Sunday, December 07, 2008

A Quote---Thinking v. Doing

"The so-called spirit is an all too ethereal agent, permanently in danger of being lost in the labyrinth of its own infinite possibilities. Thinking is too easy. The mind in its flight rarely meets with resistance. Hence the vital importance for the intellectual of touching concrete objects and of learning discipline in his intercourse with them. . . Without the check of visible and palpable things, the spirit in its high-flown arrogance would be sheer madness. The body is the tutor and the policeman of the spirit."

Jose Ortega y Gasset, Man the Technician (essay)

I had mentioned that I procured an armful of books when I retrieved Ella Rose. [She has become a firmly entrenched (and thoroughly charming) member of our household.] I've quite a few books by my nightstand--a fire threat to be sure, but more likely a threat of being overwhelmed by the amount of material v. the amount of time/energy.

But one of my books, Jose Ortega y Gasset's, History as a System and other essays toward a philosophy of history, contained a passage that I quote above. It is particularly appealing to me, as it is a reminder that too much thought v. too little action puts one firmly in the wool-gathering camp.


russell1200 said...

Too much thought with too little action is wool gathering.


Granted the terms are somewhat self defining, putting you somewhat in the category of those people who are nice to animals but mean to straw men.....

But if you ignore the rhetorical nature of the statement I would simply note that Jesse Livermore probably would not agree.

Activity is not an end unto itself. If your best thinking leads you to the conclusion that there is no fruitful action to be taken: than you should take not action.

Leisa said...

Russell, point taken. I concur that concluding 'no action' is indeed 'action.' Drawing a conclusion to one's thought activity is what gives the activity value. Otherwise thinking without drawing some conclusions (or at the very least having a purpose of exploring for the expected outcome of a conclusion) is like driving without a sense of destination. It is a nice respite, but ultimately leads one no where.

(But I have a history of these mental drives!) Not sure where the Livermore comparison fits.