemesis is the classical liberal Eugen Richter and his party. What Mann attacks is how the bourgeoisie sold out to anti-liberal values, and the pettiness of those who did. The “old Buck”, a veteran of the revolution of 1848, is just as bourgeois as Heßling from a Marxist standpoint. And the Socialist Napoleon Fischer is actually cooperating quite well with Heßling (in a hate-love relationship): both adore the “power.” If you know something about the politics in the background (mid 1890s), what seems like an overblown parody (and it is that, too) is much closer to the truth than may seem.

51 Turkey Vulture February 15, 2017 at 1:27 pm

At what point does trying to perfect your “theory of mind” of another person by reading everything that might have influenced them become a hindrance to understanding the person and successfully predicting their behavior?

52 Troll me February 15, 2017 at 10:50 pm

When they have to start shoot themselves, and other people, in the foot to ensure the ability to negotiate without every position being already laid out.

53 Troll me February 15, 2017 at 10:51 pm

Effective pro-competition mechanisms with a decent safety net to promot risk-taking could help with that maybe … anyone aware of signs of things moving in that direction?

54 Arun Ezhutachan February 15, 2017 at 7:29 pm

The Bannon is an Evola-acolyte meme has spread across the Atlantic. A former Spanish foreign minister has repeated and embellished it in an article at Project Syndicate.

Bannon was talking on Skype to a Vatican Conference and, quite naturally championed ‘Judaeo-Christian’ values while condemning Ayn Rand type individualism and Evola type Traditionalist anti-Capitalism which, according to Umberto Eco, has been a big influence on Italian neo-fascism.

For English speaking people people, Evola and Serrano and Guenon and Savitri Devi don’t really strike a chord. On the other hand a lot of people have heard of Aleister Crowley- depicted as the sinister Mr. Mocatta in ‘The Devil Rides out’- which gave Christopher Lee one of his finest roles.
Apparently Crowley was once considered a very promising scholar and a poet to rival Yeats. Like Evola, he was a mountaineer. I suppose his life-style more quickly unravelled into a sordid tale of drug fuelled orgies financed by extortion and blackmail and so he ceased to be respectable.

Mircea Eliade- who was sympathetic to the far Right in Rumania- nevertheless lived down his past and gained an enviable professional reputation. But he rejected magic as having real existence. Evola never did so. Guenon converted to Islam and gained a sort of respectability as a Sufi. Savitri Devi, a French mathematician of Greek extraction, converted to Hinduism but it was her commitment to Animal Rights which rehabilitated her as an extreme sort of Environmentalist. Serrano appears to simply have gone of his head. He was Chile’s Ambassador to India and, much to the consternation of the Indian foreign office, claiming that Hitler was the last incarnation of the God Vishnu and was living under the Antarctic in a flying saucer.

The Vatican keeps track of ‘heresiarchs’- or ‘nut-job’s in plain Anglo Saxon- and Bannon’s mention of Evola, more especially in connection with far-right Continental movements, was designed to send the message ‘Kleptocrats like Putin, favour ‘crony capitalism’ which likes to give itself an ‘ethnic’ or Identitatrian complexion by promoting these bogus sort of hermetic sages.’
Bannon’s argument that Catholicism should support his own ‘enlightened Capitalism’ is never really spelled out. Still, it seems very strange to accuse Bannon of being an acolyte of Evola.

55 steveslr February 15, 2017 at 8:55 pm

Right, the mainstream media is overwhelmed by its hate and hysteria at the moment. Bannon is serving as a bogeyman for a lot of pretty crazy paranoia among “respectable” journalists.

One thing to keep in mind is the upcoming layoffs in the media. Ironically, Trump saved a lot of Trump-hating journalists’ jobs for a few months. But the layoffs have started at Slate today, and will probably hit the rest of the MSM over time. So, a lot of people are on the verge of hysteria over their own finances and it makes them prone to this kind of craziness we’re seeing over the purported Bannon Canon.

56 Troll me February 15, 2017 at 10:53 pm

Does Bannon himself position these things as being contrary to fascist or dictatorial risk potentials in various societies and situations, or is this something that sympathizers inmbue into his statements?

57 Blueneck83 February 15, 2017 at 8:34 pm
58 David O'Dowd February 15, 2017 at 8:41 pm

Tyler says “read in area clusters”. I’m just wondering if Tyler (or anyone else) has written more about this advice anywhere. I’d be curious to know the reasoning behind it.

59 what would ernest borgnine do February 16, 2017 at 1:27 am

David – typically when you ask a specific question this late after a post you won’t get an answer. SO this might not be a good answer but, in case nobody else steps up …Cowen has explained that one sign of a good book is that it leads you to other good books on similar topics. If you do not read in clusters you will be ignoring the prompting of the writers who are suggesting other books, and you are also not maximizing your own powers of concentration – nobody can cover everything, but it is within our powers of concentration to learn a lot about a subject if we are attentive to various things about that subject. And the best way to prepare to know more about subjects we do not know is to better understand subjects we do know, (well not truly understand, that is saying too much, but seeing various sides to the issues raised in a particular cluster in a way that we would not if we moved on quickly from one type of reading to another). This explanation does not address the philosophical question of whether it is better to know a few books well or many books not so well, or how much mental energy we should expend on thinking and expressing our own thoughts versus reading and understanding the thoughts of others, no matter how likely it is that others have understood and expressed things in a way we would not have Paul Halmos – the best way to learn mathematics is to do mathematics….(Paul Halmos quotes are real good on this topic) Solomon…”of making many books there is no end” (not a shout-out for cluster reading… but skipping around in the Book of Proverbs for 10 or 20 minutes will answer a lot of questions that are not as well answered almost anywhere else)…Schopenhauer would have approved of cluster reading as an active choice in reading material leading to developing one’s own thoughts about how to consider whether and to what extent the world is comprehensible….”we are too kind to books we will read all through a dull book for the sake of a few lines of genius or even just a few lines of pleasant insight”….

60 Alex February 16, 2017 at 10:07 am

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