Should I flow or should I play?
You could not step twice into the same rivers; for other waters are ever flowing on to you.
- Heraclitus (535-475 BC)
Chaos Lives Beyond the Drip and Before the Stream - A planksip® Möbius
Should I flow or should I play?
You can only imagine chaos by standing still long enough to notice the drips. This titled responsion is all about ethics and perception. Expand away!
Are you interested in becoming a better writer? If so, bookstores are lined with countless volumes to help you sort out grammatical parts of speech, find and rely on action verbs, slash adverbs, and more.
You'll also find many brilliant books about the more indulgent and metaphysical side of the writing process.
Many of these tomes fail to delve very enthusiastically into the process of crafting a writing philosophy. Why? Because it requires wading into philosophy and the writing of those who have gone before.
It requires interfacing with the work of great philosophers. Many of us feel intimidated by this process and preferring remaining on the sidelines.
Yet, there are few ways to more radically and rapidly revolutionize your thought processes while also learning how to clearly, systematically, and logically articulate ideas. Where should you start? It's all about play and flow.
Here's why you should invest time in studying philosophy.
What Is Writing?
Having a writing philosophy begins with a deep-dive into philosophy. After all, writers and philosophers are one in the same. Both involve:
- The externalization of thought
- Systematic, clear, and logical thinking
- The cultivation of the power to think critically
Let's take a closer look at each of these touchpoints between philosophy and writing.
We start with a fundamental question. What is writing?
While the volumes mentioned above spend pages, no doubt whole chapters, on this subject, the definition can be distilled down to the essential.
Writing is the externalization of inner thoughts. It represents the author's attempt to make manifest the internal conversations taking place within their own minds.
In essence, you can't have exceptional writing without exceptional thinking. how do you improve the quality of your internal dialogue? How do you cultivate the type of exceptional thinking that leads to exceptional writing?
By delving into the philosophical writings of others.
Play, Flow, and Philosophy
The act of reading and digesting the philosophical works of other writers comes with countless advantages. They include learning how to carefully and methodically think through the ideas of others, both making sense of them and critically analyzing them.
A firm philosophical footing will help you convince and engage others in intelligent ways. It will let you walk in other's shoes, making sense of their thoughts while learning to better articulate your own.
Aristotle said it best: "It is the mark of an educated person to search for the same kind of clarity in each topic to the extent that the nature of the matter accepts it." In other words, you must cultivate the ability to think and think critically.
Cognition and Critical Thinking
When you consider just how many thoughts we have each and every day, that's a tall order. Cognition experts claim that the human brain entertains anywhere from 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts per day.
These thoughts can be subdivided into a few thousand per hour. They happen at a breakneck pace, and can have a major impact on how the events of our day unfold. Even though we often run on autopilot and give each thought only passing attention.
And I think we can all agree that thoughts run the gamut of helpful to downright negative. They can impact our mood, make us second guess ourselves, or keep us silent when we should speak up.
For others, speaking up may be the problem, particularly if we face difficulty clearly articulating those thoughts to others.
As a writer, you don't have the luxury of remaining silent. We can't fall back on obtuse communications, either. Not if we really want to be understood, that is.
Telling Our Stories
We must excel at "telling our story." The ability to do this starts with the stories that we tell ourselves. Many of us immediately construe our inner monologues with the facts, but they are inherently very different.
Critical thinkers, however, hone a lightning-paced ability to consider the thoughts that carry importance and discard those that do not. They glean lessons where applicable and move on rather than ruminating about unchangeable elements of the past.
The Role of Curiosity in Writing
As it turns out, inherent curiosity remains a defining trait of highly effective critical thinkers. What does this look like in action? The regular practice of discovering, exploring, and revealing (in this case, through writing).
Curiosity can be driven by exploring topics with questions that start big, leading to more discoveries, and the increasing vergence towards specificity. In this sense, curiosity is a fantastic and essential activity of the brain.
It combats stagnation and boredom by energizing and making the brain more active. It drives us to seek out possibilities and explore things in a new and different light.
While moments of enlightened perception can feel threatening, especially when it comes to ingrained beliefs, they are the necessary fuel of innovation and good writing. Logic or hard data may challenge our thoughts, too. Yet, curiosity and critical thinking remain the antidotes.
Curiosity also allows us to both flow and play, negating the need to choose between these two writing states. After all, each one serves a distinct function.
Examining Our Thoughts
Some individuals exhibit a knee-jerk reaction when their point of view gets threatened. Since our views partly define our identity, these individuals act out of fear, raising their voice to "cancel the" opposition.
As a critical thinker and writer, however, you mustn't work that way. That's why it remains so vital for you to develop a solid foundation of knowledge through the exploration of philosophy.
When coupled with real-world experiences, it'll make you a reasoned, tolerant thinker. One capable of entertaining the thoughts and ideas of others without the necessity of accepting them. You'll gain the confidence to listen to others' views, considering their perspective.
You'll also remain in a constant state of curiosity and exploration, seeking to ameliorate your position in an argument through logic. You'll also demonstrate respect for your opponent, transforming conflict into a conversation.
The Task Set Before Writers
Because we live in the digital age, we have at our fingertips a plethora of perspectives, opinions, and sources. The infinite number of ideas correlate with the tens of thousands of thoughts running through each of our brains. Critical thinking is more important than ever.
"Read not to contradict and confute nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse;" Francis Bacon exhorted the reader, "but to weigh and consider."
Bacon's advice remains just as profound and important today as it was when he wrote in the 16th and 17th centuries. What's the takeaway for you as a writer? Cultivating analytical reading skills go hand in hand with good writing.
