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Thread: Autodidactic: A Means for Self-Actualizing

  1. #1 Autodidactic: A Means for Self-Actualizing 
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    Autodidactic: A Means for Self-Actualizing

    I am a retired engineer with a good bit of formal education and twenty five years of self-learning. I began the self-learning experience while in my mid-forties. I had no goal in mind; I was just following my intellectual curiosity in whatever direction it led me. This hobby, self-learning, has become very important to me. I have bounced around from one hobby to another but have always been enticed back by the excitement I have discovered in this learning process. Carl Sagan is quoted as having written; “Understanding is a kind of ecstasy.”

    I label myself as a September Scholar because I began the process at mid-life and because my quest is disinterested knowledge.

    Disinterested knowledge is an intrinsic value. Disinterested knowledge is not a means but an end. It is knowledge I seek because I desire to know it. I mean the term ‘disinterested knowledge’ as similar to ‘pure research’, as compared to ‘applied research’. Pure research seeks to know truth unconnected to any specific application.

    I think of the self-learner of disinterested knowledge as driven by curiosity and imagination to understand. The September Scholar seeks to ‘see’ and then to ‘grasp’ through intellection directed at understanding the self as well as the world. The knowledge and understanding that is sought by the September Scholar are determined only by personal motivations. It is noteworthy that disinterested knowledge is knowledge I am driven to acquire because it is of dominating interest to me. Because I have such an interest in this disinterested knowledge my adrenaline level rises in anticipation of my voyage of discovery.

    We often use the metaphors of ‘seeing’ for knowing and ‘grasping’ for understanding. I think these metaphors significantly illuminate the difference between these two forms of intellection. We see much but grasp little. It takes great force to impel us to go beyond seeing to the point of grasping. The force driving us is the strong personal involvement we have to the question that guides our quest. I think it is this inclusion of self-fulfillment, as associated with the question, that makes self-learning so important.

    The self-learner of disinterested knowledge is engaged in a single-minded search for understanding. The goal, grasping the ‘truth’, is generally of insignificant consequence in comparison to the single-minded search. Others must judge the value of the ‘truth’ discovered by the autodidactic. I suggest that truth, should it be of any universal value, will evolve in a biological fashion when a significant number of pursuers of disinterested knowledge engage in dialogue.

    In the United States our culture compels us to have a purpose. Our culture defines that purpose to be ‘maximize production and consumption’. As a result all good children feel compelled to become a successful producer and consumer. All good children both consciously and unconsciously organize their life for this journey.

    At mid-life many citizens begin to analyze their life and often discover a need to reconstitute their purpose. Some of the advantageous of this self-learning experience is that it is virtually free, undeterred by age, not a zero sum game, surprising, exciting and makes each discovery a new eureka moment. The self-learning experience I am suggesting is similar to any other hobby one might undertake; interest will ebb and flow. In my case this was a hobby that I continually came back to after other hobbies lost appeal.

    I suggest for your consideration that if we “Get a life—Get an intellectual life” we very well might gain substantially in self-worth and, perhaps, community-worth.

    As a popular saying goes ‘there is a season for all things’. We might consider that spring and summer are times for gathering knowledge, maximizing production and consumption, and increasing net-worth; while fall and winter are seasons for gathering understanding, creating wisdom and increasing self-worth.

    I have been trying to encourage adults, who in general consider education as a matter only for young people, to give this idea of self-learning a try. It seems to be human nature to do a turtle (close the mind) when encountering a new and unorthodox idea. Generally we seem to need for an idea to face us many times before we can consider it seriously. A common method for brushing aside this idea is to think ‘I’ve been there and done that’, i.e. ‘I have read and been a self-learner all my life’.

    It is unlikely that you will encounter this unorthodox suggestion ever again. You must act on this occasion or never act. The first thing is to make a change in attitude about just what is the nature of education. Then one must face the world with a critical outlook. A number of attitude changes are required as a first step. All parents, I guess, recognize the problems inherent in attitude adjustment. We just have to focus that knowledge upon our self as the object needing an attitude adjustment rather than our child.

    Another often heard response is that “you are preaching to the choir”. If you conclude that this is an old familiar tune then I have failed to make clear my suggestion. I recall a story circulating many years ago when the Catholic Church was undergoing substantial changes. Catholics where no longer using Latin in the mass, they were no longer required to abstain from meat on Friday and many other changes. The story goes that one lady was complaining about all these changes and she said, “with all these changes the only thing one will need to do to be a good Catholic is love thy neighbor”.

    I am not suggesting a stroll in the park on a Sunday afternoon. I am suggesting a ‘Lewis and Clark Expedition’. I am suggesting the intellectual equivalent of crossing the Mississippi and heading West across unexplored intellectual territory with the intellectual equivalent of the Pacific Ocean as a destination.

    Would you consider having an intellectual life as a hobby to be beneficial to you?

    Do you think that a society with many citizens who have a hobby of an intellectual life would benefit that society?

    Do you know anyone who has an intellectual life as a hobby?


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  3. #2  
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    I've always studied stuff and been led by that hunger for knowledge, i say led because it will often lead me and not the other way round!

    I have been told that i am 'making my own degree up' as if there is something wrong with that!

    And i think 'well, why not?'

    I have also been told 'why don't you do something more useful in life instead of studying all that weird stuff', often this piece of advice has come from someone who's just roused themselves during an Eastenders interval and who's idea of 'doing something really useful with your life' as getting a job in a checkout at the local supermarket, or answering a switchboard, or trying to hard sell double glazing etc etc.

