“Amateur philosophers, unlike their professional counterparts at universities, need not worry about historical struggles for prominence among competing school, the politics of journals, and the personal jealousies of scholars. They can keep their minds on the basic questions. What these are is the first task for the amateur philosopher to decide. IS he interested in what the best thinkers of the past have believed about what it means to ‘be’? Or is he more interested in what constitutes the ‘good’ or the ‘beautiful’?
As in all other branches of learning, the first step after deciding what area one wants to pursue is to learn what others have thought about the matter. By reading, talking, and listening selectively one can form an idea of what the “state of the art” in the field is. Again, the importance of personally taking control of the direction of learning from the very first steps cannot be stressed enough. If a person feels coerced to read a certain book, to follow a given course because that is supposed to be the way to do it, learning will go against the grain. But if the decision is to take that same route because of an inner feeling of rightness, the learning will be relatively effortless and enjoyable. . . . specialization is for the sake of thinking better, and not an end in itself. Unfortunately many serious thinkers devote all their mental effort to becoming well-known scholars, but in the meantime they forget their initial purpose in scholarship.
In philosophy as in other disciplines there comes a point where a person is ready to pass from the status of passive consumer to that of active producer. To write down one’s insights expecting that someday they will be read with awe by posterity would be in most cases an act of hubris. . . But if one records ideas in response to an inner challenge to express clearly the major questions by which one feels confronted, and tries to sketch out answers that will help make sense of one’s experiences, then the amateur philosopher will have learned to derive enjoyment from one of the most difficult and rewarding tasks of life.” (138-139).
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