Engaging in philosophical analysis is one of the single most important yet oft-overlooked component of becoming a skilled writer. It is the task set before the writer.
Yet, if you put in the time and energy required to learn what philosophy has to teach, you'll reap impressive benefits. This can and should begin with certain foundational philosophical concepts that should be applied by all non-fiction writers.
Exceptional Thinking, Exceptional Writing
I've mentioned the activities of play and flow throughout this article, and both have an inherent role in the development of good writing. After all, you should explore philosophical inquiry with playfulness and curiosity.
Yet, if you pay no heed to writing flow, you'll end up with stream of consciousness writing that's jumbled, disorganized, and disconnected. After all, the intellectual act of conceptualizing an idea starts long before it finds its way to paper.
So, the quality of your intellectual conceptualizations remains central to quality wordsmithing. Philosophy is the activity of using logic, reason, and argumentation to reconfigure and make sense of every thought that enters the mind.
It is also the fire within which quality writing gets forged.
The Philosophical Thought Processes to Cultivate
By studying philosophy, you learn the process of slow, methodical, and anayltical thinking. You learn to dissect arguments so that you can examine their component parts.
"Philosophy is thinking in slow motion," according to John Campbell. He argues, "It breaks down, describes, and assesses moves we ordinarily make at great speed. It then becomes evident that alternatives are possible."
In other words, the study of philosophy lends itself to a meticulous and careful thought process, one that enhances our powers of logical reasoning and skeptical examination. Every aspect of writing should involve questioning the validity of a given thought or argument.
Making critical thinking an everyday practice remains the most essential tool you can hone as a writer. It starts with asking questions at every step of the writing process. These questions should touch on:
- Technical issues
- Logical concerns
- Ethical matters
Let's take a closer look at how each of these topics impacts writing.
In terms of technical issues, I'm referring to the clarity of your communication. For example, does each phrase make sense from a grammatical perspective? Does each argument and observation flow logically and clearly into the next?
The meat and potatoes of writing involve addressing the logical concerns of your arguments and insights. For example, does my conclusion follow based on the key arguments that I made? Do I apply a theory consistently and logically throughout my writing?
As for ethical conundrums, academic journalists face many of the same questions as other journalists. For example, should I quote a source if it mean compromising their identity? Which evidence must I include and which findings can I ignore or reject?
Incorporating Philosophy into Your Writing Philosophy
There are no easy answers when it comes to addressing the issues outlined above. But engaging with philosophy and the great thinkers of the past will help you develop an enhanced ability to think critically and ethically and then communicate those thoughts clearly.
Depending on your field and study, your past engagements with philosophy may have proven rudimentary. Resigned to a compulsory humanities class here or there. Yet, there's an exciting world of philosophy for writers to discover.
Knowing where to begin, however, can feel intimidating. With that in mind, I suggest playing and flowing through the works of the ancient Greeks.
Start With the Greeks
Those of particular worth to a greater exploration of critical thinking include:
- Plato's Five Dialogues
- Nichomachean Ethics
- The Complete Works of Aristotle
As these works push you to explore the boundaries of critical thinking, you can add others into the mix. A natural progression would be the exploration of Neoplatonic Philosophy followed by that of Hellenistic Philosophy.
If you're not quite ready to dive into book-length works, there are also many excellent articles available through the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (SEoP). There, you'll find more than 1,500 fantastic articles dealing with philosophy.
Each article is free and peer-reviewed. This body of work provides one of the fastest ways to "catch up" when it comes to honing critical thinking and philosophical thought processes.
Developing a Skeptical and Inquisitive Attitude
While some academics might feel intimidated by delving into the works of the ancient Greeks. remember that these writings are dedicated to the unforgiving search for logic.
They remain focused on discovering valid arguments and definitions capable of withstanding vicious attack and criticism from the authors themselves as well as their peers. Writiers must critically question every choice they make.
Starting with the Greeks will help you hone the robust thought processes to do this. Over time, your ability to apply a skeptical and inquisitive attitude to ideas, issues, and events will grow. With it, your writing will improve astronomically.
Over time, you'll add other thinkers and philosophers to your list of must-reads. Like Jeremy Bentham and John Locke. But beginning with the Greeks will provide the bedrock you need for foolproof critical thinking.
Writing Philosophy and Reading Philosophy
As Heraclitus aptly observed, "You could not step twice into the same rivers; for other waters are ever flowing on to you." His words prove no less true in a world that is both ever-changing and "nothing new" as dictated by the author of Ecclesiastes.
Chaos lives both before the stream and beyond the drip. Taking the time to study philosophy is like taking the time to stand still, to notice the drips beyond the chaos and flow. What's more, honing critical thinking skills will let you play in this world of academic fluidity.
Are you ready to push the envelope when it comes to developing a writing philosophy? Are you longing for a place to explore ideas freely, receiving support, and peer review along the way? Then, it's time for you to check out what planksip is all about.
Tap, Tap, Tap...
Consider collecting raw data from any experiment and working backward to equations and strange attractors that characterized chaos. Does a dripping faucet facilitate such a system? Try downloading and reading this 1980 paper; Strange Attractors, Chaotic Behavior, and Information Flow by Robert Shaw. It's worth the read.
Do no wrong. Live your life.
The themes in this article relate to our shortening lifetimes on this planet, our individual perception of time, chaos theory and that Latin cliché carpe diem. With such a bundle complex concepts, your assignment is to expand to a logical direction.
Beyond Good and Evil
Ah, the drip of chaos and the knowledge it contains. Predictability never looked so random that a pattern does emerge and thus consciousness evolves. Avoidance or pain over pleasure is part of the equation but not the whole story. David Bohm's implicate order was an excellent attempt but not complete. Ironic. Justice is another story.