Thinking as a science - PDF by Henry Hazlitt

Thinking as a science 

Thinking as a science

Every man knows there are evils in tlie world that need setting right. Every man has pretty definite ideas as to what these evils are. But to most men, one, in particular, stands out vividly. To some, in fact, this stands out with such startling vividness that they lose sight of other evils, or look upon them as the natural consequences of their own particular evil-in-chief. 

To the Socialist this evil is the capitalistic system; to the prohibitionist it is intemperance; to the feminist, it is the subjection of women; to the clergyman, it is the decline of religion; to Andrew Carnegie it is war; to the staunch Republican it is the Democratic Party, and so on, ad infinitum. too, have a pet little evil, to which in more passionate moments I am apt to attribute all the others. 
This evil is the neglect of thinking. And when I say thinking I mean real thinking, independent thinking, hard thinking. You protest. You say men are thinking more now than they ever were. You bring out the almanack to prove by statistics that illiteracy is declining. You point to our magnificent libraries. You point to the multiplication of books. You show beyond a doubt that people are reading more now than ever before in all history. . . ,

 Very well, exactly. That is just the trouble. Most people, when confronted with a problem, immediately acquire an inordinate desire to "read up" on it. When they get stuck mentally, the first thing such people do is to run to a book. Confess it, have you not often been in a waiting room or a Pullman, noticed people all about you reading, and finding yourself without any reading matter, have you hot wished that you had some? — something to "occupy your mind"? And did it ever occur to you that you had within you the power to occupy your mind, and do it more profitably than all those assiduous readers'? Briefly, did it ever occur to you to think? Of course you "thought" — in a sense. 

Thinking means a variety of things. You may have looked out of your train window while passing a field, and it may have occurred to you that that field would make an excellent baseball diamond. 

Then you "thought" of the time when you played baseball, "thought" of some particular game perhaps, "thought" how you had made a grandstand play or a bad muff, and how one day it began to rain in the middle of the game, and the team took refuge in the carriage shed. Then you "thought" of other rainy days rendered particularly vivid for some reason or other, or perhaps your mind came back to considering the present weather, and how long it was going to last. . . . And of course, in one sense you were "thinking." But when I use the word thinking, I mean thinking with a purpose, with an end in view, thinking to solve a problem. 

I mean the kind of thinking that is forced on us when we are deciding on a course to pursue, on a life work to take up perhaps; the kind of thinking that was forced on us in our younger days when we had to find a solution to a problem in mathematics, or when we tackled psychology in college. I do not mean "thinking" in snatches or holding petty opinions on this subject and on that. I mean think on significant questions which lie outside the bounds of your narrow personal welfare. This is the kind of thinking which is now so rare — so sadly needed! 

Of course, before this can be revived we must arouse a desire for it. We must arouse a de- sire for thinking for its own sake; solving problems for the mere sake of solving problems. But a mere desire for thinking, praiseworthy as it is, is not enough. We must know how to think, and to that end, we must search for those rules and methods of procedure which will most help us in thinking creatively, originally, and not least of all surely, correctly.

 When they think at all, the last thing men think about is their own thoughts. Every sensible man realizes that the perfection of a mechanical instrument depends to some extent upon the perfection of the tools with which it is made. No carpenter would expect a perfectly smooth board after using a dented or chipped plane. 

No gasolene engine manufacturer would expect to produce a good motor un- less he had the best lathes obtainable to help him turn out his product. No watchmaker would expect to construct a perfectly accurate timepiece unless he had the most delicate and accurate tools to turn out the cogs and screws. Before any specialist produces an instrument he thinks of the tools with which he is to produce it. But men reflect continually on the most complex problems — problems of vital importance to them — and expect to obtain satisfactory solutions, without once giving a thought to the manner in which they go about obtaining those solutions; without a thought to their own mind, the tool which produces those solutions. Surely this deserves at least some systematic consideration. 

  • I The Neglect of Thinking .... 1
  • II Thinking With Method 11
  • III A Pew Cautions 51
  • IV Concentration 68
  • V Prejudice and Uncertainty .... 99
  • VI Debate and Conversation .... 129
  • VII Thinking and Reading 135
  • VIII "Writing One's Thoughts .... 191
  • IX Things Worth Thinking About . . 207
  • X Thinking as an Art 237
  • XI Books on Thinking 248 

book details :
  • Author: Henry Hazlitt
  • Publication date: 1916
  • Company: New York, E.P. Dutton & company

  • Download 4/7 MB 

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