12 March 2006


While the topics which most interest me (listed below) have reasonably clear dictionary definitions--and it's not as if I'll try to gainsay the OED--the way that I think about most of them is pretty unconventional. Let me lay out some of the principal points of digression:

Philosophy - I went to graduate school for philosophy (focused on ethics if I focused on anything), which is where I learned that philosophy is not an academic discipline. The "love of wisdom" is a feeling, an intuition that wisdom--which itself needs to be distinguished from both intelligence and knowledge--is something to be cherished. Wisdom, which is an insight to the way the world really works, represents one of the most rarefied and astonishing achievements of human civilization.

Architecture - I'm in graduate school right now for architecture (history and theory), and I learned quickly that architecture is not a profession, and it is definitely not just "buildings." Architecture is the way that humans, using rituals, language, and techniques for the manipulation of materials (this includes both the arts and construction), appropriate space and transform it into place. Architecture is the residue of human inhabitation on the earth.

Education - George Savile said that "education is what remains when we have forgotten all that we have been taught." Precisely. Information and knowledge are merely the means by which we shape our characters. At bottom, education is about habits of character--what remains when we have forgotten all that we have been taught.

Finance - People love to conflate economics and finance. Economics concerns the allocation and relative value of resources. Finance concerns the definition and management of risk.

Politics - I've heard more than one professional politician echo Otto von Biskmark's definition, that "politics is the art of the possible." But that definition derives from the experience of the statesman as a forger of compromises. Politics more largely means those projects which we humans can envision and accomplish only if we act collectively in concert with one another.

Writing - Because we live though language, we give little thought to its power. Even the incidental language we use in daily life--ordering coffee in the morning or gossipping at the office--shapes our actions and, ultimately, who we are. Writing therefore represents one of the great powers ever developed or deployed by human civilization. Few things are harder than writing well, and few activities more redolent of the potential to change lives.