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Integrating Thinkers

what i've done, over time, is keep integrating more and more thinkers into my thinking. in a serious way where the ideas actually make a cohesive whole.

i think this is very rare.

i did David Deutsch first, then Karl Popper, then William Godwin, then Edmund Burke, then Ayn Rand, then Ludwig von Mises, then Richard Feynman, then Thomas Szasz, then Ann Coulter, then David Horowitz, then Leonard Peikoff, then Jordan Peterson.

That's roughly the order, though I worked on some people at the same time. Putting them in linear order is a loose approximation. I read some initial Rand before Burke. Rand is a particularly long project that's still ongoing.

That's a reasonably complete list of thinkers I've engaged with in a BIG way who lived after ancient Rome, and who are public figures. i've done lots of smaller projects like reading a couple good things from someone, but i'm listing people where i went through tons of material. i've spent hundreds of hours on most of these thinkers. I'd guess Burke or Feynman is the least time on the list, and I've done around 20 book readings for each.

i don't just learn these thinkers as points of view, frameworks, perspectives. i actually learned the ideas for my own use and integrated them into my own thinking, and I integrated all of them into the same single worldview. i made them all compatible (while dropping some errors, but retaining major pieces – if there isn't a major piece i can get major value from then i don't spend this much time on a thinker).

Jordan Peterson has done some of this. He often refers to Jung, Solzhenitsyn, Dostoevsky, Nietzsche and others. However, he missed some very important thinkers. He learned some Popper without going into enough depth, and he learned a little Rand and didn't appreciate it very much. Jordan Peterson is aware of Thomas Szasz too, but sadly didn't go into depth – that's a big deal which is directly related to his profession and to public advice he gives about anti-depressants.

Most people only use one thinker at a time. On this issue they are a Kantian, on that issue a Marxist, and on a third issue they've got some environmentalist ideas they picked up at college. They don't learn from a bunch of different thinkers about the same issue and figure out how to put the ideas together into a better whole. It takes a major act of creation to do that. It takes figuring out a new idea which incorporates value from multiple prior thinkers and also stands on its own, and which is overall superior to any of the prior ideas. That's hard but very important.

Elliot Temple on January 24, 2018


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