Wednesday, November 27, 2019

#331 / A Machine For Thinking

When I get to blog posting #365, at the end of this year (presuming that I do get there), I will have written for ten years in a row. That means one blog posting every day, for ten years, without a single exception.

In case it is not obvious, I am not getting paid to write this blog. I am not seeking to build my following so I can sell ads. In fact, I am not very clear who might actually be reading these blog postings (or any of them), so I think it is fair to say that I am not, really, writing for anyone else. I am writing for myself. Why would I do that?

In the past, I remember writing a blog post (it was a long time ago) that suggested that these blog postings might later serve as "notes" for a possible book. I still think that might be true. In fact, I think about that a lot. However, it isn't really true that I have any specific plan to write a book. I may or may not do so, in the future, but I am definitely planning to continue writing these blog posts. So, why? A significant allocation of time is required. I am not getting paid. No general celebration of my efforts is to be expected. It seems a bit bizarre (even, or maybe especially, to me).

I think I found an answer, or at least part of an answer, in some readings that were assigned in the Crown College Core Course (Crown 1), a course that I am teaching this Quarter at UCSC. All freshman students at UCSC are associated with one of the ten "Colleges" at the University, and each one of these Colleges requires each freshman student in that College to take a "College 1" course. At Crown College, where most of the students are planning to concentrate their studies in one of the science disciplines, the theme of the Core Course is "The Ethical and Political Implications of Emerging Technologies." 

In the Crown 1 Core Course, one class day is devoted to "Ethics and Writing." The assigned readings for that day are part of a curriculum that I have not prepared individually, so I am often doing the assigned readings at the same time the students are. As I did the readings for the "Ethics and Writing" discussion, I had a minor revelation, which says something about why I write this blog.

A couple of the assigned readings were from a book called, Naming What We Know. In particular, students (and the instructor) were assigned to read a section of the book called, "Writing Is a Technology through Which Writers Create and Recreate Meaning." The discussion coming out of that section included a description of writing as a "machine for thinking."

I like that idea!

Socrates, as most will remember, said that "an unexamined life is not worth living." That's a pretty strong statement (spoken like a philosopher), but I do think that an "unexamined life" is not nearly as productive, and as filled with joy and satisfaction, as a life in which the person living it is, in fact, reflecting on its meaning and purpose. In other words, if you will go at least a little ways with Socrates (and I certainly do), and if it is true that writing is a "machine for thinking," then writing can, in fact, help a person achieve an "examined life," a life that is more joy-filled and worthwhile than an "unexamined" life would be.

So, I'm with Socrates. And I'm going to keep writing this blog.

God willing!


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