Does one learn by doing or by thinking?

Not exactly the right question since everyone supports government solutions to some things, but the question is still a genuine one: Why Do Intellectuals Support Government Solutions?. I found the link at Instapundit where, not for the first time, the wisdom came from the comments. Let me put up some of it:

” Why Do Intellectuals Support Government Solutions?”
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A better question: If they support government solutions, are they really intellectuals? Thought intellectuals were more like people who think for themselves. Perhaps not though.

  • Thomas Sowell put it this way: Intellectuals are people whose work product is ideas.

    People in the trades make, install, maintain and repair stuff, and they cannot conceal failure with weasel-words and polysyllabic redefinitions of success and failure.

    People in the physical sciences study reality and in the end their research is either supported or refuted by reality.

    People in the various fields of the humanities produce ideas which whose value and validity are not tested against reality but rather against such criteria as novelty and cleverness and newness–and, of course, progressives. This is maximally true in the grievance studies fields which are designed to promulgate falsehood, a bit less true in literature and philosophy, somewhat less true in sociology and other soft subjects where a talent for blather can replace reasoning, and somewhat true in history where there is seemingly endless room for interpretation but falsehoods can nonetheless be refuted with facts and interpretations can be challenged similarly. So yes, these people who support maximal government power are intellectuals, but bad intellectuals and bad people.

    • Sowell also says ideas are not knowledge, but only potential knowledge.

    • Robert Nozick explained it this way (there is no summation paragraph, it’s a short essay so you might want to read the whole thing):

      The intellectual wants the whole society to be a school writ large, to be like the environment where he did so well and was so well appreciated. By incorporating standards of reward that are different from the wider society, the schools guarantee that some will experience downward mobility later. Those at the top of the school’s hierarchy will feel entitled to a top position, not only in that micro-society but in the wider one, a society whose system they will resent when it fails to treat them according to their self-prescribed wants and entitlements. The school system thereby produces anti-capitalist feeling among intellectuals. Rather, it produces anti-capitalist feeling among verbal intellectuals. Why do the numbersmiths not develop the same attitudes as these wordsmiths? I conjecture that these quantitatively bright children, although they get good grades on the relevant examinations, do not receive the same face-to-face attention and approval from the teachers as do the verbally bright children. It is the verbal skills that bring these personal rewards from the teacher, and apparently it is these rewards that especially shape the sense of entitlement.

      That is a classic essay that should be cited frequently. Another passage:

      “By intellectuals, I do not mean all people of intelligence or of a certain level of education, but those who, in their vocation, deal with ideas as expressed in words, shaping the word flow others receive. These wordsmiths include poets, novelists, literary critics, newspaper and magazine journalists, and many professors. It does not include those who primarily produce and transmit quantitatively or mathematically formulated information (the numbersmiths) or those working in visual media, painters, sculptors, cameramen. Unlike the wordsmiths, people in these occupations do not disproportionately oppose capitalism. The wordsmiths are concentrated in certain occupational sites: academia, the media, government bureaucracy.”

And I found this thread even more remarkable since its conclusion was so unexpected although perfectly sound when you thought about it.

Why Do Intellectuals Support Government Solutions?

Because in a meritocracy there are no excuses.

Update: Of course, there’s always the following view of intellectuals as pottery students, which kinda comes to the same conclusion through the back door, or in this case the “left side” of the studio:

The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the right side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the left solely on its quality.

His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: fifty pound of pots rated an “A”, forty pounds a “B”, and so on. Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot -albeit a perfect one – to get an “A”.

Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work – and learning from their mistakes – the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.

  • Interesting, if true.

    • I read that in a journal sometime in the last decade or so. As I recall, the kids who were graded on quantity ended up, by the end of the term, producing work of significantly higher quality than the group that was told they would be graded on quality. It’s not that the kids graded on quality produced nothing good, but the kids graded on quantity typically produced much better work and lots of it.

