How Philosophers Think

The faster you jump to conclusions, the more likely you are to default to fashionable thinking. People who don’t have the tools to reason independently make up their minds by adopting the opinions of prestigious people. When they do, they favor socially rewarded positions over objective accounts of reality

Philosophers are the most rigorous thinkers I know.

Like intellectual boxers; they come to understand ideas by making them fight with each other. Their style of analysis is effective because it’s so bloody. One friend calls his style “violent thinking.” He talks about thinking like a soldier talks about interrogation. He subjects ideas to ruthless torture, shaking them and grabbing them by the throat until they can no longer breathe and, eventually, reveal their true nature.

The way he dissects ideas reminds me of something the smartest kid in my middle school class used to do. On the weekends, he’d take computers apart and put them back together, so he could understand how they work. He rarely reconstructed them in the same way he dismantled them, though. For the joy of play and the pursuit of efficiency gains, he searched for new ways to reconfigure the machines. Every now and then, he’d find a performleance improvement that even the designers didn’t consider. But usually, his risks didn’t pan out. Even when he reached a dead end, he always learned something about why computers are made the way they are.

Good philosophers are like my friend from middle school. But instead of playing with computers, they play with ideas. Writing takes them a long time not because they’re finger-happy keyboard warriors, but because they rip ideas apart until they’re left with only the atomic elements. Once the idea has been sufficiently deconstructed, they put it back together. Usually, in new ways.

That thinking process happens through writing, where we navigate the hazy labyrinth of consciousness. Most roads lead to a dead end. But every now and then, the compass of intuition leads to a revelation that the top-down planning mind would’ve never discovered. To that end, most of the time a philosopher spends writing doesn’t involve typing. Rather, it’s a form of intellectual exploration—following intellectual embryos and running into various roadblocks on their way to discovering an idea’s mature form.

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E Pluribus Unum: A Case for Compulsory National Service

Every year, thousands of residents and tourists descend upon Pamplona, Spain for the Running of the Bulls. This tradition takes place on the second day of the Festival of San Fermin, a nine-day celebration full of fireworks, parade processions, singing, sports, and sangria. Before the run comes an all-night party, and most runners arrive in the morning wearing their sangria-soaked shirts from the night before.

Author Sebastian Junger offers a glimpse into the preceding all-night party in his book, Tribe.

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