July 22, 2020
How does an individual achieve excellence? Often, it is by following in the footsteps of others. Other times, it is by creating your own path in a self-directed way. Let us first give a cursory glance at some of the footsteps, or thoughts, of one of the best individuals worthy of emulation, that being Aristotle, and then proceed to take a gander at tools that allow for the pursuit of excellence where an individual creates their own path, rather than simply emulate some of the best individuals that came beforehand.
To start off, some keen observers might have noticed that the above quote is attributed by Will Durant, even though you might have thought, as I did, that the sentiment was brought about by Aristotle.
It turns out that according to Caelan Huntress from Medium.com, the quote is in fact penned by Will Durant, as a synthesis of two sentiments Aristotle had.
While exploring Durant’s book ‘The Story of Philosophy,’ Huntress found that the lead-in quote is Durant’s personal take on a fusion of two sentiments intimated by Aristotle, the first one being that:
“As it is not one swallow or a fine day that makes a spring, so it is not one day or a short time that makes a man blessed and happy.”
Concurrent with that, the Huntress also found that Aristotle echoed the following:
“…these virtues are formed in man by his doing the right actions.”
It was by the combination of those two highlighted statements that Durant was able to synthesize Aristotle’s thoughts so succinctly.
Huntress thereafter argues about what to do with the realization that the quote that he often thought stemmed from the mind of Aristotle, in fact came from Durant’s analysis of those two aforementioned passages. I encourage individuals to read that article at length, as it is insightful, well constructed and incisive. Likewise, there are many other thoughts by Aristotle that are worthy of study, but those are beyond the scope of this discussion, but are mentioned or those that might be interested in sound ideas to study at length.
Shifting gears, excellence is often pursued and achieved by proactively learning what one can from the circumstances life provides, and by integrating those lessons into your intellectual repertoire. Given that, let’s explore what can be learned from the example that Huntress shared.
The first lesson we can learn is that by simple repetition, things that are sensible must be true in their full breadth and scope, simply because they make sense. And yet, the accuracy and the foundation of a concept is important in understanding who came up with a particular concept, or take on a concept, thus broadening the tapestry provided by the overarching newfound view brought about by such insights, thus allowing for deeper exploration of subject matter. This also holds individuals to a higher standard by not settling for something that is incorrect, simply because it is born out of repetition. Likewise, attributing a quote to the right author is morally the right thing to do.
The second lesson we can gather is that through an authoritative label, things can be “rubber stamped” as factual or true when they are not.
The best recent example of this is how the COVID-19 fatality rate, which was originally touted to be over 3% was in fact akin to that of the flu. This means that the establishment, and the mainstream media that fear mongered incessantly, weren’t simply wrong, but were wrong by over ten orders of magnitude – WAY WRONG. And the illusion of the Coronavirus contagion, as was touted by the media and the establishment, was brought about by individuals wearing authoritative labels, the veritable modern high priests of society. That’s not the only way that the Coronavirus story fell apart either, leaving many additional failures brought about by the establishment, which shows how careful individuals need to be when listening to an authority figure.
The third lesson that can be ascertained is that as individuals we must rely on our own devices, on our own mind, and sift through information when need to get to the core of the matter, to the underlying substrata that undergirds arguments, overarching generalizations, and propaganda. If individuals do not, individuals are simply outsourcing their critical thinking to others that might not have their best interests at hand, or could be downright incompetent.
This is where self-directed learning comes in, which allows individuals a way that they can create a solid foundation upon which they may live their life and ultimately chase their dreams. As such, the following books will provide the tools to learn in a self-directed way for individuals to pursue excellence in their own areas in life.
Self-directed learning is simply what an Autodidact does, learn in a self-taught way. And given that modern schooling’s experienced quite a decline over the last few decades, and schools aren’t even open at the moment (as of this writing), it falls to individuals and families to take their own education in hand, in order to make sure they have the foundational components to tackle the obstacle that life provides as well as create the life they see fit for themselves.
Some of the best tools for self-directed learning that I have found over the years were shared in an article called 7 Phenomenal Books for Homeschooling and Autodidacts. This was not only to provide an organized way for individuals to find significant ways to learn all in one place, but also to help individuals learn on their own time, in their own streamlined way, with a robust and yet wide-ranging set of books that provide intellectual tools to help them learn as they see fit.