      Also: A Classics professor ascribed the stunningly high quality of Classical Greek art to (at least in part) Greece’s foreign trade with Egypt (and elsewhere): vast numbers of jars of olive oil and wine, each of which was decorated with painted designs and scenes.

      •  

        Totally get it. My degree’s in Applied Physics and Electronics, with the emphasis on “Applied.”

        Lots of marks for working experiments, not so much for purely thought experiments.

        That’s one reason why, whenever an opportunity comes up to do something new at work, I’m all over it. Even if I screw up the first couple of attempts, I eventually get it right, and then know the pitfalls and blind alleys.

        It’s also the reason I prefer Howard to Sheldon, though my wife says I’m a Sheldon, through and through.

        • You can’t be a total Sheldon if found a woman who wanted to marry you. Howard is also passionately interested in doing physics, he’s just more socially clued in and for that matter more kind and loving.

          I know lots of scientists and engineers, and they (we) tend to fall somewhere on the asperger’s spectrum, being more skilled with things than with people. But some of us are very skilled at both, and few of us are interested in comic books and cosplay and the other goofy things that are the basis for so many jokes in the Big Bang Theory.

          Engineers know that you become a good engineer by doing lots of engineering: Often this involves making mistakes and understanding why they were mistakes. It also involves, without necessarily making mistakes, applying the lessons you were taught until you have internalized those lessons into how you “instinctively” study a problem and formulate a solution. Classes and textbooks only teach you the basics: You don’t really become good at it by doing lots of it, and there are lots of lessons in how to do good engineering.

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34 Responses to Does one learn by doing or by thinking?

  1. Megan

    Doing things provides plenty of opportunities for failure. Working your way back past the failure and towards success, over and over again, creates a spiral of learning opportunities that hones your skills and improves performance over time.

    Ideas give you a starting point at which to begin figuring things out, but thinking alone will not demonstrate whether your ideas are any good. Only by testing them out and doing something with them will demonstrate their true worth.

  2. candy

    Obviously it can’t be one or the other. They need to exist together. In fact, just barging into a task without thinking about it, learning about it through instructions, eg, assembling a piece of furniture, is kind of dumb.

  3. Bruce of Newcastle

    Why Do Intellectuals Support Government Solutions?

    Because the government pays their salaries of course.
    The number of intellectuals who aren’t paid by government would be a small minority, especially here in Australia.

  4. egg_

    In fact, just barging into a task without thinking about it, learning about it through instructions, eg, assembling a piece of furniture, is kind of dumb.

    Problem solving is largely through observing as 80% of our perception is through vision.
    Playing through all the possibilities through imagination simply wastes time and likely skips some scenarios.
    /Sherlock Holmes

  5. Entropy

    It isn’t just humanities intellects that demand government solutions. How often is it when a problem crops up the first thought of far too many people is “why won’t the government do something about it?”)

  6. a happy little debunker

    If I need to learn how to fix my lawn mower – I think that Youtube will help.

  7. Mark A

    Entropy
    #2594282, posted on December 26, 2017 at 9:28 pm

    It isn’t just humanities intellects that demand government solutions. How often is it when a problem crops up the first thought of far too many people is “why won’t the government do something about it?”)

    I consider myself young-ish at mid 50s but never in my life did I ask that question about anything.
    What’s wrong with people who do?

  8. JohnA

    Tom Peters, In Search of Excellence reporting on the Pepsico /Frito-Lay success:
    The driving force from the top throughout the company is a bias for action: “What have you done in the last 90 days?”
    From the same source, the same was true of the old Hewlett-Packard: every engineer was expected to have some experimental project on his desk for others to fiddle with. The tooling store was never locked, so engineers could always grab a tool and jump onto a machine to build something, and engineers lived and breathed the mantra “turn it into tin”.

    The book is still available on Amazon and in Kindle format.

