Saturday, February 28, 2009

Treasure of Ideas; Part 1

Although I love authoring blogs that are my own original ideas; I also love to pass along the valuable jewels that are the product of another person's laborious mining of the truth.

Today I would like to commend to you some of the thoughts of the old hymn writer Isaac Watts. Most are likely to be familiar with his hymn "When I Survey The Wondrous Cross." Besides writing hymns, Watts also wrote what is essentially a text book on Logic, or what he calls "the right use of reason in the inquiry after the truth."

Why should we learn, what should we learn and how should we learn it? Should we be passive or active/intentional learners? Is there a difference? These are some of the fundamental questions that Watts addresses.

In the following quotes from Isaac Watts; I want to show, from his writing, how important it is that we intentionally pursue gaining new ideas, what kind of ideas are most important to obtain, and a few methods by which we can better gain and retain these important ideas.

I'll deal first and only with the importance/advantages of pursuing these ideas in this blog and split the other 2 topics into following blogs.

Importance/Advantages of Pursuing Ideas

"Such a general acquaintance with things will be of very great advantage.

The first benefit is this: it will assist the use of reason in all its following operations; it will teach you to judge of things aright; to argue justly, and methodise your thoughts with accuracy. When you shall find several things akin to each other, and several different from each other, agreeing in some part of their idea and disagreeing in other parts, you will arrange your ideas in better order, you will be more easily led into a distinct knowledge of things and will obtain a rich store of proper thoughts and arguments upon all occasions.

Another benefit of it is this: Such a large general acquaintance with thing will secure you from perpetual admirations and surprises, and guard you against that weakness of ignorant persons, who have never seen any thing beyond the confines of their own dwelling, and therefore they wonder at almost every thing they see; every thing beyond the smoke of their own chimney, and reach of their own windows, is new and strange to them.

A third benefit of such a universal acquaintance with things is this: it will keep you from being too positive and dogmaticial, from an excess of credulity and unbelief, that is, a readiness to believe, or to deny, every thing at first hearing; when you shall have often seen, that strange and uncommon things, which often seemed incredible, are found to be true: and things very commonly received have been found false."

Isaac Watts; Logic: The Right Use of Reason In the Inquiry After the Truth

Let me suggest some key things to take away from Watts' listed benefits of gaining a "treasure of ideas."

1. Gaining new ideas (knowledge, especially pertaining to God) helps us make better judgments about things. We are all faced with important decisions day in and day out. Without a sufficient amount of information; we are certainly doomed to make uninformed and therefore poor judgments. Watts will explain sources we should consider when pursuing this treasure of ideas (in order to make those good judgments) in our section on "methods by which we can better gain and retain these important ideas."

2. Gaining new ideas will keep you from admiring things that have little real value in life. It will also keep you from being too surprised by things that you are unacquainted with and will keep you from being skeptical and critical of things that you have never been exposed to.

3. Gaining new ideas will keep one from becoming too overly confident and therefore judgmental based upon the information they have acquired. This will, in part, happen because as a result of gaining new ideas; one should learn that they knew less about things than they originally realized. This should lead to the conclusion that one should be slower to judgment because there may yet be new ideas or information they have not yet obtained and therefore cannot pass judgment without sufficient information.

Furthermore, becoming more acquainted with ideas (especially information regarding God in His character and nature) will keep one from unbelief. Following that same line of thought; when we increase our treasury of ideas, we will find certain things less unbelievable and realize that things we have too easy believed are, in actuality, false.

God has given us information and the ability to gain and retain it. As such, we should take full advantage of the time and opportunities that God gives us to advance our knowledge of important ideas. In the next section on "what kind of ideas are most important to obtain" we will look more closely at what sorts of ideas we should be investing the majority of our time gaining and retaining.