In a brief overall synopsis, the books are as follows:
(1) Socratic Logic V3.1 by Peter Kreeft PhD
This book is the best book on Logic that I have found by far, and is a critical foundational component in education that has been stripped from public schooling by design. That alone should give one pause, for a system that seeks to remove foundational components of education is a system that should lose the trust of individuals. And not only has Logic been stripped from most academic curricula in the United States, but the entire Trivium and Quadrivium, as they were taught in classical education.
If those are not reasons enough, here are 13 additional sound, thought provoking, and resonance-inducing reasons why to study Logic.
(2) The Trivium – The Liberal Arts of Grammar, Logic & Rhetoric by Sister Miriam Joseph PhD
Where the previous book by Kreeft touches only upon Logic, this book by Miriam Joseph gives a robust foundation for the study of the Trivium, which served as part of the intellectual nourishment that individuals were encouraged to study well over a century ago, but are not now given the robust and critical thinking skills that studying The Trivium provides.
(3) How To Read A Book – The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren
This book is not simply about reading, but about how to extract the most amount of intellectual substance from a book from a kaleidoscope of angles. Reading, like breathing, is taken for granted as it happens automatically and yet, just as there’s a proper way to gain the maximum, or at least sustainably more from breathing by breathing correctly (yes, there’s a correct way to breathe, and most of us, myself included, don’t do it at all, or often enough) there’s also a way to gain substantially more from reading. This book helps accomplish that in spades.
(4) Philosophy 101 – An Introduction to Philosophy Via Plato’s Apology by Peter Kreeft PhD
By breaking down philosophy through Plato’s Apology, Kreeft makes learning philosophy accessible for everyone.
This is a must read book that boils down philosophy in a simple and easy-to-follow manner, that strips must of the academic density that turns people away from Philosophy. Kreeft is a master in simplicity and brings about complicated subjects in a seamless way. There is simply no better way to delve into Philosophy, or Plato, then this.
(5) The Complete Workbook for Arguments – A Complete Course in Critical Thinking by David R. Morrow & Anthony Weston
In an age where memes and sweeping generalizations, buttressed by repeating what the mainstream media says, are often seen as the end-all and be-all ways to support a point of view, being able to create your own argument from scratch is crucial to mindfully argue a position in a sound, mindful way, and not simply hand off what is given to us, which is often marred by disinformation, misinformation, or outright lies.
(6) The Imaginative Argument – A Practical Manifesto for Writers by Frank L. Cioffi
This book, like the above book, is about argumentation, but through the creative tunnels of the mind, and not the logical under-structure that underlie those tunnels as The Complete Workbook for Arguments brings about.
Even so, The Imaginative Argument is an easier read, and yet, just as important because often times, if one cannot simply, or creatively bring about an argument, one will not have an interested listener. This book helps individuals think beyond the box in ways to create arguments through a variety of methods.
(7) Sherlock Holmes – The Complete Stories by Arthur Conan Doyle
There’s no better way to learn Logic through fiction than this book. That’s all that needs to be said about that. That’s not a hyperbole either.
All in all, I hope that the 7 books mentioned become part of your serious consideration for seeking self-directed education for yourself and those you care about. In the link 7 Phenomenal Books for Homeschooling and Autodidacts, there are slightly more extended thoughts on these, and there are also hyperlinks for individual reviews of these books as well, if you are so interested in reading them.
If you do so choose to explore the above books, I would recommend Philosophy 101 by Peter Kreeft PhD as a starting point based on its simplicity, depth, and broad application it can provide in a quick way given that the book is not that long, and its accessibility makes this easy to mentally digest and mindfully ponder and bring to bear.
With all that in mind, life is ultimately what you make of it, and it becomes much easier by having the foundational components you need to create that life that you dream of.
What’s more, those books will help individuals be able to excel in the areas that are often never touched upon given the deliberate dumbing down in education that has taken place for nigh a century, which the seminal work of the late two-time award winning teacher of the year in NYC, and researcher John Taylor Gatto has taught us.
In other words, these books will help you excel in most areas in life, especially the ones that matter at the substantial level. That alone should be reason for serious consideration.
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Zy Marquiez is author of Amor Vincit Omnia – Love Conquers All, and also an avid book reviewer, poet, inquirer, an open-minded skeptic, health freedom advocate, and writer who aims at empowering individuals in many ways, while also delving deeper and regularly mirroring subjects like Consciousness, Education, Creativity, Individuality, Ancient History & Ancient Civilizations, Forbidden Archaeology, Big Pharma, Alternative Health, Space, Geoengineering, Social Engineering, Propaganda, and much more.
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