  9. James In Footscray

    Maybe left-wingers can get good at socialism by trying out lots of regulations – with practice they’ll be fabulous

  10. Tom

    The elephant in the room is that the 21st century political left is a profoundly anti-intellectual movement that abhors debating ideas, instead embracing infantile conformity and punishing dissidents bucking the pre-approved narrative set down by designated zombie-wrangling thought police.

  11. classical_hero

    Some ideas are so stupid only an intellectual would believe it.

  12. egg_

    Robert Nozick sounds like he’s on the money.
    Give the Humanities tards some Ikea furniture to assemble.

  13. one old bruce

    It’s obvious in his personality why Sheldon wants others to be controlled. Many families with autistic children know they control what sounds others are allowed to make and even what colours they wear, from there they sometimes will script their carer’s whole day and melt down when there are deviations.

    I guess the question is why the ‘Leonards’ want government solutions. They are empathic yet they still don’t trust people. But did science ever recognise the value of human contingency?

    Isn’t it just the mark of the scientific age we live in to see problems as abstract clumps of matter to be re-arranged?

    Science studies human agency, while seeing it as something of an obstacle to ‘elegant’ solutions fro everything.

  14. one old bruce

    ‘Something is “contingent” if it is not necessary, i.e. if it could have failed to exist. Most things seem to exist contingently. All of the human artefacts around us might not have existed; for each one of them, whoever made it might have decided not to do so. Their existence, therefore, is contingent. ‘

    Does science have a place for anything contingent, such as the vast mass of humans? Science creates order in ‘chaos’.

  15. Frank

    They go from kindergarten to primary school, high school and then university. They stay there. As a class they have been institutionalised their entire lives, how could they not be socialists.

  16. yarpos

    Seems to start from the premise that every government decisions is wrong, even the most rabid critiques would admit they sometimes get things right (by accident maybe)

  17. Clam Chowdah

    Economics is just as much of a culprit in the blathering and goalpost-shifting business as any of the humanities.

  18. Mater

    People in the various fields of the humanities produce ideas which whose value and validity are not tested against reality but rather against such criteria as novelty and cleverness and newness–and, of course, progressives.

    Think of it in terms of TV Stations.
    ABC is never tested against viewer preferences or number. The funding keeps rolling in regardless of how disconnected and idiotic the product is.
    Commercial stations live and die by their choices and are forced to adjust and refocus accordingly.

    Whilst misguided ideas (perpetuated stupidity) in the humanities fields might not see the collapse of a building or bridge, I am starting to wonder if civilisations or cultures can endure it.

  19. I said it before and I’ll say it again.
    “I used to think first we kill all the lawyers, now I think first we kill all the professors.”

    One would think killing off all the professors might rob society of intellectual capital. But there isn’t a professor alive today whose work is essential. All the essential intellectual work, ALL OF IT, exists in classics and older books of dead professors.
    I say kill ’em all, every last one of the useless sons of bitches.

  20. egg_

    How many academics does it take to change a car tyre?

  21. Frank

    Baa Humbug:

    But there isn’t a professor alive today whose work is essential.

    Maybe not so often in the humanities but, I still have a soft spot for the physicists, mathematicians and other hard sciencey types. It may be true that most of them are useless but you don’t get second wave feminist algebra and also, we need someone to teach the engineers and doctors.

    I say kill ’em all, every last one of the useless sons of bitches.

    Perhaps a bit rash?

  22. Frank

    And one more thing, it is a good system for warehousing dysfunctional people with at least one saleable talent. Cheaper than jailing them and better than having them circulate outside where they will get their feels bruised by contact with the normal population. Napoleon complex meets reality is never a pretty sight.

    The muslims are bad enough, we don’t need more disaffected potential Unabombers on top.

  23. Joshua

    As a PhD candidate in law, with academic ambitions, I’ll venture an answer.