    I couldn't think of anything more mind-numbing than becoming a robotic corporate dummy slave filling someone else's wallet with me having no time or energy to do anything else with.

    But then 'different strokes for different folks' and someone's got to stack the shelves and answer the phone i guess. What annoys me is that just because they can't see or understand what i'm doing they think i'm doing nothing.

    In order to truly learn i think you have to feel a certain passion for it.

    And as i'm sure you know, once your bitten by the curious for knowledge bug there is no cure and nor is there any turning back!

    The sofa, the TV and promotion from the checkout to store supervisor become anathema!

    Hope that makes sense, i waffle as well.....

    Nice to meet you fellow space traveller

    :-D


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  4. #3  
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    Selena

    What do you think about my discussion of disinterested knowledge? I find that when I follow questions wherever they lead that my enthusiasm is maintained. I have come to the conclusion that understanding is a work of art.
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  5. #4  
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    Quote Originally Posted by coberst
    Selena

    What do you think about my discussion of disinterested knowledge? I find that when I follow questions wherever they lead that my enthusiasm is maintained. I have come to the conclusion that understanding is a work of art.
    To be honest Coberst, I'm not sure i like the term disinterested.

    I know what you mean

    Quote Originally Posted by coberst
    Disinterested knowledge is an intrinsic value. Disinterested knowledge is not a means but an end. It is knowledge I seek because I desire to know it. I mean the term ‘disinterested knowledge’ as similar to ‘pure research’, as compared to ‘applied research’. Pure research seeks to know truth unconnected to any specific application.
    Because on the contrary i often find the more i learn the more enthusiastic i become and the more i want to learn.

    Also you compare it to pure research 'which seeks to know the truth unconnected to any other specific application'.

    But i find that when i learn something it will often lead me to make connections to former learning which previously puzzled me as well as leading me into other areas of knowledge in order to make sense of what i am trying to learn.

    For example: I study the Kabbalah (from a western esoteric perspective, although of course Hebrew is also essential)
    And when i began the study 20 years ago, it automatically led me on to study many other subjects and methods in order to understand many of it's components. A complete knowledge (if there is such a thing!) of its system requires learning in all areas of life and subjects of study, from mathematics to chemistry and mythology to metaphysics and physics and so on and on. It is a never ending journey!

    This in itself ignited my passion for learning because when i first picked up the Kabbalah i was frustrated at not knowing what the hell it was all about and was determined to find out! This determination has been the fuel behind everything.

    So no i don't think i would say it is 'disinterested' and i think you can only get so far by analysing it in isolation. I also think it is a mistake to do this exclusively, because you might miss the advantage of it illuminating another area of learning which might have been obscure without this missing link.

    In fact i'm trying to get my head around the capability of not connecting things. I can see the advantage of regarding something in isolation but not having any other connections feels to me like trying to look at a word without reading it. Impossible unless you go cross eyed!

    I have also studied 'systems thinking', and this approach looks at the individual pieces that make up a whole and how things interact. It's a holistic endeavor. This is mostly applied to engineering, electronics and computer programming but it is just as applicable to human affairs and philosophy.

    I'm not knocking your idea and i get what you're saying, just the word doesn't sit right.

    Have you looked at systems thinking?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Systems_thinking
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  6. #5  
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    I think that the study of disinterested knowledge will allow one to follow that which interests him or her. It is an act of creation. It creates meaning. It places you within the picture of something totally new

    My experience leads me to conclude that there is a world of difference in picking up a fragment of knowledge here and there versus seeking knowledge for an answer to a question of significance. There is a world of difference between taking a stroll in the woods on occasion versus climbing a mountain because you wish to understand what climbing a mountain is about or perhaps you want to understand what it means to accomplish a feat of significance only because you want it and not because there is ‘money in it’.

    I think that every adult needs to experience the act of intellectual understanding; an act that Carl Sagan describes as “Understanding is a kind of ecstasy.”

    This quotation of Carl Rogers might illuminate my meaning:

    I want to talk about learning. But not the lifeless, sterile, futile, quickly forgotten stuff that is crammed in to the mind of the poor helpless individual tied into his seat by ironclad bonds of conformity! I am talking about LEARNING - the insatiable curiosity that drives the adolescent boy to absorb everything he can see or hear or read about gasoline engines in order to improve the efficiency and speed of his 'cruiser'. I am talking about the student who says, "I am discovering, drawing in from the outside, and making that which is drawn in a real part of me." I am talking about any learning in which the experience of the learner progresses along this line: "No, no, that's not what I want"; "Wait! This is closer to what I am interested in, what I need"; "Ah, here it is! Now I'm grasping and comprehending what I need and what I want to know!"


    When we undertake such a journey of discovery we need reliable sources of information. We need information that we can build a strong foundation for understanding. Where do we find such reliable information? We find it in the library or through Google on the Internet or combinations thereof.

    I have a ‘Friends of the Library’ card from a college near me. This card allows me, for a yearly fee of $25, to borrow any book in that gigantic library. Experts in every domain of knowledge have written books just especially for laypersons like you and I.

    Lincoln was an autodidact. Perhaps self-actualizing self-learning is for you. When your school daze is complete it is a good time to begin the learning process.
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  7. #6  
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    Always best to find your own way and follow that
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