Thursday, October 7, 2010

More than an avid reader, but how?

I have long found that describing myself as an avid reader, though true, fails to convey the essence of my mental universe.

There are avid readers of supernatural romance, Regency romance, thrillers, detective stories, sci-fis, and martial arts (Wuxia 武俠) fiction. With none of them do I share a common interest. Neither is my reading primarily focused on literature (English or Chinese).

I have long thought about the purpose, if there is one, of all my reading and thinking. I have as a result formulated an intellectual credo. The word "intellectual" might sound pretentious to some, but it is simply the only appropriate word, meaning "concerning the intellect", rather than "concerning the sōma (the body), the psyche (the emotion, the personality), or the pneuma (i.e. the spirit, if existent)".

My intellectual credo, setting out a worthwhile yet impossible aim,  is as follows:

My overarching intellectual pursuit is to understand all aspects of humanity, throughout history and prehistory, and across the globe, in all classes, castes and groups.

The seven salient aspects of humanity, in this context, are:

* history: political, economic, intellectual, cultural, social
* society: viewed in a humanistic or ethnographic, rather than social-scientific, perspective
* biography: life stories and portraits of groups and individuals
* philosophy: including social and political philosophy
* religion and spirituality
* literature and arts: high and mass cultures
* knowledge and scholarship: humanities, natural sciences, social sciences, cognitive science, technology,  medicine, etc

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