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On a Journey to Becoming a Polymath

Nowadays we have an information overload. It is literally everywhere. If we want to know something, then we can just Google it. It’s easy. I want to know what Einstein’s relativity is? Just press search. We have all the information we ever need at our fingertips. And this has huge implications to our world and our lives.

            Schools still try to teach kids like it is the 1800’s. You have to learn basic things and know them, as they say, by ‘heart’. We learn our French words and then forget them again. We learn a mathematical theorem only to forget it later. This is all information we can easily look up on the internet. It’s not useful to teach like this. What is more important, is being able to use the information that is available. Learning what the many implications of things are. Using information is far better than knowing it. If we learned how to use the stream of information to our advantage, spot fake news when it appears, we would be far better off.

            The same goes for expertise. We need experts to provide us with the information that’s normal. But there is no incentive for the average guy to be an expert in the field. Also being an expert limits your view in many ways. You look at the world differently. You have a different paradigm. And being limited means that you won’t always make the right decisions, just because there are things you don’t see. Being an expert in viruses is all well and good, but then making political choices is something else.

            That’s why I, personally, want to become a polymath. That just means you know a decent amount about a range of subjects from economics to psychology, and from philosophy to biology. When you know a decent amount of many things you can take in many different perspectives. One thing that studying does is limit your worldview in a way. If I study economics, I’ll have an economic way of looking at the world. I’ll see everything as the product of economic activities. Same thing goes for the social sciences. But when you can fill in different perspectives you can get a deeper and more nuanced way of looking at the world. I believe that being a philosopher means ‘loving knowledge’ and all knowledge is worth knowing.

            But where to start? Honestly, I have no idea. I don’t know if there is a surefire way to becoming a polymath. The system that I want to use is delving deeper into a subject every year. So, every year I’ll choose a subject and read some introductory books about it. That way I can define the subjects better. I know when I want to read what. That doesn’t mean I won’t read many different books. It just means I’ll try to focus on those. I can’t live without reading some philosophy.

            This year I want to start with history. I feel like history is important to have a broad view of. Our systems are in some way a product of history. Many ideas have a history and countries the same. Understanding the atrocities of the 20th century can help in understanding the conflicts of now. Understanding how our countries came to be can shed light on the identity the inhabitants of the country might feel. Also, history is perfect if you don’t know what to say. You can always share an interesting fact at a silent dinner table.

            We’ll see how this will all turn out. I just love learning new things, so this seems like a reasonable step for me. I want to do things a bit more practical this year. Talk more about the ideas that I read in books rather than the books themselves. And becoming a polymath is the way to go.

By elenchusphilosophy

I'm a Philosophy student in Belgium, trying to talk and write about ideas of all kinds of sorts.

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