Don’t read this!

As it happens, there’s another point, perhaps tangentially related to this post, that I’ve been wanting to post about.

Lately, I’ve been reading The Art of Literature by Arthur Schopenhauer. He makes some arguments that I had never heard before against reading too much. As he puts it: “reading is nothing more than a substitute for thought of one’s own.” (p.45) He says that reading whenever one can makes one intellectually lazy. It’s better, he says, to think for yourself when possible, and only read when your “thoughts stagnate at their source”.

I don’t necessarily agree with him. For example, you could easily spend all your time thinking up something someone else already thought of, and then you’ll just have wasted your time. You’ll have exercised your brain, but you won’t have produced anything new. (Admittedly, the only sure way of avoiding this is to read everything ever written, which is impossible.)

Still, in this day and age, it’s not often that the practice of reading is criticized, so I thought it worth noting. (And yes, Schopenhauer would probably think I am proving how mentally inept I am by making a blog post by quoting him.)


  1. I would have to disagree with the dude. We read to gather information, then form our own opinion, in my opinion.See, if I hadn't read your post, I'd be um…

  2. Yeah, that's my feeling, too. I generally have no problem reading and disagreeing with something at the same time.Of course, there's the possibility that I misunderstood him. That sometimes happens to me when I read philosophy.

  3. There is no way to begin thinking about something until you have read about it. Reading is what puts thoughts into your head. How many illiterate people ponder things?

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