    In my field of law, which concerns society, economics and the politics, many academics constantly make a critical mistake. It is this: confusing a spontaneous order that reflects fundamental aspects of our humanity for a “structure”. This structure is then treated as if it had been designed. For example, markets are spontaneous orders reflecting the human capacity to place value on goods and services. However, to many academics, it is a “structure” that oppresses certain people. Likewise, a couple’s decision for the mother to care for her offspring while the father provides for them is treated not as a commonsense division of duties leading to an order that favours nuclear and certain extended family arrangements, but a “structure” called the “patriarchy” that oppresses women.

    To academics who confuse spontaneous orders with “structures”, it takes government – another deliberately designed structure – to address the shortcomings of the so-called “structure”.

    There is another result. Whenever a social problem arises, it is almost never considered whether a spontaneous order can address the problem, rather than a government “solution”.

    That’s my two cents anyway.

  24. Hasbeen

    When I was a bright eyed, bushy tailed young school boy in the school cadets, they sent me off to do the officer course. I still remember the methods of instruction course.

    They told us the importance of different methods of instruction, & their effectiveness. The idea was your students will remember only;
    10% of what they are told,
    15% of what they read themselves,
    20% of what they are shown in a demonstration,
    65% of what they actually do themselves.
    Thinking about it did not even rate a mention.

    The idea was if you really wanted your cadet to be able to take a bren gun apart, AND put it back together, you gave him one to practice on. It worked with hitting a target with the thing too.

  25. Frank

    On second thoughts, from Wikipedia:

    The intelligentsia (/ɪnˌtelɪˈdʒentsiə/) is a status class of educated people engaged in the complex mental labours that critique, guide, and lead in shaping the culture and politics of their society. As a status class, the intelligentsia includes artists, teachers, and academics, writers, journalists, and the literary hommes de lettres.

    Probably written by someone with aspirations. Strangely they are always the first to get purged.

  26. mh

    And Australian geeks supported the NBN.

    Never listen to geeks on any serious subject matter.

  27. egg_

    And Australian geeks supported the NBN.

    They just wanted the rest of us to subsidise them having cybersex at 1 Gbps.

  28. Clam Chowdah

    One would think killing off all the professors might rob society of intellectual capital. But there isn’t a professor alive today whose work is essential. All the essential intellectual work, ALL OF IT, exists in classics and older books of dead professors.
    I say kill ’em all, every last one of the useless sons of bitches.

    Lol. What a dickhead.

  29. tgs

    That’s pretty unhinged there, Baa Humbug.

  30. Owen Allen

    I’ve a completely different view of intellectual as those written above. I do get that there is a type of ‘intellectual’ in politics as via political science degrees and staffers and advisers of political offices some of whom I’ve met over the years. To me it is ‘intellectual’ to be, firstly, immersed in the evidence; secondly, immersed in the conversation with relevant people about the evidence, what it means, could mean; thirdly, to be able to see the ‘gaps’ in the evidence, the possibilities for new knowledge, new answers; and fourthly, design models with said people of an implementation, to question the hypothesis or the anti-hypothesis. Although at one time there may be, today there really is no essential difference between the intellectual and the scientist. To not engaged in these four stages is simply not to be intellectual.

  31. Nerblnob

    Joshua
    #2594602, posted on December 27, 2017 at 1:18 pm
    As a PhD candidate in law, with academic ambitions, I’ll venture an answer.

    Good post.

    Here’s something else:
    We need lawyers to help resolve conflicts.

    In my case, every one of those conflicts has been created by lawyers (and I’m not talking family law or divorce but commercial & employment issues). Often due to a law that seems to have no practical purpose except to deal with another law.

    There’s something inherently corrupting about that.

  32. Adrien

    How does one lear? Do or think? Or perhaps do both? That’s an idea! But Mr Kates has learned to do one without ever attempting the other. And it doesn’t hurt him. He does so much!!!

    And also intellectual;s are people who believe governments solve evrything. Commies! All those opposed to Totaliatrianism should support the Thought Police. Anyone who has a thought is a Commie and a threat to freedom should be shot.

    Dude! Fer Chrissake get a job!

  33. Adrien

    And also Merry Christmas etc. Now back to the Shite Fight. Have fun.

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