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Bernard White


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Can you ever study something too much, to the extent you never do it?

I ask this because of a story I recently heard regarding one of my favourite Philosophers : Bertrand Russell. Bertrand Russell once argued that it could be detrimental to study philosophy due to the fact that you would never come up with any philosophical opinions of your own. This phenomenon can also be seen in the sciences. You can learn a lot about a certain science yet never do any real (original) experiments yourself, or come up with any (meaningful) hypothesises. I hope I have made the question more clear.

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    Jul 29 2013: Let me try to respond two ways, because I see two different situations represented here.

    I don't think it is possible to understand or know too much about the subject area in which you work. On the other hand, I do think that some people try to read and know every single thing anyone else has said or thought in their area of study before embarking on work in this area themselves. This is a classic avoidance strategy which may be a manifestation of insecurity, perfectionism, or other rationale for procrastination. The same person may procrastinate in other ways.

    One thing you can learn how to do and that good researchers learn to do is to recognize when they have done enough background work to begin their own investigations. As they pursue their investigations, they continue to keep current in their fields, by reading and by sharing thoughts and results with colleagues.
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      Jul 29 2013: Thank for your reply. It reflects my thoughts greatly (the first part). Do you know if there is any way to edit the Title, so it can reflect my views more.
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        Jul 29 2013: I thought you have an edit button for your discussion thread, but Juan tells me your best strategy is to go back to the email from TED that approved your discussion and to use that link to do edits.
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    Jul 30 2013: Although concentrated knowledge of a particular subject is laudable, there is a tendency for it to become increasingly less relevant in a broader context. The studied subject becomes more and more isolated and the result is that it can only see itself.

    Original hypotheses and philosophical opinions comes about through 'standing back' from the studied subject, to see how it is operating in the broader, current sense. Although recycling the ageing thoughts of old philosophers and scientists gives solidity of evidence (?), truly original thought all but ignores it. It then becomes an act of great courage to publicise such hypotheses in the face of cynicism from those who are studiously stuck in the past. The result of that is that many original thoughts stay locked up in someone's head, gets forgotten about, or sadly dies off with the originator.
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    Jul 29 2013: click "edit" to add more time to your conversation at this point you have 20 hours
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      Jul 29 2013: I know. I view this conversation has already been solved by "Alexander Raj Gonzales". Unless you have a rebuttal towards him? Also I am submitting two other conversations. It takes too much time to manage three.
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    Jul 29 2013: Although I don't do any academic research and know a lot of things that have no direct practical use in my daily life... I do use the scientific method or a small experiment when teaching kids or figure something out.

    And I'm sure I don't apply everything I've learned. Often there is a time or difficulty trade off... It's better to sow seeds and water them and don't care too much about how it is done best and optimally, as there will be a point of time when sowing seeds is too late and you have no crops at the end of the season...
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      Jul 29 2013: Oh well thank you for replying...
      Let me re-frame what I am trying to ask.
      If you study philosophy (and many philosophers) yet never come up with any philosophical idea's yourself I do not think you deserve the title of a philosopher. In other words if you just copy ideas off people.
      I guess under your re-framing of my question as "failure", simply means that many philosopher I have met have failed.
      Does my question now make more sense?
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          Jul 29 2013: I see your point of view. It is well-argued. You have convinced me! :-)
          However I do see a lack of "Original Thought" in today's world. Maybe it is just too anecdotal...